We associate food with, at most, pleasure, at the very least, survival. It’s not too different for animals. Lambs turned out on new grass move “quickly over certain grasses to get to others – to nosh on clover and mustard grass, avoiding horse nettle and fescue along the way,” writes Dan Barber in A Chef Speaks Out. Wild pigs, capable of seeking out the nutrients they need, “enjoy eating nuts, roots, fruits, mushrooms, bugs, rabbits, and, occasionally, dead animals.”
But what happens when animals are confined in cramped, filthy environments and force-fed monoculture diets of genetically modified corn and soy?
A lot can happen. Calves are born too weak to walk, with enlarged joints and limb deformities. Piglets experience rapidly deteriorating health, a “failure to thrive” so severe that they start breaking down their own tissues and organs – self-cannibalizing – to survive. Many animals suffer from weak, brittle bones that easily fracture. Dairy cows develop mastitis, a painful udder infection. Beef cattle develop liver abscesses and an excruciating condition referred to as “twisted gut.”
It all adds up to a lot of misery for the animals. And it doesn’t bode well for humans, says the author of America’s Two-Headed Pig.