Tattooed Pork Rinds

To be vegan is to know that if you scratch the meat industry’s surface, unending cruelties and miseries will be revealed.

A patron at a bar on the outskirts of London discovered this for himself while enjoying a pint of beer and a bag of pork rinds. Upon removing one of the rinds from its plastic bag, he discovered that, through the deep-fried surface, a tattooed number was plainly visible.

Around the world, factory farms routinely cut notches out of pigs ears, and tattoo their skin, for identification purposes. You’ve of course got to wonder whether, if they can’t even be bothered to keep tattooed skin from being made into pork rinds, what other corners do pork producers cut when it comes to issues of animal care and food safety?

Contacted by a reporter, the spokesman for the pork rinds producer either replied with the dryest British humor imaginable, or conclusively proved the company couldn’t care less about all this incident implied: “It’s not going to harm anybody, the ink is perfectly safe and non-toxic.”

Yew, he really and truly said that. But maybe the key to succeeding in business is to know your customers. And meat companies must surely know that anyone who eats pork rinds has likely abandoned all standards when it comes to choosing food. Here’s how the man who bought the offending pork rinds responded to his discovery:

I must admit it did put me off to start with. But then I thought what the hell and I still had my pint left so I ate it. Despite the writing it still tasted pretty good with my beer.

Fortunately, this story has been picked up by the Daily Mail, guaranteeing that large numbers of meat eaters who do have some interest in what goes into their food will learn the truth.

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Does the “Health Argument” Hurt Animals?

Countless vegans made their change of diet for health reasons, so it’s common sense that any serious animal advocate should be discussing the health advantages of going vegan at every opportunity. In fact, even if you’re personally most interested in animal protection, maybe the health argument deserves priority when speaking about veganism. After all, nearly everybody cares about their health but not everybody cares about animals.

In a new essay, veteran animal advocate Matt Ball explains that “the health argument” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not only does Ball view it as counterproductive, he believes that it directly leads to the deaths of huge numbers of chickens and fish.

At issue is the fact that while chicken and fish are probably more healthful choices than beef and pork, they demand upwards of ten times more killing per pound of flesh. So while the health argument does inevitably convince some listeners to go vegan, it also encourages many others to eat more chicken and fish. Ball provides strong evidence in his essay that, while the health argument undoubtedly gets some people to go vegan, its net effect is to push up the total number of animals sent to slaughter. He writes:

History shows that eating fewer large animals and more small animals for health reasons isn’t a made-up, worst-case scenario. It has been the driving force for the suffering and slaughter of billions and billions of birds. Just look at any graph of animals killed in the U.S.: as the consumption of mammals declined, the slaughter of chickens skyrocketed over the decades!

Source: Earth Policy Institute. Credit: Angela Wong / NPR

Some thoroughly indoctrinated vegans might protest that chicken and fish are every bit as unhealthful as beef and pork. But that’s a losing argument. Chicken and fish are much lower in total fat, especially saturated fat, and they lack red meat’s strong association with bowel cancer. And the Omega 3s in fish are a desirable nutrient that vegans need to go out of their way to find from plant sources (although, to be clear, vegan Omega 3s and DHA are cheap and easy to obtain.)

It’s possible that Ball is incorrect in concluding that the health argument is counterproductive, since it would be exceedingly difficult to get reliable data supporting or contradicting his assertions. That said, his warnings certainly make a great deal of sense, and therefore deserve careful consideration from every activist who is focused on doing more good than harm.

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