Soylent Green Is Horses…..

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lunapic_136306162820000_8Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

How good is your memory – do you remember the cult sci-fi movie Soylent Green?  I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good movie – it was released in the same decade that gave us the Village People, but it’s got some surpsingly durable themes.  It was based on the book “Make Room!  Make Room!  By Harry Harrison.  The book was actually based on a population of 7 billion,  pretty much what we have right now.  Part of what made the movie so popular was its somewhat plausible and proximate horrors about synthetic food sources.  The  movie depicted the year 2022, when the world was suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and the greenhouse effect.  Most housing was dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless filled the streets and lined the fire escapes, stairways of buildings, abandoned cars, subway platforms, etc. with little to occupy them due to high unemployment. Much of the population in this future world survived on processed food rations, including one named “Soylent Green,” which is said to be manufactured from plankton harvested from the oceans.  Charlton Heston plays the part of detective Robert Thorn who disobeys orders from his superiors  and investigates the Soylent Corporation.

e9aa_soylent_green_crackersThe main character’s investigation reveals that Soylent’s oceanographic reports are fraudulent and that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made. Thorn’s friend Roth is a former college professor whose job is to sort through the now-disordered remnants of written records in order to assist Thorn with his investigation.   Roth realizes that that the reports indicate a horrible truth which they find nearly impossible to believe; Soylent Green isn’t made from plankton, it’s made from something far more sinister. Unable to live with what he has uncovered, Roth opts for assisted suicide at a government clinic (in the former Madison Square Garden, which had been converted to a clinic for mass euthanasia).  As Roth is dying, he watches video clips of Earth long ago when farm animals, deer, and horses were thriving and there was no mass suffering.  During his final moments, he begs Thorn to follow his body to the processing centre for absolute proof of the scheme. So detective Thorn stows himself aboard a garbage truck to a human body disposal-centre, where he sees (HUGE SPOILER ALERT!) humans being converted into Soylent Green. Thorn then retreats into a cathedral filled with homeless people, wher5197320220_e3e47c5e81e he is attacked by agents from the corporation and is seriously injured. When the police arrive, the dying Thorn urges those around him to spread the word that “Soylent Green is people,” which is of course the film’s most recognized tagline.

We’re less than 10 years away from the decade depicted in the movie and already experiencing all the symptoms of the dystopia of the movie. One of the ethical issues posited by the movie (but not the book) was that in death was to be found a valuable commodity, so valuable that the government would go to almost any lengths to conceal it.  The theme of euthanasia being a preferable transition to death also featured predominantly since people had the option of their own humane euthanasia – to sell their body in exchange for a more peaceful death.  This option was certainly preferable to being picked up by the city via huge vans with scoopers as occurs in the movie.  Just as most people are unaware of what happens to horses sent to auctions, the moviegoer is left to wonder where these people are taken after they are picked up from the city’s streets.

none_of_your_businessIn early 2013 the food safety scandal sweeping Europe brought details of how tainted our food production is.  Consumers of “beef” products have had informed consent removed by fraudulent corporations that show utter disregard for their customers’ autonomy and right to choose what they eat. The scandal actually bears a lot of similarity to the plot line of Soylent Green,  in that the scandal uncovered the mysterious supply chains, industrial scale adulteration, smuggling, organized crime and outright fraud – not to mention the usual finger-pointing, cover-ups and protestations of shock that accompany food crises.  As in the movie, corporations have deceptively disguised a product to serve a global food market.

Just as the character Roth struggles to uncover documentation to support the hypothesis about Soylent Green, we see that there is no record-keeping mechanism for tracking the administration of drugs to horses.  We now know that equine passports are duplicated or made fraudulent.   Moreover, in the movie, it looks like the Soylent product  is produced according to high quality control requirements,  but the reality is quite different.  Recent audits conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in Canada and Mexico found that these countries are not in compliance with the E.U.’s food safety standards with regard to their medical records, even though non-E.U. parties have had two years to amend their residue control programs. North American horses do not even have passports as in the EU.

Despite these important food safety policies and standards, every year thousands of animals are routinely given prohibited substances; MOV_dbc9824d_bracehorses, show horses and carriage horses regularly end up as meat intended for human consumption imported into the E.U. Last year well over 100,000 American horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, with the meat going primarily to the E.U. and Japan. These animals were never bred or raised for the table, but for other purposes, and they should be disqualified from the meat trade. In the movie, protagonist Thorn’s final warning “soon they’ll be breeding us like cattle” reminds us of what has already happened with “meat” horses bred specifically for other markets such as Japan.  The movie also assumes a large variety of countermeasures simply don’t exist or were rejected – just like abandoned HACCP critical check points and government officials who either know what is going on or are complicit in burying the findings of whistleblowers who warned about horsemeat becoming prolific in food in 2011.  We’ve also seen that other countries have found drugs in horsemeat from Canada, which is hardly surprising since the CFIA only tests less than 1% of horsemeat for phenylbutazone contamination.

Experience has shown that those who tend to defraud the system designed to protect humans generally have even fewer qualms about the welfare of the animals they slaughter. Food fraud also extends beyond the trade in horses.  A recent two-year study on American seafood found compelling evidence of “seafood fraud.” Researchers found fish sold as snapper and tuna were likely to be mislabelled, 87 and 59 percent of the time, respectively.  Overall, one-third of all samples used for the study were misidentified out of over a thousand samples taken.

This scandal has caused us to openly question what is on our plates and how it got there, and given horse advocates the opportunity to open up dialogue on the cruel treatment of horses. The public imagesis beginning to realize that corporate food manufacturers and producers are only concerned with maximizing profits and thus, do not deserve our unquestioning trust.  Emerging from the scandal is a new buzzword, “traceability” – consumers knowing where the food on their plate has come from.

By nature of the genre, science fiction has to be somewhat prophetic, or at least convince audiences that if something isn’t likely, it is at least plausible. Some of the salient points Soylent Green made back in the 70′s definitely feel like they’re already upon us 10 years too soon.

“He who controls the food supply, controls the people”  ~Henry Kissinger

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

5 responses »

  1. Mother Nature will humble humanity
    Any time human beings get too arrogant and too big-headed about all their amazing cell phone technology, hi-rise cities and nuclear power plants, Mother Nature just shrugs and sends forth a tsunami of water or wind. All of humanity’s greatest constructs are but fragile toys compared to the truly awesome power of Mother Nature and the resilience of planet Earth.

    If the power grid goes down across planet Earth for just one year, 90% of human civilization will perish, and along with it all the DVDs, Nike shoes and designer bling as well. Even the entire fictional construct of society’s laws and banking system will cease to exist.

    Mother Nature is real. Consciousness is real. Seeds are real. But much of what humanity has so far created is paper-thin and temporary. It can all cease to exist in the blink of a cosmic eye.

    We are fragile beings exploring a sea of such greatness and scale that our own lives seem silly by comparison. What humans think of as a natural “disaster” is but a tiny expression of natural patterns to Mother Nature. If we truly hope to survive as a species, we would be wise to remember how insignificant we really are in the greater scope of things… and why we must learn to respect nature and the universe rather than arrogantly thinking we have conquered it with GMOs, nuclear power and a supercollider.

  2. I remember Soylent Green and, at the time, I thought it was prophetic. As you are so aptly pointing out, we are balancing on the cusp of this dismal precipice. Will mankind believe this or continue to dig their heads deeper in the sad? I fear they do not want to accept the truth because it will mean recognizing how base humans are and that personal profit trumps and sense of collective responsibility for our neighbor.

  3. I have been thinking of the same comparison. The movie is here, now, we are living a nightmare, of government controlled everything and a food supply that is poisoning us to benefit other’s pockets.
    But wait! Not all are eating the ”bad” food. The secret’s out. And I bet that they are already doing DNA test on their beef, to make sure it’s not contaminated with horse meat!
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/food-politics-white-house_b_543798.html

  4. I kind of sort of recall the film. Thank you for the time it took to research and draw comparisons. Humanity at large is going down the wrong path in so many areas – but animal abuse tops the list of soul destroying actions.

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