By Ellie Beaver
Editor - Ashleena Bilal
I strongly believe that the introduction of the meat industry into the US and the lack of education surrounding it are the reasons people still eat meat. I am confident that millions of Americans would change their diets to plant-based if they knew where their food was sourced. Since the start, the meat industry has sought out to promote their product as a strong, healthy, and vital necessity of our diet, when, in fact, it is not. The industrialized meat industry is a toxin that spreads far beyond animal cruelty, harming human function, and environmental sustainability as well.
The transition over the past century to plant-based diets has spread across the globe. However, the industrial meat industry, once a solution for the growing agricultural economy in the US, has turned into what seems like a horror film. "Ninety-nine percent of meat, dairy, and eggs in the US come from factory farms," so most people buying what they believe to be 'humane' animal products are wrong (Smith 1). The US was built on sustenance farming, but as we evolved into our consumerist lifestyle, factory farming was the only way farmers saw to keep up with the capitalist society. The invention of warehouses full of cages, assembly lines, and conveyor belts, helped the meat industry achieve maximum output while minimizing costs at the expense of animals. Due to these practices, "all animals raised for food, face violence despite regulations" (Smith 2). The animals are "often faced with castration, branding, and dehorning without anesthesia" (Smith 1). Just because a package of eggs is labeled 'cage-free', it is not necessarily cruelty-free. Shoppers should look for the boxes marked 'Free-range,' or even better: buy eggs from your local farmer's market or look into owning chickens in your backyard. Although factory farming does not only exist in the United States, we eat significantly more meat per capita compared to other countries around the world whose citizens’ diets are more similar to that of herbivores, as humans should be. There is "substantial research that proves humans were not meant to have a meat-based diet," take a look at the structure of our teeth (Smith 1). Studies have also shown "the irreversible health effects of animal protein" and, in some cases, the reversible effects due to transitioning to a vegan diet (Smith 1).
Some of the ethical questions surrounding the meat industry are rooted in its marketing and cruelty practices. In the Netflix documentary, The Game Changers, research and documentation show that the same marketing companies that helped promote the health benefits of cigarettes and cigarette sales in the 1960s were also involved with the mass marketing of the meat industry. Adds adorned by superheroes announce to young boys that eating meat will make them grow into manly men. The documentary shows a commercial for Burger King advertising that their smokehouse burger is a 'man's burger’. This type of marketing and the false idea that eating meat will make you big, strong, and perform better (which this documentary seeks to disprove) is what attracted many Americans to the product and helped ignite its appeal in the first place.
Animal agriculture brings not just animal rights and personal health factors to the table, but one of the main reasons the meat industry is causing such a fuss in today's society is due to its harmful environmental effects. In August of this year, "campaigners identified the world's largest-ever dead zone in the sea (van der Zee 2). Although many factors can contribute to the "pollutants that kill off or disperse marine life," the researchers "singled out the US's heavily industrialized factory farm system as a major cause" (van der Zee 2). The industrialization of farms has already taken a heavy toll on our world. Still, if we continue at this rate "it's a scientific impossibility that the 170 plus governments that have signed the Paris Agreement, which pledged to keep climate change to under 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, will meet that goal unless animal product consumption goes down" (Friedrich 2). Excessive antibiotic use is also a health risk that this industry presents: "in China, the farmers can freely prescribe and administer antibiotics [to the animals] themselves," creating an unregulated, uncontained form of GMO (van de Zee 2). It really makes you ask the question: do you know what you are putting into your body? This "false assumption that eating factory-farmed meat is 'natural'" is ignorant to the fact that these animals are "pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and they're raised in utterly perverse conditions" (Friedrich 2). We are voluntarily welcoming two existential threats into our world: climate change and an unsustainable food system.
As for those who recognize the harm, but are reluctant to give up meat, there are so many alternative solutions today. Non-dairy dairy products made with alternative kinds of milk and fats, plant-based "meat," and alternate sources of protein are all sustainable options. The hurdle of flavor for some Americans, has grown too tall to easily overcome. However, as more harmless products begin to fill shelves, I don't doubt that the trend will quickly catch on.
Right now, there is a tremendous "need to move away from industrial agriculture towards agroecological models" and phase-out of the moral and ecological horror that is factory farming (van de Zee 2). Year after year, this industry has proved to be "something that [goes] far beyond" just cruelty," and I believe that the more educated consumers become, the greater chance we will see for this industry (van der Zee 2).
Illing, Sean. “Ethical Arguments Won't End Factory Farming. Technology Might.” Vox, Vox, 11 Oct. 2016,
Smith, Kat. “99% Of All Animal Products in the U.S. Come From Factory Farms.” LIVEKINDLY, Publisher Name LIVEKINDLY Publisher Logo, 25 Apr. 2019, www.livekindly.co/99-animal-products-factory-farms/.
Zee, Bibi van der. “Why Factory Farming Is Not Just Cruel – but Also a Threat to All Life on the Planet.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Oct. 2017, www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/04/factory-farming-destructive-wasteful-cruel-says -philip-lymbery-farmageddon-author.