There are many individuals and groups with strong feelings on the topic of raising animals for food. In preparing for this issue I contacted probably a dozen animal welfare groups and asked them if they would write, or could recommend something already written, that I could publish about how the world would be different if veganism were adopted as the prevailing practice.
I acknowledged that sometimes fundamental changes come rapidly and there are certainly people who have strong moral concerns about how we treat animals, just as there were people opposed to slavery long before it became a critical national issue. I thought readers would like to mull over what changes would come about if we made such a major alteration in the way we live
No one was interested in writing such a piece, and only one previously written piece (below) was suggested. I was surprised at this. I expected that responsible organizations would have some sort of program for how the changes they are recommending might take place, and what the world would look like afterward.
Nevertheless, I have drawn together a few short existing pieces relevant to killing and eating animals for your perusal. They are from all points of view. I hope they get you thinking.
These Animals Might Go Extinct Because No One
Wants to Eat Them
by Alastair Bland for NPR
But other animals are going their way precisely because they are no longer preferred table fare. The Livestock Conservancy, a North Carolina organization that advocates for the preservation of rare and vanishing breeds, keeps an official list of nearly 200 domesticated birds and mammals which today are at risk of vanishing. The group is trying to generate interest in these breeds, among both consumers and farmers, to keep the animals from going extinct.
“We sometimes say, ‘You need to eat them to save them — just don’t eat them all,’ “ says Ryan Walker, the marketing and communications manager of the conservancy.
The Red Wattle, a pig with exceptionally juicy flesh, and the Randall Lineback, a cow that produces beautiful rose-red veal, are two success stories — breeds that were close to oblivion but that foodie ranchers have revived.
But others haven’t been so lucky. And it may be because lately no one has wanted to eat them.
There are fewer than 200 Choctaw hogs left, for example. This pig was prized by the Native American Choctaw tribe as a meat source. But displacement of the tribe led to the breed’s downfall. Today, Choctaw hogs live on just a few farms in a single county in Oklahoma. The animals are still extremely vulnerable to inbreeding and, Walker says, to natural disasters. “They could potentially get wiped out by one tornado,” he says.
But Walker says the conservancy has received calls from people around the country interested in rearing the pigs, and he guesses that within several years the breed’s population will start to increase. If the Choctaw is lucky, it should start appearing in butcher shops for the first time.
Many, if not most, heritage food animals are said to have a flavor that’s distinct from modern mainstream breeds – flavor that can now be appreciated by foodies seeking novelty and quality. But many of these breeds have been swiftly declining since about 70 years ago, when certain breeds began to dominate industrial livestock production.
UN Urges Global Move To Meat And Dairy-Free Diet
by Felicity Carus in The Guardian
A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, poverty and the worst impacts of climate change a UN report says.
As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.
It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals.
The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.
Meat-Eating Is the Number One Cause of Worldwide Species Extinction
by Natasha Gelling from Think Progress
According to a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment by researchers at Florida International University in Miami, livestock production’s impact on land use is “likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions” — a problem the researchers think will only get worse as population growth increases the global demand for meat.
The study is particularly interesting to scientists because research linking livestock’s relationship to biodiversity loss has been lacking, says Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College who was not involved in the study.
“Now we can say, only slightly fancifully: You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot,” Eshel said.
To understand livestock production’s impact on biodiversity, researchers at Florida International University mapped areas that have exceptionally high percentages of native plants and animal species — known as biodiversity hotspots.
The researchers then mapped areas where livestock production is expected to increase in the future, and determined how much land would be lost as a result of expanding meat operations, using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization and other studies about historic livestock production and land use conversion in those areas. Then, they compared the biodiversity hotspots with the expected expansion of meat production.
They found that of the areas expected to have the greatest conversion of land use for agriculture — from forest to land dedicated to livestock production — 15 were in “megadiverse” countries that have the greatest diversity of species. The study concludes that in the 15 “megadiverse countries,” land used for livestock production will likely increase by 30 to 50 percent — some 3,000,000 square kilometers (about 741 million acres).
“These changes will have major, negative impacts on biodiversity,” said Brian Machovina, the study’s lead author. “Many, many species will be lost.”
And though meat consumption in the United States has fallen steadily since peaking in the 1970s, meat consumption worldwide continues to rise, driven by technological advancements, liberalized trade, and growing economies. Livestock production is also an incredibly important source of economic security for millions of the world’s poor, providing stable income for 987 million around the world.
Machovina and his colleagues do suggest some mitigation efforts that could curb the loss of biodiversity from meat production — namely, eat less meat. The study says that in order to limit the worst biodiversity losses, the average diet should get no more than 10 percent of its calories from meat, and that pork, chicken, and fish are less resource-intensive options for meat eaters.
But while meat production can have a negative impact on species biodiversity and climate change, it’d be unwise to quit meat production altogether says Clayton Marlow, a grassland ecologist at Montana State University, Bozeman. He argues that the real issue facing biodiversity loss isn’t the expansion of meat production, but the expansion of urban sprawl, which takes away land that could potentially be used for agricultural production.
Will Animals Go Extinct If The World Becomes Vegan?
A very common question from meat eaters is that of what would happen to animals if vegans had their way. Would they become extinct if we all stopped eating them?
First, this makes the assumption that a life in captivity, torture and slaughter is beneficial over not being born in the first place.
Second, people often act like we’re doing the animals a big favor, and that we’ve created some sort of mutual bond, wherein we breed and house them, and in return, they “give” us their flesh and skin to eat and wear. I don’t recall them ever signing up for that.
The reason there are so many farm animals to begin with is because humans create (breed) them. While I can’t speak for any individual cow, I assume that being bred, abused and killed isn’t very desirable. If the cow was never born, she’d never have any thoughts on the matter. So please don’t act like we’re doing this because it’s the best thing for the animals. That’s a preposterous justification at best.
If there were no money in farm animals anymore, the meat and dairy industry wouldn’t bother breeding and feeding them either. That makes sense, and is likely a reality we would have to face. Not breeding such extreme numbers, the animal population would definitely dwindle into smaller numbers. Some animals could make it in the wild, while others couldn’t. To those lucky enough to be released, at least they’d have a chance compared with none at all. Most, though, would probably be killed. But if the world went vegan, there at least wouldn’t be another batch of animals ready to take their place, only to keep the misery machine going. The bottom line is that we would cease to breed animals into a cruel and unjust system meant only to exploit and kill.
I could be wrong, but I imagine that if it were me, and my life and date of death were absolutely determined, I might be inclined to die. Rather that, than live a life of suffering, only to be killed anyway.
Regardless of what would happen to the animals if we all went vegan, asking about extinction isn’t really that relevant. The bottom line is that if some species went extinct, that does nothing to justify the cruelty taking place here and now. Nor does it do anything about the detrimental effects the meat and dairy industry has on our air, water and environment. And it certainly doesn’t address the animals we are driving to extinction through ruining natural habitats to make room for this industry to stay alive.
These are the things we should focus on, not the possible extinction of some of the species we eat today.
If you were guaranteed a life of misery and death, would you say that’s a life worth living?
“Animals Make Us Human”
by Temple Grandin
Over the years I have done lots of thinking and have come to the conclusion that our relationship with the animals we use for food must be symbiotic. Symbiosis is a mutually beneficial relationship between two different living things. We provide the farm animals with food and housing and in return, most of the offspring from the breeding cows on the ranches are used for food. I vividly remember the day after I had installed the first center-track conveyor restrainer in a plant in Nebraska, when I stood on an overhead catwalk, overlooking vast herds of cattle in the stockyard below me. All these animals were going to their death in a system that I had designed. I started to cry and then a flash of insight came into my mind. None of the cattle that were at this slaughter plant would have been born if people had not bred and raised them. They would never have lived at all. People forget that nature can be very harsh, and death in the wild is often more painful and stressful than death in a modern plant. Out on a western ranch, I saw a calf that had its hide ripped completely off on one side by coyotes. It was still alive and the rancher had to shoot it to put it out of its misery. If I had a choice, going to a well-run modern slaughter plant would be preferable to being ripped apart alive.
by Garrison Keillor
This is the time of year when people would slaughter, back when people did that — Rollie and Eunice Hochstetter, I think, were the last in Lake Wobegon. They kept pigs, and they’d slaughter them in the fall when the weather got cold and the meat would keep. I went out to see them slaughter hogs once when I was a kid, along with my cousin and my uncle, who was going to help Rollie.
Today, if you are going to slaughter an animal for meat, you send it in to the locker plant and pay to have the guys there do it. When you slaughter pigs, it takes away your appetite for pork for a while. Because the pigs let you know that they don’t care for it. They don’t care to be grabbed and dragged over to where the other pigs went and didn’t come back.
It was quite a thing for a kid to see. To see living flesh, and the living insides of another creature. I expected to be disgusted by it, but I wasn’t — I was fascinated. I got as close as I could. And I remember that my cousin and I sort of got carried away in the excitement of it all and we went down to the pigpen and we started throwing little stones at pigs to watch them jump and squeal and run.
And all of a sudden, I felt a big hand on my shoulder, and I was spun around, and my uncle’s face was three inches away from mine. He said “If I ever see you do that again I’ll beat you ’til you can’t stand up, you hear?” And we heard.
I knew at the time that his anger had to do with the slaughter — that it was a ritual and it was done as a Ritual. It was done swiftly, and there was no foolishness. No joking around, very little conversation. People went about their jobs — men and women — knowing exactly what to do. And always with respect for the animals that would become our food.
And our throwing stones at pigs violated this ceremony, and this ritual, which they went through. Rollie was the last one to slaughter his own hogs. One year he had an accident; the knife slipped, and an animal that was only wounded got loose and ran across the yard before it fell. He never kept pigs after that. He didn’t feel he was worthy of it.
It’s all gone. Children growing up in Lake Wobegon will never have a chance to see it. It was a powerful experience, life and death hung in the balance. A life in which people made do, made their own, lived off the land, lived between the ground and God. It’s lost, not only to this world: but also to memory.