I like turkey, roasted after a good brine, injected with butter and cognac infusion. What I don't like is the factories that make most of the 45 million turkeys that will be cooked and eaten tomorrow. This disturbing video shows why:
WARNING: STRONG CONTENT
Lasers and baby turkeys
For a society that congratulates itself about all our advancements, it's amazing that we are not using technology to make the life of these beasts a little bit better.
While the video above shows an extreme case in a slaughter house, the fact is that these scenes are repeated in many other places around the United States. We know that the whole process of mass turkey manufacturing is not a story of happy birds roaming around the pastures, picking grains and snails, but one about growth acceleration and hot lasers used to remove the beaks of baby turkeys.
First, hens get artificially inseminated to produce as many eggs as possible in the shorter amount of time. The eggs incubation period is accelerated with artificial lighting and heat. This is a very low-tech process that has been used for decades without any changes.
When the baby turkeys are born, they suffer surgery. They use special machines and lasers to remove their beaks; scissors to cut their talons. Why? Because they don't want the turkeys to damage each other - and therefore lower their market value - when they are crammed in boxes and rooms too small for their needs. The US Humane Society recently obtained video from the Willmar Poultry Company hatchery in Willmar, Minnesota, in which injured chicks would be dropped alive into a grinding machine.
If a chick is injured, it's cheaper to get rid of it.
Once the chicks grow fat - after three to four months crammed into a brooding barn - they are moved to packaging plants in crates, usually by truck. They are killed, their feathers are removed, and their bodies are cleaned and packaged to be sold at the supermarket.
WARNING: STRONG CONTENT
Of course, an animal that is raised for consumption has to be killed eventually, but during this process, the turkeys are rarely handled with care. Nothing is used to diminish their panic. No technology is used to save them any pain.
Now, I'm not a PETA fan. They often go nuts and border on animal farm fascism, but they have a point about how we treat the animals we eat. I'm not going to go vegetarian and neither should you - unless you don't like meat or fish. As species, humans are the product of 150,000 years of evolution. By design, we are omnivorous; we need to eat a varied diet that goes from grain to meat. It's in our nature.
But that doesn't mean that we should allow mass-production of food continue in this manner - or that we should stop mass-producing animals. The world needs the food, and the world is not going to turn vegetarian and start eating algae tomorrow.
Bad technology vs good technology
But something has changed. Now we have tools at our disposal that can solve many of these problems without having to use burning lasers on baby animals. We can use our technology to make this process humane and sustainable. People like Temple Grandin were able to optimise the production of beef from mass farming to mass slaughtering, greatly reducing cows' suffering through the use of her engineering skills and observation powers. The same could be applied to other food industries.
Grandin showed us that animals don't have to be mistreated; that there's no excuse, technological or otherwise, that could justify the mass production of food under the conditions that reign in many of factories across the country. Not because animals can feel fear - which they can - and physical pain - which they definitely experience - but because we can do better.
Until the solutions come, and if you can afford it, I'd recommend shunning the Butterballs of this world and try to get a free-range turkey or chicken or just get anything else that you know has been treated in a nice way. However, 45 million free-range turkeys would probably invade the entire United States and parts of Tijuana. That's why we need technology, to optimise mass production with zero pain and fear cost for turkeys or any other animals.