I eat a plant-based diet. Some call it a vegan diet. I try to stay away from that word when I can simply because the vegan way is considered by many to be extreme, weird and they feel that most vegans have a judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude. Some of them do, it’s true. I’ve met many. And while I struggle with understanding how and why most people don’t consider their food choices, or do but still feel they deserve to eat how they want to eat without regard for their health or the animal’s well-being, I try to be compassionate and non-judging. It can be difficult, especially after my recent visit to Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA, for their annual Hoe Down.
Farm Sanctuary has been rescuing sick, injured, miserable animals from factory farms for many years. These animals, thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Farm, now get to live out the remainder of their lives in peace, free from torture and suffering. When you visit the Farm and spend time with these beautiful creatures, you can almost feel their gratitude.
Immense sadness came over me as I listened to Susie Coston, National Shelter Director, give a talk about these animals and what life is like in the world of factory farming for cows, pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys – all sentient beings, i.e., animals who love their babies with all their might just as we do, who cry out when they are sad or feel pain just as we do and whose lives are pure misery because we choose to consume them in excess. Most people don’t think of birds as being aware and/or having feelings, but they are – I witnessed it myself as a giant turkey let me snuggle him and he snuggled me right back.
I am a health advocate and the main reason I promote a whole-foods, plant-based diet is because it’s the ONLY diet that offers long-term protection and lowered risk of disease. The research is pretty clear on this. What I’m talking about here goes beyond the scope of health. I talk about that enough. Today I want you to see the other side of things. The ethical side. Almost every person I’ve ever met likes animals. They may not all have pets, but they would never harm an animal, nor would they approve of harming an animal. For the industrial farming practices that exist today to be allowed to continue is essentially doing harm. These animals are not being raised in humane ways. They live in horrible conditions, suffering greatly, with beaks being cut or burned off without anesthesia, tails cut off without anesthesia, testacles cut off WITHOUT ANESTHESIA! I’m confident this is not what anybody would want for their cat or dog. People are outraged when the story of an abused pet comes light. Why then, is it okay for these farm animals? The abuse and suffering is no different! There is a huge disconnect there. Of course, that disconnect is what allows kind, compassionate people to continue eating animal foods. They don’t think about what that food used to be (think…pepperoni) or the life it lived. If everybody was forced to watch one of those graphic documentaries on factory farming or spend time in a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation), I’m convinced things would be vastly different. And whether or not these animals were “created” to be eaten is not the issue here. The issue is the lives they live and the way they are treated, at the hands of humans. Since animal protein is an unnecessary component of our diets, in other words a luxury, it seems insane that the following stats are what they are. You may not care to hear these, but I’m going to share with you anyway.
27 million land animals are slaughtered each day. That’s 1 every 12 seconds.
9 billion land animals are slaughtered each year in this country (most of them chickens; that number was 1 billion a little more than 50 years ago).
24 million ducks go to slaughter every year.
113,152,000 pigs and piglets go to slaughter every year (most are 6 months of age).
250,192,000 turkeys go to slaughter every year.
The average meat eater is responsible for 33 land animal deaths each year.
What do you think about that last one and the wording? Responsible. Like it or not, that’s how it is. Meat eaters may not take the knife to the throat, but by virtue of purchasing what’s produced, thereby supporting the factory farming industry, they are responsible. Sounds harsh, I know, but people need to wake up. The business of industrialized, factory farming is deplorable and needs to change. The only way that will ever happen is if we stop eating so many animal foods.
Don’t be fooled into thinking organic or free-range are any better. Unless you are farming yourself, or getting these ‘foods’ from a small, local farm, it’s still industrialized farming, no matter how you slice, grill or scramble it. Hormones may not be added (though be aware – they still exist naturally in the meat), and antibiotics may not be used, but there is no individual care in the mass-production business, and great suffering takes place. Not to mention what the massive pollution is doing to our lakes, streams, oceans and air. People who could not care less about animals and their well-being should at least care about the planet we all share.
I’m not insisting everybody quit eating animal products (though the research does support dairy as an unfit food for humans; and, btw, dairy cows suffer the most), merely that we should be eating much less, and consider our food choices before eating with abandon. We must do something to change the factory farming industry. Every burger ordered or package of chicken purchased is saying we tolerate these abhorrent practices. It’s giving these companies permission to continue what they are doing. These practices are not only causing unnecessary suffering to so many animals in order to satisfy our palates, they are destroying our planet.
You may not care about animals the way I do. That’s your prerogative. But I’d be willing to bet money you could never torture one. Just remember, next time you cut into your chicken breast or bite into that burger, you are eating an aware, feeling, loving creature who suffered immensely for your pleasure.
Just some food for thought…