Ignorance fuels meat industry

To put it simply: if the walls of a slaughterhouse were made of glass, everyone would be vegan. If grocery stores showed pictures of live cows strung up by one foot being hacked to death, its unlikely anyone would go ahead and buy some beef.

Having grown up on a small sheep farm in Scotland, I was aware that the animals were born and bred for the meat industry. But it was only when I moved to LA three months ago that I stumbled across a documentary called "Earthlings" and discovered just how morally bankrupt the meat in-dustry in America really is.

The world of factory farming and slaughterhouses was suddenly unveiled to me and my life took a sudden turn; I became vegan.

Animals on factory farms live their entire lives crammed into tiny metal cages, too small for them to even turn around or lie in comfortably. They are forced to live amongst their feces, vomit and urine whilst being fed antibiotics and hormones to fend off disease and make them grow unnaturally fast.

Many animals die of suffocation en route to the slaughterhouse due to how tightly they are packed into trucks. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse they are tormented, beaten and then "stunned" by the workmen with an electric device before being slaughtered.

But time is money, and with thousands of terrified animals thrashing around, often the stunners miss their mark and the animals are still very much alive and kicking when they are strung up and having their skin peeled from their faces, their legs hacked off and their throats slit.

For some reason still unknown to me, I never questioned how the meat on my plate got there. I just saw it as food rather than an animal. Indeed, this is how most of us view our meat products.

Lindsey Steede, 24, is a vegan and fashion stylist who moved to LA from Texas two years ago. She was like me and had eaten meat her whole life until a year ago when she listened to "Skinny Bitch," a vegan diet book, on tape while driving from Dallas to LA. By the end of her journey, she was vegan.

"I'm vegan because I don't want to put animal products into my body because of all the hor-mones and antibiotics that the animals are fed," she said.

Her parents disapprove of her diet and frequently worry about her getting adequate calcium and protein, even though she has informed them of other food products she eats which contain such nutrients, like legumes, seeds, nuts, vegetables, lentils, fruit, whole grains and soy products.

SMC students interviewed for this article revealed a general unawareness of where their meat comes from.

Student Angelica Salazar-Nelin hasn't always eaten meat. She went vegetarian for three months when she was around the age of 12. Angelica says she doesn't like the idea of how the animals are treated, but isn't ready for a vegan diet just yet.

"Maybe in the future, but not for now," she said. "If I would get more knowledge about how it helps the animals by becoming vegan then maybe I would consider it."

When asked, she wasn't quite sure how to substitute her calcium and protein intake. Although she was not aware of the options available to her, she said that she realized they existed.

SMC student David, who requested his surname be withheld, wasn't positive what "vegan" meant. "I'm not entirely sure, but I know vegans don't eat animals," he said.

David lives in downtown LA with his family, who all eat animal products. He says he doesn't have any vegetarian or vegan friends, and wouldn't consider becoming vegan because he doesn't understand how it would benefit him.

It is evident from my interviews that many on campus simply aren't aware of where the meat they eat actually comes from. And this is the crux of the problem. Schools, or the news media for that matter, don't educate us on this topic.

The terrible animal cruelty occurring in the meat industry is simply being swept under the carpet and ignored. If students knew what really went on in the slaughterhouses, the majority of them would think twice about consuming an animal product again. It may be unpleasant, but they have a right to know.