29 May 2012

TDIV Q&A: If meat is already in stores, what’s the harm in eating it?

This question is interesting because it assumes that meat is a byproduct of something else. In other words, the animals are already being slaughtered so we might as well eat them. But that isn’t the case. The production of meat for human consumption is the reason that we find packaged animal flesh in the stores. It is the purpose of factory farms.

We should start by thinking about meat the way that factory farms do. They don’t care about the animals. Factory farms are not about nurturing or understanding animals as fellow inhabitants of the planet. To the factory farm, an animal is saleable meat and meat by-products -- sources of revenue.

Meat producing is a business. In fact, it is a multi-billion dollar business based on how to cut corners, increase production, and make more money. The fact that consumers buy meat is what keeps these producers in business.

Factory farms are always looking for ways to increase their revenue stream. They do this in numerous ways, including injecting hormones and antibiotics into production animals, giving the animals the cheapest feeds available (including the ground carcasses of diseased animals) and depriving them of adequate living space so that the farm can house more animals. The object is to produce more product that you can then buy in the supermarket.

Factory farms don’t care if cattle are wounded, they will drag them to slaughter. They don’t care that hormones and directed breeding have produced chickens with breasts so large the chickens are unable to walk because their legs can’t support their weight. The object is always more money.

Everyone has heard the expression “vote with your dollars.” If a meat producer is only interested in getting the product in the stores for sale, and we refuse to by that product, then it goes to waste. If the stores are selling less, then they buy less from the producers, which makes the producers produce less.

Most importantly though, the stores and producers have to know why we aren’t buying. If they think it’s a fluctuating market, something that will pass, they will continue to produce. But if they know the reason, if enough of us tell them, then they are forced to change their practices or produce different products.

In the past several months we’ve seen this happen on a large scale. People found out that “pink slime” was not only some of the more disgusting animal parts but included ammonia in the mix. There was a lot of protest and the fast-food chains said they’d stop buying this stuff to add to their burger mixture. Then school lunch programs dropped pink slime too. Many of the pink slime producers are now going into bankruptcy.

Everything that we buy sends a message to whoever produces it. If a product doesn’t sell, it won’t be made. Period. If we buy meat that is in stores already, all we are saying is that we want more.

Fianna MacGregor | Blog | Blog | Twitter | Email
New York City Fianna has been vegan for 36 years. She is currently working on a second M.A. in Human Rights from NYU. When she isn’t veganizing every cookbook she can get her hands on, she’s working her urban farm in New York City. She also writes extensively on veganism, running and green living. Her newest project is to trace everything she buys to find out if it’s cruelty-free (both animal and human) and eco-friendly. Fianna and her fiancé are animal rescuers of dogs, cats and birds.

Photo credit:cc:Wikimedia Commons