In an age when people are concerned about what they eat, consumers are more aware of how their food is raised. But the opinions they form are not always based on the facts. Many people make diet choices, such as going vegan, because they believe animals on farms are raised inhumanely. They also use that as a reason to convince others to follow a similar diet.
While there will always be a few farms where animals aren’t treated perfectly, but most farmers are dedicated to the well-being of their animals.
The argument that following a plant-based diet will improve the well-being of farm animals is ill-founded.
Instead of telling people they should go vegan to support animal welfare, they should focus their arguments on nutrition and health issues and help people find other ways to support animal welfare.
Last month, as I was leaving the University of Missouri Student Center, a volunteer from Vegan Outreach handed me a brochure titled, “Compassionate Choices, If You Care About Animals, Please Consider Not Eating Them.” The brochure included people’s stories about why they switched to a vegan lifestyle and included pictures of animals, such as chickens and pigs with names. This tactic is similar to the videos shown on Facebook and YouTube by Mercy for Animals and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. These organizations show videos from undercover workers at large food production companies, similar to those shown in Food, Inc.. Some of the videos are gruesome and include lots of blood, but these videos show only the worst cases.
Even though research has shown there are health benefits to eating a vegan diet, such as lowering the risks of Type 2 Diabetes, strokes, and obesity, many people will never give up meat simply because they enjoy the taste.
For these consumers, one good option for supporting animal welfare while still enjoying a cheeseburger, is to buy locally. For instance, my family buys half of a cow every year. It is cheaper than buying meat at the store, and my family thinks it tastes much better. We also know who raised the cow and what conditions the cow lived in.
If you buy locally, money spent on the meat will go back to your local community. Your money goes back to the farmers to help feed their families and take care of their animals. When you buy meat processed by large companies such as Tyson, you do not know exactly where your money goes and you do not personally know the producers as you do when you purchase from local farmers.
There will always be meat eaters, thus there will still be farms producing animals for meat. It is the corporate farms, that raise animals on a large scale, where there are the most chances of animals being hurt or not taken care of humanely.
Instead of trying to change eating habits, effort should go toward passing laws to protect the animals.
In the end, you can do more to help animals you believe are treated inhumanely than trying to get people to go vegan. You can educate people about animal agriculture. You can encourage people to buy their food from farmers they know. And you can campaign to encourage lawmakers to protect the welfare of the animals.