We often think of pollution from meat production on a large scale. But it much more personal and sad when you witness it locally.
Although I now live in Brisbane Australia, there was a time that I left in the 1980s and lived in England for about 20 years.
Life in England was unusual compared to what I was used to with city living, with animals and farms scattered everywhere.
It was during my time in the UK that I became vegetarian because I saw the suffering of the animals and the destruction it was doing to the land in a more first-hand way.
One of my first encounters, or at least the one that stayed in my mind was when I was walking my dog along a canal towpath and I passed a dairy farm. I’d passed this farm many times but this particular day what I saw devastated me. There was a very small field next to the canal. It was so small that it is better described as a yard.
I sometimes saw the cows gathered in there either on their way to or from the milking sheds. But this particular day there was only one cow in there. The poor thing was laid on the ground, half sitting up and mooing mournfully. I went up to the wall of the yard and looked over to see what was wrong. The ground was nothing but mud. Probably from too many cows always being in there at once. The mud was also covered with big splats of cow dung (which is very runny) that had all been trampled in. The cow was laid in all this filth and looked like she’d been there some time.
But it wasn’t the filth she was in that was making her cry. It was the sight of the farmer disappearing round the side of the big shed with her new born calf. I assumed it was hers and that she’d only just given birth by the amount of blood and afterbirth that was oozing out of her back end. She suddenly became aware of me standing there and turned her head towards me and looked me straight in the eyes. She then gave the saddest bellow I’ve ever heard, as though she was pleading for my help.
All I did at that moment was weep for her. There was nothing I could do to help her. But I wanted to. Turning and walking away was one of the hardest and saddest things I’ve ever had to do.
A few years later I got a part time job cleaning the offices at the local sewerage works. I had to empty the bins into a black bag and then walk to the big skip next to where the sewerage came into the treatment plant, and throw it in. The skip was huge and two big mechanical spatula-type arms caught the ‘solids’ coming in with the water and tipped them into the big skip. The sewerage pipe wasn’t the only pipe bringing in water to be treated. There was also another pipe coming directly from a local abattoir. One pipe gushed sewer water, the other gushed blood.
The abattoir was on the same road and as I worked, truck after truck rumbled by, loaded with hundreds of animals going for slaughter. I often stopped and stared at the pipe gushing blood. It just never stopped. There was more blood coming the abattoir than all the dirty water combined coming from the whole town of thousands where I lived. Water also came down the town sewerage pipe from the local factories too, yet still there was more blood coming from the other pipe.
And if all that animal suffering isn’t enough, there is also the suffering of the planet. The faeces covered field full of not only dung but also all the antibiotics and growth hormones it contained that are routinely injected into cattle. All of it infecting the soil. When it rained it probably all washed into the canal. And all the blood from the abattoir, all needing treatment to make it ‘clean’ so it could be pumped back into the rivers again.
And this is only what I witnessed in one small place. Imagine this multiplied on a worldwide scale.
Is it any wonder our planet is dying? And let’s not forget that’s it’s not just our planet that is suffering. Non-vegans are also eating this misery.
Ruth Barringham is a vegan, writer and web entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia. She runs several websites on the Internet and her main site for writers is Writeaholics.net. She also has a new vegan website, AustralianVegan.net.
- Published: 14 May 2013
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