“While meat consumption in the U.S. has fallen more than five percent since peaking in 2007, Chinese meat consumption has leapt 18 percent, from 64 million to 78 million (metric) tons — twice as much as in the U.S… China’s chicken intake just recently caught up with that in the U.S., with 13 million tons eaten in each country. It took China just 25 years to make the consumption leap achieved by the U.S. over a half-century.
Even when you’re immersed in the world of vegan activism, you never get used to seeing evidence of the horrific conditions in which animals are forced to live and die. From intensive confinement to obscene filth, terrifying violence and excruciating torment, I sometimes feel as though I’ve seen as much brutality as I can bear.
But recently, I had the opportunity to watch a film clip that, despite its lack of extreme graphic footage, somehow seemed even more chilling than much of what I have already seen.
Unlike many animal industry exposés, this video doesn’t focus on filthy conditions or extreme violations of welfare laws. It simply depicts what animal factories are becoming, as emerging economies stake their own claim to the industrialization of farming, backed by the latest technology.
As demand for animal products increases, so does the industry’s need to find ever more competitive methods of turning live animals into neatly-wrapped packages of muscle and bone. The result? Ever-faster line speeds, ever more mechanization, and mass production like we have never yet seen.
If, like me, you find this footage disturbing, don’t kid yourself into believing that we can solve the situation by moving these animals out into the open air, where they can range freely and live relatively natural lives. Intensive farming (whether caged or cage-free) exists for a reason. Despite the overwhelming evidence that our dependence on animal foods is not only completely unnecessary but also completely unsustainable, the vast majority of people in the developed world still insist that animal products remain on the menu.
As a result, the world slaughters more than 56 billion land animals per year, and as we can see, this number will only increase as the rest of the world embraces our archaic model of how to provide nourishment for our human family. Without intensive confinement, there is simply not enough agricultural land on the planet to house the number of animals we must keep enslaved in order to feed our desire for the things their bodies produce.
And even if there were…even if we had ten times as much land on which to allow these animals room to graze, or a dozen planets to destroy in the process, would these images be any different if the bodies being disemboweled had been raised on pasture? Would that change the fundamental fact: that living beings – with thoughts and feelings, emotions and relationships – are being commodified like inanimate objects?
The mechanization is a reaction to the scale of the demand, but the attitude of exploitation we see here is something that everyone who creates that demand needs to accept responsibility for. It is a reflection of a very disturbing aspect of human psychology, and that is the fact that we are able to turn off our natural empathy when we are convinced that everything (and everyone) around us is here for us to use. The images you see here are the simple result of the fact that, in 2013 (400 years after Rene Descartes declared that non-human beings were closer to machines than people) we continue to ignore their cries and their pleas for mercy, in favor of seeing our fellow animals as things, as economic units, as resources to be plundered.
We need to ask ourselves what kind of future we want to build. Do we really want to continue to live our lives as systematic tormentors of the rest of the animal kingdom? Do we want to live in a world where every member of our seven billion strong (and growing) population believes that we have the ‘right’ to eat whatever we damn well please, even if that includes someone else’s body parts?
If we really believe we have that right, we will continue to cause unspeakable harm to these innocent beings and as a result, desecrate our planet in all the myriad ways we know animal farming does, from greenhouse gases to effluent run-off.
This sets a horrific example for the developing world, which is following close in our footsteps, and includes large populations of people who have, until now, abstained from eating animal products out of necessity, not choice. What will our planet’s future look like when billions more people insist on having animal slaves to ‘create protein,’ using non-renewable resources (think water and oil) and releasing metabolic waste (methane and more) along the way?
Thankfully, there is a solution. There are already millions of people around the world who abstain from animal products altogether, proving that there is another way; a model of nourishment that leaves behind the cruel, wasteful, dirty, pathogen-breeding, disease-promoting, environment-destroying, soul-crushing paradigm that we think of ourselves as being so dependent on.
Yes, we need to think very carefully. Particularly, we need to think about whether we really want to live in a world where animal products are freely available for everyone, everywhere. And if we think that’s the world we want to live in, then we ought to take a very good look at this video, because this, my friends, is what that world will look like.