It may seem odd to think of veganism as a human rights issue, but veganism is integral to challenging the structural imbalance of production and consumption in the global agro-industry, exposing the politics of hunger and inequities between rich and poor, and promoting social justice and non-violence.
The fact is that there is enough food in the world for everyone. But tragically, much of the world’s food and land resources are tied up in producing beef and other livestock – food for the well off – while millions of children and adults suffer from malnutrition and starvation.
– Dr Walden Bello, Executive Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy
While one-third of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition, between one-third to one-half of the world’s edible harvests are fed to livestock. Land in developing countries that could otherwise be used to grow crops to feed hungry humans is instead used to produce and export crops to feed farmed animals.
Deforestation for cattle pastures and feed crops causes enormous environmental and social damage and displaces rural communities. In Central America, around 40% of forest has been cleared over 4 decades, with pasture and cattle population increasing rapidly in this time. In addition, soybean and cereal production primarily destined for animal feed had led to the destruction of natural habitats over vast areas and deforestation. Between 2004 and 2005 an estimated 1.2 million hectares of rainforest was cut down as a result of soybean expansion – soybean grown to feed animals.
Little is said about the abattoir workers. While some may consider that they are part of the meat industry problem, they are also, in a way, its victims. Abattoir work is inherently dangerous, and is often undertaken by transient and migrant workers for low wages. The industry is known for its high injury and suicide rates.
The relationship between abattoir work and wider violence and crime is established. Overseas research found that towns with abattoirs have higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes, including murder and rape. Subsequent Australian research found that people who work in abattoirs are more likely to be desensitised to suffering, making them more likely to be violent towards humans.
Animal advocates who seek to raise awareness of the cruel operations of factory farms are being suppressed by powerful forces. In Australia, farmers’ federations and politicians are pushing for the introduction of ‘ag-gag’ laws, similar to those already existing in the US to silence animal advocates (and environmentalists). These laws make it illegal to take footage showing animal cruelty in farming practices, effectively suppressing the public’s right to question the present use and abuse of farmed animals, and concealing animal cruelty and neglect. US journalist Will Potter has written extensively about ag-gag and its impact on our rights. Don’t let it happen here!
References and further reading:
1 John Robbins, The food revolution: how your diet can save your life and our world. http://johnrobbins.info/
2 Why veg, world hunger: http://whyveg.com/save_the_planet/
3 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/agriculture/lead/themes0/deforestation/en/
4 Fitzgerald, Amy J; Kalof, Linda; Dietz, Thomas. Slaughterhouses and increased crime rates: an empirical analysis of spillover from ‘The Jungle’ into the surrounding community. Organization and Environment, 22, 158–184, 2009
7 Green is the new red: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/
Anjali Sareen, Why don’t vegans care about people? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anjali-sareen/vegan-lifestyle_b_1771404.html