[Image: A human and a calf look into each others’ eyes.]
While I normally advocate in terms of anti-speciesism – disrupting the idea that human animals are inherently superior to non-human ones – I recognize that some people will never accept that message. They may accept welfare reform, or “cutting down on meat,” but will not accept the fundamental idea that all sentient beings are persons and should not be held as property.
Here’s the thing. No matter how you feel about non-human animals morally, if animal agriculture continues, we are not going to have a livable planet left.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental destruction. Animal farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation exhaust combined. It also uses a tremendous amount of water, far more than needed for growing plants. But the environmental damage does not come just from intensive, “factory” farming. So-called “free-range” farming also takes a great toll on the ecosystem, and there literally isn’t enough land to convert all animal farming operations to free-range; it’s inherently unsustainable. The documentary film Cowspiracy lays out the facts.
It frustrates me greatly whenever anyone says that in a vegan world, there wouldn’t be enough land to grow crops for everyone, and people would starve. The exact opposite is true. People who say this seem to think that eating animals somehow does not involve growing crops, but most of the animals whose flesh we eat (as well as those raised primarily for their milk and eggs before they, too, are killed) are fed crops that were grown especially for them. Unless you are a hunter or fisher and eat only the animals you’ve killed yourself, you are almost certainly eating plant crops secondhand when you eat animal products.
Whenever you hear from “official” sources that veganism is bad for the planet or for human health, my advice is to follow the money. Capitalism provides enormous incentives for animal agriculture to continue, and not only in the USA. Hundreds of environmental activists in Brazil have been murdered for speaking out against the destruction of the rainforest by ranchers. And in the USA, environmental contamination from animal farming disproportionately affects low-income communities and people of color.
The idea that we can just “cut down on meat” to reverse this damage is too little and much too late. Would you be satisfied with a single ounce of flesh, milk, or eggs each week? The answer is not to cut down, but to cut it out entirely.
It’s far easier and less risky to tell people to take shorter showers than to stop eating animal flesh, milk, and eggs, but this advice buries the truth. This cover-up is going to kill us all if it doesn’t stop. The lives of everyone on Earth are at stake. If you care about the future of this planet, please learn the facts and stop the killing.
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