What are earthlings, anyway?


wPg06-Potwardowski_ColeThe United States consumes 6 billion cows, chickens and pigs a year. The U.S. population is 315 million people, and growing. We bit off a little more than we can chew.

You won’t find those facts in an almanac. I discovered it when a vegetarian chef suggested I review “Earthlings” (2005).

Chef Hale said the documentary compelled him to become a vegetarian but not a vegan. He’s kept a sweet tooth for cheese pizzas, milkshakes and Godiva.

In 90 minutes, “Earthlings” exploits a planet filled with species that kill other species for pleasure, food, entertainment, fashion and science. It’s unrated, but I guarantee it’s not in the children’s section.

The dominant species are human beings. The weaker species are the stars of Discovery Channel. The film depicts gratuitous animal mistreatment, but I paid most attention to segment two: food processing.

Animals are processed in industrialized factories called slaughterhouses, not to be confused with Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.” That book is about captive prisoners of war. “Earthlings” is about captive livestock.

Cattle are branded, dehorned and stripped through kosher slaughter. They are placed into inverted machines, disemboweled and then spewed forth with their gullets hanging out.

A cow’s gullet looks like Davy Jones’ beard from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Each year, 600,000 pigs are bred in gestation crates. Many die from poor living conditions. The lucky pigs are swiftly cut at the throat. The bleeding is not so swift.

Factory chickens are killed in the thousands and then processed. The leftovers go great with McDonald’s sweet ‘n’ sour sauce.

“Earthlings” says if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians. What if everything had glass walls?

Hale offered fiery support for “Earthlings.” I was a wet match.

“Cole,” Hale said, “It wouldn’t bother you if your own mother’s milk was sold to Nesquik?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Would it bother you if a pack of hungry wolves wanted to eat you?”

“That’s different,” he said. “Animals’ minds are different.

“Ours too,” I said.

What are earthlings, anyway?

Potwardowski works at Flight Grill at Tucson’s Pima Air & Space Museum. He cooks $10 hamburgers for worldwide customers that he’ll never meet again.

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