How our choices impact animals
Food. It’s an essential part of life, and one many of us take for granted.
Recently I had a fleeting moment where I actually considered the journey my meal had endured in order to get to my plate. It hit me unexpectedly, and suddenly I was looking at the food with a totally different perspective!
It prompted me to think that you too might be interested in learning about the impact of your food choices. Specifically, you’re interested in how your food choices affect animals. I’m talking about the rather obvious, as well as the not-so-obvious ways our choices affect animals.
This isn’t about shaming or dramatising anything. It’s about looking at the realities of the food industries and exploring our choices.
For the fortunate of the world, food is openly available and we generally don’t *have* to think about the impact our food has if we choose not to.
What if we start to peel back the curtain a little? To begin contemplating how our diet impacts… well, everything?
Where do we begin, when we want to look at the impact of our food on the lives of animals?
The most obvious consideration is where our food actually involves the consumption of animals.
In our world today, many types of animals are grown and farmed for the purpose of human consumption. Cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, and fish are just the first few that come to mind. These animals are produced, slaughtered and processed for food – so the impact is pretty obvious. Those animals are born specifically for human purposes. They die for the same purpose.
Then there are the animals who are farmed for their output but not killed. These include chickens who produce eggs, dairy cows who produce milk, bees who produce honey, to touch on a few. While these animals aren’t killed for their body parts, their lives are clearly impacted by the human diet.
Knowing about these impacts allows us to decide whether we’re ok with supporting these processes and practices.
The not so obvious
Looking beyond the cases where humans are producing animals for their products, we begin to find impacts on animals that are not as obvious. In many cases, we don’t hear about these impacts unless we’re looking for it. Sometimes it’s shoved unexpectedly in our faces so we flinch away from the reality.
These are the areas I believe we all need to know about, so we can make informed and conscious decisions when it comes to our food. This is the alternative to doing ‘what we’ve always done’ or the being persuaded by the marketing we’re exposed to. As I’ve said before, I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should all be exactly the same in our beliefs and practices. And again, this isn’t about shaming any groups of people or practices – I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect! But I’m very passionate about everyone being educated so we can each make decisions consciously.
As far as some of the less obvious ways in which our food impacts on animals, here are a few I’ve learned about.
Do you know what happens to cows in the dairy industry? We grow up with images of beautiful cows grazing in lush green meadows and being milked occasionally, yet there are realities of which many of us aren’t aware. One of these realities is that a female cow is essentially impregnated for the purpose of stimulating her milk flow. Then her baby is taken from her within hours of its birth. Many unwanted calves are slaughtered within 5-6 days of being born.
When we think of eggs and the way they’re produced, we may think of the large sheds of chickens or the controversy in recent years around ‘free range‘. Another element that isn’t often explored is what happens to chicks born into hatcheries in the industry. Females are identified and kept to be grown into egg-producers, but male chicks are considered a ‘by-product’ and killed/ disposed of shortly after birth (by gassing or maceration).
Even when seafood is caught in the wild, there are potential issues we may not think about when considering what to have for dinner. Several fish species are overfished (or fished to capacity). There is the threat of ‘bycatch’ where seals, dolphins and endangered sharks are caught up in the fishing nets. Trawling practices can impact on environments and habitats under the sea.
This post isn’t about dramatising the plight of animals in the food industry. Nor is it about shaming those who choose to eat meat or any animal product.
It is simply about highlighting some of the impacts our food choices have on animals. Then we can make informed decisions.
If you have respect and/ or compassion for animals, this is an invitation. You don’t have to overhaul your diet overnight. A simple second thought about your everyday practices is all if you’re interested in making conscious choices.
Learning about the impact of our food choices empowers us to make decisions about how to eat. Personally, I’ve removed most animal products from my diet, but I’ve still got a way to go! I continue to learn.
You may decide to find out a little more about a part of your diet, and its effect on animals. You may resolve to make small, gradual changes over time that will reduce your impact on animals over time.
Overall, by educating ourselves about the impact of our food choices on animals, we’re able to make conscious decisions. I think that’s a beautiful thing.
This post explores but a few very simple ways in which our food choices impact on animals. Are you interested in exploring this topic more deeply? I’m fascinated by the ethical as well as the practical elements of the discussion, and I’d love to hear about your interests. Please feel free to comment below.
HuffingtonPost (quoting Australian government guidelines)