THE MEAT INDUSTRY: statement by Athena Tacha, October 1992

"... In this installation I am using large photographic transparencies interspersed with factual informational texts, hanging like drying negatives from taut wires that crisscross the entire space at eye-level. On the four walls of the gallery are attached real parts of the animals: dried chicken feet, pig ears, cattle horns and sheered sheep wool. The suspended photographic images and texts form a transparent maze/corral through which the spectator can circulate, looking at the now-visible, now-vanishing animals, while being confronted with their tangible remnants. The effect of the maze/prison evokes the situation of the entrapped animals, no longer able to lead a reasonably natural life in domestic farms, but destined to the same victimization as war camp prisoners. Ultimately, with increased Earth pollution and large scale famine, who will be the victims and the prisoners?"

(This work is a meditation on my public commission Corral, using the same farm animal images and configuration.)

Selected texts below (source: Environmental Action Newsletter, May-June, 1990):

In the U.S. alone, five and a half billion chickens are raised for eating every year, and they typically are crowded into long sheds with 25,000 birds, where each chicken can move so little that it often grows crooked (I have eaten many such chicken with a leg or wing considerably larger than the other, or with a crooked spine). Crowding, rough handling, mutilation, force-feeding, genetic manipulation and loss of offspring are standard operating procedures in factory farming.

Moreover, intensive breeding practices and mechanized slaughter use excessive amounts of natural and energy resources, and generate high levels of pollution. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. The poultry industry uses an average of 5.5 gallons of water for every bird processed. Some 15% of global methane (which counts for 18% of the global warming effect) comes from livestock. U.S. livestock produces five times more harmful organic water pollutants than people do, and twice more than industry. To quote Alex Hershaft of FARM, "in terms of impact on the planet, animal agriculture is second only to nuclear war... We won't solve our pollution problems, particularly water and solid waste, until we change our food system."

An equally disturbing side-effect of the meat industry is its consequences for world hunger. In only one year (1979), 145 million tons of grain and soy bean were fed to beef cattle, fowl and hogs in the U.S. alone. More than half of the U.S. cropland is devoted to growing livestock feed, and half of the country's land is classified by the government as grazing area. What are the implications of this for the world at large? One other set of statistics makes this evident: If the present world's food supply were divided equally with a grain diet, six billion people could be fed. If 10% of calories came from animal sources, only 4 billion people could be fed. If 30% of calories came from animals, only 2.5 billion people could be fed. Clearly, with the rate of the Earth's population expansion, only a general vegetarian diet would avoid world famines.