America is obsessed with bacon. Period. Popular food chains have been offering the bacon "upgrade" to their burgers for over a decade, foodies have been creating dishes made from the newly popular "bacon bowl" (which, the gadget marketed by "As Seen on TV", sold over two million units), jerky companies have found a way to slather it in maple syrup and call it a snack, a company even came out with a bacon-flavored condom, and another with bacon-infused lip balm. And then, of course, the predictable, and oh-so-popular monothematic carnist response, "mmmmm bacon" has been used as some poor intention to insult vegans on Instagram for the past couple of years.
But, I'd like to dig into this a bit more. Why is America so obsessed with bacon? Why do carnists get so defensive, to the point where the feel the need to assert their will to eat the flesh of a tortured animal, just because your handle has the name "vegan" in it? What are the real consequences of this mutilated piece of curled flesh you wish to add to every dish you eat?
I was looking at Google Trends to see if there was some correlation between the scientifically-void Ketogenic diet and searches for bacon. Although, there's somewhat of a correlation between the two over the last ten years, the graphs didn't quite parallel each other as much as I expected. One thing I did notice though, was every year, for the past 8 years, there has been a huge spike in bacon-related searches right around November or December. Digging a little deeper had me finding that National Bacon Day falls on December 30th, which may offer one explanation. However, I think the holidays are more to blame.
I performed another Google Trends search, comparing the terms "vegan" and "bacon", in hopes there would be some good news, and thankfully, there was! Obviously, people searching for "vegan" or "bacon" doesn't signify direct purchases, and in fact, may be misrepresented by oppositional whole search phrases such as "bacon alternatives" or "bacon and cancer" or even "vegan bacon", which would still provide data for the term "bacon", but I'd like to think there's some hope here.
Although I was a math major in college, and a very analytical person overall, I didn't spend the time to truly dig into all of the trends, or imports/exports of pig-derived products in the United States, but what I have looked into is the correlation between processed meat products (like bacon) and cancer. I've also personally spent some time at America's largest pig-producing company, Smithfield Farms which owns Farmer John, Hormel, and a few other less-known (but equally as cruel) brands outside of the US, which gave me an idea of the sheer volume of pigs America was consuming, but why is that?
There's a ton of data online, and much of it has been falsely stated or misrepresented, but I honestly think people are so influenced by social media and what some consider "societal norms", that they don't even think about what they're purchasing or consuming.
So, what are the real consequences? Amongst many studies, in 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meats, including bacon, as carcinogenic. BBC News went into more detail with statistics here.
I don't recall any accurate studies stating any animal products, especially processed meats, having any overall positive outcomes on one's health, and of course, there are thousands proving the opposite, yet the consumption of animal products are still on the rise.
Why do I care about what you put in your body? "Live and let live", right? Well sure, but let's apply that phrase to all sentient beings, instead of just humans.
In late 2019, I was introduced to someone I now call a good friend; Bobby Sud. He's the official photographer for the Save Movement's Los Angeles chapter, LA Animal Save. We did a podcast together (Episode 207) where he unintentionally convinced me to bear witness at Farmer John Slaughterhouse in LA. Barely miles away from the world famous Staples Center, Farmer John slaughters approximately 10,000 pigs per day, every day, in the name of this glorious bacon everyone's raving about. Smithfield farms in South Carolina slaughters almost 40,000 per day, which equates to approximately 121 MILLION sentient pigs annually.
Pigs are only about 6 months old at slaughter. They are stolen from their families and thrown into metal trucks, stacked on top of each other, where they're transported to their death. They often travel in extreme conditions; heat, snow, wind and hail are just some of the elements they have to endure on their 3-4 day trips with no food or water.
As I stood outside of Farmer John, truck after truck pulled up, stacked to maximum weight with defenseless animals. I gave a few of them their first drink of water in 36 hours, and of course it was their last. I was able to touch some of their noses and try to empathize with the pain and confusion they were feeling in the moment. How could we do this to such beautiful creatures in the name of "bacon"? Are we truly this gluttonous? This disconnected? How did it get to be like this?
I once partook in this process. I once ate the flesh of these victims travelling on these trucks. And I once, called myself an "animal lover" while hypocritically paying for their demise, but it's never too late to swap cruelty for compassion, and I challenge you to do the same.