The Problem with Animal Products

Thanks to bestselling books from authors like Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Jonathan Safran Foer, people are paying unprecedented attention to how their food is produced. And, increasingly, they’re not liking what they’re seeing.

One reason is the cruelty. Today’s farmed animals are raised much differently than they were fifty years ago. For nearly all farmed animals today, the barnyard has been displaced by the factory farm. Whether we’re talking cows or pigs or chickens, intensive confinement and horrific conditions have become the norm.  The situation is especially bad at egg and pork operations, where the animals typically never see sunlight or breathe fresh air. Fortunately, it’s easy to discover exactly what’s going on at these places: videos are widely available for free online viewing.

The story goes deeper than what can be glimpsed on video. To dig further into the ethical failings of factory farming, there’s probably no better starting-point than the Even if You Like Meat booklet, available for free download in PDF format.  And to explore the subject more thoroughly, check out Eating Animals, by Jonathan Saffran Foer, and Meat Market, by publisher Erik Marcus.

Issues of cruelty aside, there are numerous other compelling reasons to reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products.  The United Nations estimates that livestock are responsible for about 18 percent of climate change caused by greenhouse gases. The pork industry has likewise been responsible for the swine flu pandemic, which has already caused nearly 10,000 deaths in the United States alone. On top of everything else, factory farms gobble up massive amounts of antibiotics, causing tremendous risks to the public health.

Whether the subject is animal cruelty or public health misdeeds or environmental recklessness, the industry’s blanket denials of wrongdoing—and its relentless lobbying for political favors—are ample reasons to withdraw support from animal agribusiness. To get a sense of the industry’s dishonesty and cynicism, check out our link-filled: “ The Year in Meat: 2009.”

One happy outcome of reducing or eliminating the consumption of animal products is that it can set the stage for improved health. The American Dietetic Association has repeatedly gone on record with its peer-reviewed position that a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of life, and may also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and several common cancers.

There are in fact a number of highly regarded books that detail the health benefits that may accompany the switch to a well-planned vegan diet. These include:

If you’re interested in reducing or eliminating your consumption of animal products, we’ve got plenty of advice for doing it easily, deliciously, and healthfully.