If You Love Animals, Why Vegetarian Isn't Enough
Don’t get me wrong—it’s so impressive that you care enough about animals, the environment, and/or your health to become vegetarian. You’re willing to go against the food paradigm we’ve been indoctrinated into and make personal changes because you’ve seen the terrible effects of the meat industry.
But for whichever of the excellent reasons you’ve decided to become vegetarian, the problems associated with those reasons don’t go away unless you take the next step to veganism. Animals are still terrorized, the planet is still trashed, and your health is still compromised. This post will focus on the animals whose reproductive organs are hijacked as a source of food.
Cows and Chickens
Let’s start with the cows who are used for dairy products. If you believe there isn’t any suffering in the milk, cheese, and ice cream you eat, you’ve been grossly misled. Dairy cows need to be forcibly inseminated yearly to produce milk. Once they give birth, their calves are taken away within 1-48 hours. The males are castrated, confined to solitary stalls and slaughtered within a few days to six months of age. The females have it worse, since they’ll be forced to follow their mothers’ footsteps. They will be painfully de-horned, and likely have their tails cut off without anesthesia. Since modern cows are bred to produce ten times the amount of milk they would naturally produce, the painful nipple condition mastitis often ensues. Nearly all dairy cows are kept tethered in primarily indoor operations, preventing these social animals from their normal behaviors. Once a cow’s milk production slows, she is sent to slaughter between 3-5 years old, a fraction of her 20-year life span. These are optimal conditions. Undercover investigations routinely show horrific abuse.
Chickens in the egg industry have it no better. Males have no purpose to the operation, and are ground alive, gassed, or asphyxiated soon after birth. Females are shipped off to producers to live out their lives in battery cages, crammed in with other birds so tightly they can’t stretch their wings or turn around, with feces raining down from cages above. Because they’re unable to act out their normal behaviors, their sensitive beaks are painfully cut with a hot knife, thus preventing them from pecking their cage mates in their despair. While a hen in the wild might lay 10-15 eggs per year, in the industry they’ve been bred to lay up to 300 eggs per year. The physical and emotional stress is tremendous, and after 18-24 months surviving hens are sent to slaughter (at a fraction of their 10+year life span). At slaughter, they are paralyzed, but not necessarily insensitive to pain. Many are still conscious when their throats are slit.
What About Humane Dairy and Eggs?
“Free-range,” “Humanely Raised,” “Cage-free,” “Process Verified,” and “Certified Humane” are terms that are used to make people feel better about their food choices. Is there really less harm done to the animals, and should people feel good about eating dairy and eggs raised in this manner? While there are some slight differences in these terms, the procedures whereby the animal products are obtained are essentially the same as the “inhumane” methods.
Cows are still forcibly impregnated. Calves are still taken from their mothers soon after birth. Males are still killed as infants. Females are born into the brutal lives of their mothers. The same mutilations are permitted. The cows are still sent to slaughter once their milk production slows down. In addition, the farmers self-report their claims of better care, and farms are rarely audited.
For chickens, “Humanely Raised” is also a misnomer. Males born into the egg industry are still killed soon after birth. De-beaking is still widely practiced. “Free-range” stipulates that chickens merely have access to the outdoors, but it can be for as little as five minutes per day. “Cage-free” chickens are typically crammed into a windowless barn, with the stench of ammonia so prevalent, workers need to wear gas masks. Chickens are still killed when egg production slows down at a fraction of their life span. As with dairy, there is little to no auditing of these farms.
Does any of this sound humane?
I salute my vegetarian friends. You saw a problem with eating animals and had the compassion to do something about it. You were willing to make a significant change in your life. I Invite you to take one more step. If you truly care about farmed animals, it’s as worthwhile and joyous as any step you’ll ever take. I promise you. Please go vegan.