Eating Animals Facts
We love animals, caring for some as if they were members of our families, and yet we eat animals, too. In fact, we eat a lot of meat — data show that the average person on this planet eats about 48 kg or 106 lbs of meat per year.
Meat is a highly controversial food.
On one hand, it’s a staple in many diets and a great source of protein and important nutrients.
On the other hand, some people believe eating it is unhealthy, unethical, and unnecessary.
People eat more meat now than they ever have. What was once a luxury food item for those privileged enough to afford it has quickly become a staple in most people’s diets (most people in the developed world that is). This increased meat consumption is due in part to
- Rising incomes and better standards of living across the globe,
- Hyper-industrialization (note: factory farming),
- Globalization of the industry spearheaded by multinational food companies, and
- Improved science and technology where farmers can efficiently raise livestock and animals for maximum profits to ensure customers can buy cheap meat all year round.
But this love of meat is having serious impacts on the environment and human health and by delivering facts and research findings, we hope to empower you to a kinder, greener and more compassionate way of life. We’ve also broken the facts and stats down into subcategories for your reading pleasure.
Humans like eating meat more than the thought of eating animals. Scientists conclude that humans choose not to really think about what we eat, because if we do we lose the appetite.
When we eat beef, chicken wings, hot dogs or spaghetti bolognese, we do it in denial. Already by referring to what we eat as “beef” instead of “cow”, we have created a distance between our food and an animal with the abilities to think and feel.
“The presentation of meat by the industry influences our willingness to eat it. Our appetite is affected both by what we call the dish we eat and how the meat is presented to us”, says Jonas R. Kunst, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo.
Kunst and his colleague Sigrid M. Hohle conducted five studies in Norway and the U.S. In the first study, the chicken was presented at different processing stages: whole chicken, drumsticks, and chopped chicken fillets. The scientists measured participants’ associations with the animal, and how much empathy they felt with the animal.
In the second study, participants saw pictures of roasted pork – one beheaded, the other not. The scientists examined their associations to the animal, and to which extent they felt empathy and disgust. They also asked participants whether they wanted to eat the meat or would rather choose a vegetarian alternative.
Participants felt less empathy with the pig without the head.
“Highly processed meat makes it easier to distance oneself from the idea that it comes from an animal. Participants also felt less empathy with the animal. The same mechanism occurred with the beheaded pork roast. People thought less about it being an animal, they felt less empathy and disgust, and they were less willing to consider a vegetarian alternative.”
In a third study, participants saw two advertisements for lamb chops, one with a picture of a living lamb, another without. The picture of the lamb made people less willing to eat the lamb chops. They also felt more empathy with the animal.
Philosophers and animal rights activists have long claimed that we avoid thinking about the animal we eat and that this reduces the feeling of unease. This mechanism is described by the “dissociation hypothesis”. Celebrities have spoken up for the animals as well.
Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, ate only self-slaughtered meat for one year, claiming, “Many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat”. Vegetarian Paul Mc Cartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.
When land is used to raise animals instead of crops, precious water and soil are lost, trees are cut down to make land for grazing or factory-farm sheds, and untreated animal waste pollutes rivers and streams. In fact, it has such a devastating effect on all aspects of our environment that the Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as one of the biggest environmental hazards facing the Earth. Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined.
History Of Humans Eating Animals
“We who are about to die, laugh at those who are about to live”. This is one of the most important quotes in the history of humans eating animals. As in most things, there’s the beginning of meat-eating and there’s the end of it.
In prehistory, when humans hunted or gathered, they ate what was available. Eating wild game animals, such as deer or cattle, was a common practice. Other primitive humans also ate antelope, pigs, snakes, frogs, plants and seeds, or just ate what they could pick up with their hands or bury in the ground (even this was occasionally disallowed by their leaders to prevent starving).
However, as agriculture started developing in the Bronze and Iron Ages, the activity of hunting to feed those who were not able to cultivate food became less desirable.
Our very survival is tied to the production of meat. A long time ago when humans had to hunt for food, their number one animal prey was the elephant. You can see an example of an elephant on the right side of the diagram below, it is found at the top of Africa.
The process of harvesting a large mammal such as an elephant for food can be extremely cruel as it requires animals to be repeatedly skinned while the muscles are still moving. The skin, which is full of blood and other valuable nutrients, must then be separated from the meat. The majority of the rest of the skin is left attached to the skin and slowly consumed by the animals in order to extract every drop of blood.
Eating animals is a relatively recent development, developed by humans only a few thousand years ago. Around then, in Europe and the Middle East, we began to domesticate animals, particularly those for food (meat eating being the earliest form of consumption of any animal by humans). By 13,000 years ago, about 60% of people were living in the ‘civilized’ part of the world. In the more developed areas, for instance, Greece, Italy and Spain, up to 85% of the population ate meat. The rest of the world’s population ate mostly plants.
In Africa, however, where the majority of the human population lived, most people ate both meat and plants and would have known about eating animals for thousands of years. Animals and agriculture were originally co-dependent.
In the traditional hunter-gatherer communities of the past, most people would only eat meat if they caught or killed it themselves and for smaller food groups like wild mushrooms and berries, they would often supplement the wild food with the much higher nutritional content of domesticated food plants and vegetables. However, in the industrialized world, we do not kill wild animals and must instead rely on factory farms to supply us with meat.
Meat became an easier, more accessible and more affordable choice once agriculture and animal husbandry were perfected and people could live off a simple, repetitive, but fairly energy-intensive diet without the need to waste time growing their own food and allowing a local ecosystem to regenerate and flourish.
The Culture Of Eating Animals
The culture of eating meat and the farming methods are intertwined. In fact, the average American eats more than 400 lbs of meat each year.
It’s hard to see this daily reliance on animal products as normal; our attitude towards animal-based foods is so warped that we can’t see past it.
Animals are treated as commodities to be used up and slaughtered, sold, slaughtered and shipped to people all over the world. That’s wrong and we have to stop that from happening.
Of course, you know this already. Like the ridiculous belief that homeopathy and tai chi are natural and healthy. While there are some cultural practices that could be considered cruel, eating animal products and especially dairy, isn’t one of them.
Animal agriculture is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, causes deforestation, pollution of waterways, and contributes to global climate change. It’s not something we should be proud of. But despite our love for a tasty steak, it’s what we do. We need to make the commitment to change our ways.
If we continue to eat meat, we’re going to burn through our resources and in doing so, impact our health, our future generations, and the environment.
An American study estimated that as much as 12% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the meat, dairy and egg industries. For context, other industries such as transportation, electricity, waste disposal, and manufacturing are responsible for between 2% and 5% of emissions.
Despite this, people in the US still eat over 70 pounds of meat per year, on average. An environmentalist would recommend a minimum of 70 per year (roughly two dinners) but most people would be happy with half that number or fewer.
Businesses Involving Animals
The farming industry doesn’t want you to know that your food comes from farms where animals are given antibiotics, confined in conditions that can include huge outdoor yards or cages that don’t allow them to turn around, denied access to the outdoors, routinely fed by vets without them even making contact with their hands to ensure food is made safe for consumption, and most importantly, exploited without sufficient protective clothing, often to the point of developing painful sores.
Over half of the world’s antibiotics are now sold for use in farming animals. Eating animals raises the levels of some bacteria in our bodies which can lead to some forms of bacterial infection.
The Controversy Of Eating Animals
These are the main points, facts and statistics to consider when consuming meat.
- 8 Billion – The approximate number of livestock raised annually worldwide. Livestock and their by-products produce 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- 112 BILLION – The approximate number of humans on the planet today. By 2050, this number is expected to rise to over 1.8 billion.
- 975 POUNDS – The approximate amount of greenhouse gases released for every POUND of meat consumed in the US.
As much as people may think meat is necessary to survive, eating meat also comes with a long list of health risks that are now recognized by experts. Some of the issues associated with eating meat include:
- Evidence points to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
- Diseases like E.coli and B.coli can contaminate ground beef and other meats.
- For every kilogram of beef that is consumed, 1kg of methane is released.
- Animals are killed unnecessarily for food production and cruel deaths are a common consequence of factory farming.
- The production of meat consumes 1.5 times as much energy as it takes to produce enough calories to sustain a person’s life.
Eating Meat Impacts The Environment
It’s estimated that global meat production accounts for nearly one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions, over half of which is due to deforestation and pasture-related emissions. This is a dramatic increase over the 1950s where meat only accounted for 4% of our global emissions.
Today, livestock have an enormous footprint on our environment, and while climate change cannot be stopped completely, governments around the world have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and developing other renewable sources of energy, such as biomass, solar, wind, and hydropower.
The real challenge lies in curtailing the number of animals raised and slaughtered to meet our ever-growing consumption of meat.
The average supermarket chicken breast has over six times as much fat and cholesterol as the NHS recommended daily intake of 6g for adults. As the majority of people in the UK have to reduce their meat intake, how can we help tackle our collective meat consumption?
Although animal products are consumed in the UK at a significantly lower rate than in the USA, they still impact the environment and are a major source of environmental degradation. Composting your food waste for better composting, using ‘bird dish’ solar kits to reduce emissions and promoting switching to plant-based foods such as soy-based burgers, are some of the tips we give to reduce our meat consumption.
Agricultural food production consumes around one-third of all freshwater used globally.
Eating Meat Impacts Human Health
Proteins and healthy fats that are important for a healthy diet are found in meat. But meat has a terrible influence on health. When it comes to obesity, the United States is leading the way when it comes to obesity, which in turn is one of the major drivers of cancer and heart disease. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of deaths in the US can be attributed to dietary choices and health reasons.
Meat is also associated with severe childhood obesity, adult obesity and diabetes. These lifestyle factors alone are responsible for 20% of premature deaths.
Eating meat is linked to an increased risk of cancer, stroke and other health problems. It also generates significantly more climate change emissions than a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Dietary protein is essential to a healthy body. Eating animal-based protein can increase the risk of a whole host of health problems, including:
- Heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, as well as Type II diabetes;
- Cancer and cancer prevention, including colon and prostate cancer;
- Alzheimer’s, dementia and other types of neurodegenerative disease;
- Diabetes, type II diabetes and obesity;
- Birth defects.
The Ethics Of Eating Animals
Animal agriculture is the largest contributor to
- climate change,
- land degradation,
- water pollution,
- deforestation and
- food safety concerns.
And these concerns don’t stop at the farm gate. As the first large-scale experiment on factory farming, the film shows an inhumane and stressful way of raising livestock that, over the years, has resulted in the largest one-sided act of abuse on Earth – torture – which is a violation of animal rights and international laws.
The hypocrisy in the meat industry is getting to the point where animal rights and health activists have been forced to seek out research in order to hold these multinational corporations to account.
The Future Of Animal Rights
There are an estimated 2 billion farmed animals on Earth, almost all of them (99 percent) bred for food. Over half of all food grown for humans is fed to animals.
(Roughly) 200 species of animals are factory farmed for food in the United States alone. This means that only two animals out of every three—everywhere on the planet—are left as free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught, native or organic.
Even in the US, over 75 percent of all meat produced is consumed by human beings.
Every day approximately 46,000 cows are slaughtered. The great majority of these cows were born and raised for the purpose of being eaten. We consume the equivalent of a cow every 15 minutes.
Every day over 1,800 pigs are slaughtered.
Dairy, eggs and meat production are not on a sustainable path. The research and science are overwhelming. We can’t keep up with the demand for meat. We have to be eating fewer and fewer animals and this isn’t possible without a radical overhaul of the food system.
The way we farm animals can no longer meet our nutritional needs, waste food, pollute the planet and produce enough intensive animal exploitation to meet growing demand from the developed world. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing and still expect this enormous impact to continue.
50 million birds are brutally slaughtered and discarded every day on their journey to slaughter and animal waste from farmed animals takes up as much space as the entire population of Australia. The average American eats an animal every 7 days, and some people eat nearly 30.
More than 1 billion land animals are killed every year for food. For the animals, slaughter is brutal and usually inhumane; slaughterhouses can produce as much pollution as car manufacturers. It is an energy and water guzzler; refrigeration alone takes up 60% of the energy in the meat industry. Also, in the first year of a pig’s life, it will eat up to 20 pounds of food per day. As meat is on the rise in popularity and prices increase, a meat-free diet has become more accessible to people globally.
Animals are exploited in the name of medical progress. One of the major industries in the world responsible for animal testing in the pharmaceutical industry which sells roughly 1/3 of drugs.
Thanks to new advancements in technology, laboratory animals can now be kept comfortably and painlessly in tiny compartments with comfortable beds and medical and communication equipment. These animals cannot feel pain and have no idea how they will die.
If you’re reading this you’re probably a vegan and you’re probably struggling to stick to your animal-friendly resolutions. “But you eat cheese and meat!” Yes, we do, but we feel it’s important to be mindful of what we eat and live ethically. Veganism can be a tricky process, but we believe that if we’re going to take care of this planet, we’ll need to take care of ourselves as well.
Think about going vegetarian. If not for the environment, then for the animals. If you eat meat, be a compassionate consumer and support responsible animal welfare measures. Don’t support the production of food that kills and dismembers millions of animals every year.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about the Eating Animals Facts. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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