Could you eat beef in front of a cow? I think most people would for the very simple reason that it looks nothing like a cow once it reaches your plate. You probably won't even realise you are eating the same type of animal right in front of you. When is the last time you pictured a little chick when you were eating an egg?
And on the supermarket shelves they know just how to present it, nicely decorated with garnish which immediately makes it look like food rather than an animal, in a way that makes your mouth drool and beg for a grill. That's what used to happen to me before I was asked to prepare some material for our #DontEatCruelty campaign. Then I found out what goes on behind closed doors in order to make farming a feasible big business.
The shortest line to continued revenue and growth, is making your product available and marketable to as many people as possible, and the shortest line to that is having a product that everyone (many) want and making it affordable to everyone. To make it cheap you must produce large quantities at lower prices. It's all well and good when you're talking about Henry Ford inventing the production line for the Model-T. Production, or factory farming, however is a different story.
Animals need time to grow to produce the meat, milk and eggs the food industry craves so much. That time reduces potential profit, so the industry recuperates those lost profits by cramming as many animals as you can imagine into the space they have available at the expense of their quality of life. Not to mention the other bizarre things they do to these animals so they grow faster or are easier to manage or some other perceived inconvenience.
Take the humble chicken...
For all the supermarkets, butchers, convenience stores, mini-markets and pet foods to have chicken readily available for you to pull off the shelf like it magically appeared there out of thin air, the farms must grow and slaughter 137,000,000 per day worldwide. That is very bad news for chickens. Let's compare it to some other statistics that normally shock people.
How many people died of the plague? 25,000,000
How many people were killed in WWI? 37,000,000
How many people were killed in WWII? 70 - 85,000,000
How many people died in the 1918 flu pandemic (the deadliest in human history)? 20 - 50,000,000
Chickens slaughtered every day 137,000,000
Humans are to chickens the plague, WWI, WWII, and the 1918 pandemic combined, but on a daily basis.
To grow that many chickens, something has to give. It is their quality of life. Pumped with whatever chemicals are trending in the industry to make them grow faster and bigger (which you are eating if you eat chicken). Crammed into overcrowded spaces in which they are compelled to fight each other for space, so their beaks are trimmed (removed) to prevent them from damaging each other in such fights. The egg industry doesn't escape these practices, except in that case males have no use so are killed within hours or packaged alive for animal feed and die crushed or suffocated. Once the hen doesn't produce the required quota of eggs she is killed and since she is not destined for consumption, there is no law that prevents her torture in the process.
What about pork?
Similarly, the global craving for bacon and pork is bearing down on pigs. People kill over one billion pigs annually worldwide, an average of 23,000,000 pigs a week. Just about as bad as the plague. Obviously pigs take up more space so you'd expect that the numbers be lower than chicken, but it still means that they are pumped with a cocktail of chemicals. Incidentally, pigs are very similar to people, in many ways. Many experiments are done on pig carcasses in forensic science because their body composition is similar to ours. Most have more fat then us because they are fed to be plump and heavier on the butcher's scales and the fattier the meat is the richer the taste.
Anyhow. To maximize profits again they must be farmed in crowded spaces. As sentient animal this makes them stressed and they tend to bite their tales off because of this stress, much like some dogs will self-mutilate when experiencing chronic stress. Rather than house them better (can't have that, it would not be profitable), the factory farming solution is to chop their tail off, often without pain relief. They don't dock their tails to prevent the pain they can inflict on each other. They do it simply because tail biting introduces costly veterinary bills.
All this so you can enjoy the most fattening and unhealthiest type of meat whenever you want and for breakfast, and so that unscrupulous businessmen make more money, when our biology doesn't need us or want us to consume that much meat in the first place.
Surely fish fair better...or?
Even the assessment of the EU says that improving welfare in fish farms is only cost effective is small scale farms. But ...
790 – 2,300 billion fishes were caught from the wild for 2007-2016
970 – 2,700 billion fishes were caught from the wild for 1999-2007
450 – 1,000 billion fishes were caught to make fish-meal and fish oil for 2005-2009.
48 – 160 billion farmed fish were killed for food in 2015.
220 – 520 billion farmed crustaceans were also killed for food in 2015.
You don't get those numbers through small scale and you certainly don't get them through environmentally responsible farming and fishing. All this so you can find canned or fresh fish stocked everywhere as if it was some disposable commodity that is necessary for human survival. If nature wanted us to have such ready access to fish we would have developed gills and fins, but we did't.
If you want the sea sludge to come back, just keep eating farmed fish like it grows on supermarket shelves. The ecosystem is not meant to handle that much waste. Anyone who has an aquarium knows what happens to that small echosystem when you overload it with too many fish.
These are not anglers that pluck out of the water a small amount of fish individually taking care on how they are handled and killed, and release those which aren't wanted. This is an industry that sweeps through he seabed destroying all sorts of ecosystems in its path and dumps tonnes of waste in our seas in the simple act of feeding fish. Even turtles, dolphins and sharks are effected by this profit-driven large scale industry. In my lifetime I have seen way too many species become severely endangered by this, if the plastic we keep dumping in our oceans was not enough. What world are we leaving for future humanity? If you can't be bothered about cruelty, how can you not care about what you are doing to your own kind?
Last but not least, let's talk about cows
We have become a lazy people, in love with fast food. A popular fast food franchise prides itself of having sold over 100 BILLION hamburgers. Anyone would struggle to picture those in one shot so I want to give you a little cosmic perspective here and no one does it better than your personal astrophysicist, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson.
The same corner cutting you see with chickens and pigs are rife in the cow farming scene. The latest stats I found were for 2016 (since then the global human population has risen by 250,000,000) in which around 850,000 cows were slaughtered per day. Again the bigger the animal the fewer the numbers but they are still rather high. But that statistic alone does not give you the whole picture, becasue cows are kept also for dairy production and thaqt's where, for me, things get really dirty disgusting and I can't have my dairy cappuccino anymore. Can't even look at them anymore without a little hate to be honest.
Cow Milk Production (‘000 tonnes) in Selected Countries of the World, 2011 data (www.dairyinfo.gc.ca).
Total 425,669,000 tonnes of dairy per year =1,166,216 tons per day
DAIRY COWS TEND TO:
Be high-yielding breeds such as Holstein-Friesians, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in milk production in recent decades and increased the reliance on concentrate feeds.
Produce a massive amount of milk. Whereas a beef-suckler cow would naturally produce around 4 litres of milk per day, a dairy cow will produce an average of 28 litres per day over a period of 10 months. During peak lactation, a high-yielding cow may produce as much as 60 litres per day and up to 12,000 litres over her whole lactation.
Be subject to intensive breeding regimes for high yields. This has led to poor fertility, metabolic disorders and health and welfare problems.
Have a short productive life. Dairy cows typically only live to their third lactation – at around 5 and a half years old - before being culled. Naturally, a cow can live for 20 years.
Be permanently housed or have access to pasture during limited periods (e.g. in the dry period, when the cow is not producing milk).
Of course you won't see Malta here, but we are part of this economy by being consumers. Look at the provenance of your dairy products and they will almost certainly come from one of the above countries. Such large volumes of dairy require that the calf to be sent to slaughter soon after being born so we can steal all the milk the cows make for their babies. To make matters worse for the future of the planet a cow on overage releases between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year, adding tonnes more green house gases to our atmosphere alongside the CO2 we pump into it just get around and have electricity. It is no wonder total yearly methane emissions from dairy farming are an estimated 500 – 600 million tons.
The Myth - Feeding a growing human population requires these atrocities.
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Europe is the second largest contributor to this food wastage. It is the fair distribution of wealth and sustainable farming practices that will feed the growing population. Factory farming has already failed at that.
WAKE UP! Seriously, wake up. This is not necessary. It is certainly not the sign of an intelligent or compassionate life form.
All it takes is one change by each and every one of us every day. With 7.7 billion people on Earth that is 7.7 billion changes that can have a significant impact through simple omission.
I am not asking you to all go vegan (not gonna stop you if that's what you want, of course).
I am asking each and every one of you to give up one thing, just one. If we all give up at least one thing then the industry will have to downsize just to cut the losses. We would be again a kinder species that looks after our planet.
It is our only home.