Eat Less Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
About 9 billion land animals are slaughtered for food in the United States each year. The average American consumes significantly more meat than is recommended. In fact, the average meat-eater will consume a total of 2,500 pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, and sheep in their lifetime.
Less than 1 percent of farm animals are raised on pasture, with space, fresh air and sunshine, and the chance to interact with others of their kind. It would be very difficult—if not impossible—for the United States to raise billions of animals under these conditions. To give all farm animals a life worth living, Americans need to eat fewer of their products—that means less meat, dairy, and eggs.
Consuming fewer animal products isn’t just good for animals, it is better for people too—reducing the risk of a number of chronic, preventable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Eating fewer animal-based foods also benefits the planet by saving precious resources and reducing greenhouse gases associated with global warming.
Eating less meat doesn’t have to be daunting. Simply eating smaller servings and cutting out animal products from one meal per day, or for one day each week, can have a significant impact. To find out how to get started, visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com.
Shop for Higher Welfare Food
Most animal foods sold in supermarkets come from “factory farms,” where massive numbers of animals are confined to very small spaces. Conditions for the animals are usually nothing like the bucolic images used by corporate farming operations to advertise their products. Many of the country’s most popular meat and egg brands are produced from animals raised under the worst conditions.
You can avoid intensively farmed meat, dairy, and eggs by shopping at farmers’ markets or buying directly from small family farms. Ask the farmers how their animals are raised and if they will allow you to visit.
If you shop at a supermarket, ask the manager to stock food from pasture-raised animals and products certified for animal welfare. Use customer comment cards and helplines to tell food retailers you care about the welfare of farm animals. And beware of the claim “natural,” which has no relevance to how the animals were treated.
To learn more about how to find higher-welfare animal products and labeling, check out AWI’s recommendations on eating humanely.
Never Eat These Foods
Certain foods—often considered delicacies—are produced from animals who have been raised or slaughtered in an especially inhumane manner. Unlike foods such as eggs, pork, and chicken—which can come from animals raised either on “factory farms” or high-welfare farms—these foods always involve significant animal suffering, and should be avoided.
FROG LEGS: Frogs are being eaten to extinction with possibly one billion taken from the wild each year. Frog farming operations typically don’t kill the animals humanely.
FOIE GRAS: French for “fatty liver,” this dish is made from the liver of ducks or geese, which has been unnaturally enlarged by ramming a feeding pipe down the birds’ throats twice each day to force-feed them.
LIVE SASHIMI: Various species of aquatic animals are sliced while still alive and sent out squirming on a plate. Octopus, among the most intelligent of invertebrates, is sometimes served alive, and shrimp may be stunned in liquor and then served alive in a dish called drunken shrimp.
SHARK FIN SOUP: As many as 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Sharks are typically caught in open water and have their fins cut off before they are tossed back into the sea to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other animals.
Fight the Growth of Factory Farms
The rearing of farm animals today is dominated by industrialized operations known as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs, or “factory farms”) that maximize profits by treating animals not as sentient creatures, but as production units. Raised by the thousands at a single location, animals are confined in such tight quarters that they can barely move, let alone behave naturally.
Factory farms not only mistreat animals, they pollute the environment and endanger the health and well-being of their workers and residents of the surrounding community. They consume large quantities of our natural resources, and lower community property values.
Local opposition is among the most effective ways to fight the construction or expansion of animal factories. In fact, small groups of local activists across the country have succeeded in keeping factory farms out of many communities. If you learn about a planned development in your area, here are a few things you can do to stop it:
- Learn everything you can about the company and its plans for the facility.
- Join a local citizens’ action group or start your own, and seek legal advice.
- Organize a letter-writing campaign or circulate a petition.
- Meet with your local elected officials or decision-makers to voice your concerns.
Spread the Word–And More!
Other ways to help farm animals:
- Share what you’ve learned with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Or go for a bigger audience by sharing via social media.
- Consider volunteering at an animal sanctuary or adopting a rescued farm animal if you have the required resources.
- If you witness or learn about possible neglect or cruelty to a farm animal, report it to your local humane society, animal care agency, or law enforcement official.
- Become politically active by supporting state and federal legislation to protect farm animals, and opposing efforts that benefit factory farms.
- Sign up for AWI eAlerts to receive the latest news on how you can help all animals: www.awionline.org/joinus.