The air in the warehouse is foul, filled with the stench of dead bodies and rotting feces. Rows upon rows of cages line the dark, dank building; the inhabitants huddled, pressed together so tightly they can’t even turn around. Each one of these individuals has known nothing but this horror their entire life. Soon they will be crammed into trucks and shipped off to a brutal, violent death.
“‘Our own worst nightmare’ such a place may well be,” Michael Pollan, writing for the New York Times, describes. “It is also real life for the billions of animals unlucky enough to have been born beneath these grim steel roofs”. In the U.S. alone, more land animals are killed for food yearly than the entire human population of the world, according to the USDA. This does not include the many millions that die before reaching slaughter, unable to survive the cruelty of their conditions. All of us who oppose unnecessary suffering can agree: modern factory farms are an abhorrent system.
This is the system that brings meat to our grocery stores, our cafeterias, and our restaurants.
This is the system that vegetarians, vegans, and all those who work to reduce the amount of meat in their diets, seek to combat.
By not eating animals, people of all ages and viewpoints across the country make a concrete statement, denying this industry their support and saving animals who would otherwise endure this horrific existence.
Some people ask: How does not eating meat help animals when the animals are already dead? The answer is simple: supply and demand. Every time we leave meat off of our plates, we reduce demand. Fewer animals will be bred, and fewer will suffer.
Others suggest that personal choices couldn’t possibly have an impact on so large an industry, but recent reports reveal a different story. A USDA report documents a 12% reduction in the amount of meat consumed per capita in the past 5 years. In the same period, the number of vegetarians and vegans on college and university campuses has hugely expanded; a Bon Appetit survey found a 50% increase in vegetarians and a doubling of vegans from 2006 to 2010. The Values Institute at DGWB Advertising and Communications indicates that reducing meat consumption – ‘flexitarianism’ – is a rising consumer trend.
The factory farming industry has seen the writing on the wall. Reflecting on the decline in the consumption of animals, Jim Lochner, chief operating officer of Tyson Foods Inc., admits, “We are operating in a different world than we were a few years ago.” The decline, he concedes, “is a trend that is likely to continue.”
More and more people are choosing meatless meals. More and more people are deciding they don’t want to pay a company to torture and slaughter.
Some people respond to this information by saying, “Oh, I could never go vegetarian.”
Guess what? You don’t have to.
There is no need to conform to any dietary standard to make a difference. Whether you try Meatless Mondays, eat vegetarian three days a week, or stop eating chickens, you are sparing animals from the horrors of factory farms.
Remember, this is the 21st century! A meat-free meal doesn’t require resigning yourself to wilting salads and tofu. The quality and diversity of vegetarian and vegan alternatives widely available has exploded in recent years. Stores as common as Bashas and Safeway now stock veggie burgers and Tofurky. Local restaurants such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls are all vegan, offering a wide range of choices - from stir fries and soups to veggie burgers and “chicken” platters, plus a mouthwatering selection of cakes. (You think I’m kidding? I dare you to look at their display of desserts and not want to try a slice – or three.) And that’s not even considering everyday dishes that are already vegetarian – from waffles and pancakes to pasta and bean burritos.
When you plan your next meal, try a vegetarian option! You’ll find it’s easier than you think to help animals. Every time you choose a stack of pancakes over a sausage, a veggie burger over a turkey sandwich, or a pasta dish over fried chicken, you are choosing compassion over cruelty – something we all strive to do.