A Call for Change: Targeting Industrialized Animal Agriculture

Change needs to occur if we want better conditions for the animals, the planet, and ourselves. There is a big, and reluctant, question that this often leads to for many: do I need to stop eating meat and become a vegetarian or vegan?

With climate change becoming the forefront crisis that must be addressed, we should be making a massive change in lifestyle. One of the biggest causes of damage to the environment we need to demand change from in the coming years is both the American and global, food industry. The industrial animal agriculture system that is currently still in use has been proven to be unsustainable in several ways.

The system required for the amount of livestock being raised includes tons of land, water, and grain. All resources that we are short on, or using in a wasteful manner. Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions make up about fourteen percent of all gas emissions. This is the same amount as the complete sum of every type of transportation in the world emits. The one billion tons of grain that goes to feeding livestock could instead feed 3.5 billion people on its own. The crisis that the planet is currently facing is one that has come about from centuries of wasteful and inefficient production practices.

Research has shown that many health concerns arise from such a system, including higher chances of foodborne pathogens and antibiotic resistance. The number of outbreaks caused by various lifestyle factors has increased overall, with environmental causes being the largest increase. Meat consumption has been shown to be higher than necessary, which some studies has shown leads to other health problems such as increased risk in high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancer.

Let’s not forget about the morality of the cruelty subjected on animals. The view of livestock now has become more pre-meat than animal. The method required to fatten and grow meat now includes putting animals into horrifyingly cramped quarters where they are more susceptible to diseases that then require the excessive use of antibiotics. These conditions mean that many animals die in the process, and are unable to fully grow to their potential. This type of treatment has been well-documented in documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” and “Earthlings,” but even ag-gag laws passed, influenced by the lobbyists within the industry, have tried to censor videos that expose this treatment.

Change needs to occur if we want better conditions for the animals, the planet, and ourselves. There is a big, and reluctant, question that this often leads to for many: do I need to stop eating meat and become a vegetarian or vegan?

There’s no definitive answer to that, and no one can decide that for you. The point is that the current system in place for our food needs to be changed and improved. The changes that can lead to improvement include lessening the amount of meat one eats, better living conditions for livestock, better treatment of workers, and changes in farming techniques.

While eating less meat is a change that occurs on an individual level, most of the changes needed are large-scale. The changes that will transform an entire industry do not come from individual protest, but from significant corporate-level decisions. The reality of the situation is that bottom-up change is a slow process, and the current environmental crisis we are in does not afford the amount of time needed to change the minds of enough people on this planet to transform the industry. The responsibility of changing an entire, flawed system should not be left up to the average individual, but rather to the CEOs and executives running these multi-million dollar corporations. What the individual can do is support these changes within their own life, and be a part of the process in changing the minds of these corporations.

However, it is worth noting for any vegetarian/vegan/plant-based advocates out there that with the innovation in the plant- and cell-based meat industry, it is possible we could see a day when animals will no longer be part of the food industry.

The reality of the situation is that most people won’t give up eating meat in time to save the planet, and that campaigns to get individuals to do so remain unclear about their effectiveness in converting people. While it is a statement for an individual to become a vegetarian or vegan the results of protest such as diet change, video ads, and leafleting remain difficult to measure due to how small scale of these protests.

One method that has shown to be effective in recent studies are welfare campaigns that target large corporations to make changes in their food sources. These campaigns require that people protest companies, and continue to follow up on their changes in order to be effective. It seems that these campaigns are the ones people will have an easier time to accept. After all, it is reasonable to want change in a system that has proven to be unsustainable and that has to be changed for the sake of our future.

This is not meant to suggest in any way that people do not care about animals or their treatment, just because they refuse to switch to a plant-based diet. There is an understandable struggle with an almost ingrained, natural desire to eat meat, and a sympathy for the animals part of this process. According to a study by the Sentience Institute, over fifty percent of US adults are trying to consume fewer animal-based products, while forty-nine percent of adults support a ban on factory farming. This shows that it is not cruelty towards animals that causes this sort of treatment in industrial animal agriculture to continue, rather it is apathy. A feeling of helplessness to changing the situation. However, these changes need to occur. Not only do they affect animals, but they affect people.

North Carolina has the second largest amount of hogs in the country due to the farming facilities there. The factories are in majority African American, Hispanic, and Native American located neighborhoods. The residents of these areas must deal with factory-dumped cesspools of hog feces and other bodily fluids, not to mention the horrifying, tear-inducing smell. This smell makes it difficult for residents to even go outside, and it often attracts flies and other insects to the area. The health effects of living near the factory have also been severe. Antibiotic-resistant E. coli, nitrates, and ammonia from the lagoons of the facilities have been shown to contaminate shallow groundwater which is used by residents nearby for consumption.

Not only is this an issue of the environment, but the placement of the factories has come to be considered a social one, known as environmental racism. Cory Booker, a Democratic senator for New Jersey, called it “evil” for taking advantage of the African American residents in those areas.

The biggest food chains are susceptible to their clients’ needs. One example that comes to mind is the case of Starbucks, which switched to cage-free eggs after they were a target with a welfare campaign. When pressure is applied in the right place, on big corporations rather than singling out individuals, change becomes much more obvious and easier to achieve.

The necessity of change in the food system we currently use is obvious from the endless list of flaws that can be named. All of these different aspects add up to one thing though: this system is not sustainable. For the sake of the animals, the people, and the environment, the planet needs change right now. With the time limitation of the current crisis we are in, these changes cannot be so small-scale and slow as convincing every person on the planet to give up eating meat. The urgency of saving the entire planet demands for the large-scale impact that come from complete overhauls of the system, and from a collective effort to make these changes happen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.