Why Now Is the Best Time to Eat Less Meat
Last week, Senator Marco Rubio said Americans will have to “go a little vegan” during COVID-19 fresh meat shortages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the cracks in an already broken food system, with the meat industry pushing the narrative that we’re seeing a major fresh meat shortage in the United States despite pork exports to China soaring. Supermarkets have begun limiting the amount of meat that can be purchased, while more than 1,000 Wendy’s locations are removing beef burgers from their menus.
Experts have started to weigh in. Andrea Freeman, associate professor of law at William S. Richardson School of Law told NowThis:
A shortage in meat supply is certain, even if meat processing plants can and do comply with the order, because of recent plant closures. The good news is that this shortage might lead to silver linings: a healthier population and a healthier planet.
Even Senator Marco Rubio noted in a Fox interview that we will have to eat less meat during this time.
America has an insatiable appetite for meat and has one of the highest rates of meat consumption of any country in the world. To fill this appetite, factory farms and meat processing plants are currently forcing workers to risk their lives while killing animals through cruel depopulation methods. So now, more than ever, is the best time to reduce your meat consumption in your everyday life.
Let’s break it down.
Of the more than 70 billion animals farmed annually, 50 billion of them spend their lives on factory farms. They endure short, miserable lives in conditions so horrible they are often prevented from engaging in natural behaviors such as dustbathing, raising their babies, or even lying down comfortably.
When farmed animals are treated as mere commodities, their welfare is extremely compromised. Mother pigs on factory farms are often confined in cages no bigger than a refrigerator, often forced to live on concrete floors. These pigs endure mental suffering, are at higher risk of illness, muscle weakness, or injury, and are unable to turn around or lie down comfortably.
Due to their overgrown size and quick rate of growth, many chickens on factory farms suffer skin wounds, painful lameness, and overworked heart and lungs before being slaughtered for food.
Additionally, farmed animals used for food often endure painful mutilations on factory farms without the use of anesthesia. Piglets have their tails and teeth cut to keep them from harming one another in the too-tight quarters. These animals often have their beaks—filled with sensitive nerve endings—cruelly clipped mere moments after being born. Cows are dehorned and have their tails cut off, usually with garden sheers.
Factory farming is killing our planet.
Not only did runoff from factory farms create one of the largest dead zones in US history, it also uses an immense amount of land. In fact, researchers at Oxford University found that without dairy and meat consumption, we could use approximately 75% less land for agriculture. That’s comparable to the size of the United States, China, Australia, and the whole European Union combined!
In 2017, The Guardian estimated that the top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gas in 2016 than all of Germany, Europe’s biggest climate polluters. Three of the world’s largest meat producers, JBS, Cargill, and Tyson, emit nearly as many greenhouse gases as Exxon, BP, and Shell.
Just as animal agriculture routinely abuses animals through brutal mutilations and extreme confinement, the system that puts profits over animal welfare also exploits its workers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are getting sick due to a lack of protective equipment as President Trump ordered meat processing plants to remain open. As slaughterhouse line speeds have been increased under the shield of the pandemic, workers are forced to stand in close proximity to coworkers, amplifying their risk of contracting COVID and spreading it to their loved ones. A Smithfield plant in South Dakota is being sued after becoming a COVID-19 hotspot, with nearly 800 workers becoming sick and this Executive Order could further put more processing plants in the same situation.
Furthermore, factory farms are hotbeds of bacteria—to combat this, Big Ag is infamous for its overuse of antibiotics. In turn, this has led to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, which poses an immediate threat to workers and an existential threat to all of mankind.
Your Own Health
Farmed animals are fed a low dose of antibiotics each day to help combat illnesses they can—and often do—contract inside filthy factory farms. More than 70 percent of all medically necessary antibiotics in the country are also sold for use in animals which leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. These superbugs can get passed to humans. According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur and 35,000 people die as a result in the US each year.
In 2019, World Animal Protection released a report documenting the US superbugs crisis in pork. Our pork testing revealed that bacteria present in the supermarket samples were most commonly resistant to Lincosamides, Streptogramin, and/or Tetracycline. It also found Salmonella, Listeria, and three E. coli isolates were antibiotic-resistant.
By reducing our meat consumption, World Animal Protection expects factory farming to be phased out. Shifting to more sustainable and kinder practices has the potential to put an end to many of the cruel practices farmed animals face today, such as extreme confinement, the overuse of antibiotics, and brutal mutilations.
Join World Animal Protection in protecting farmed animals, the environment, workers, and your own health by pledging to reduce your meat consumption today.