Many, many people have viewed this telling video clip showcasing the mass production meat industry as well as a walk on role about general over-consumption. But the answer to this horrific treatment of animals is not to stop eating meat. Vegetarians and vegans have been waging a war against the mass meat industry for years with no real advances to be seen. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group’s poll, about 5% of the US population states they do not eat meat of any kind, livestock, poultry, or seafood. Think about the multi-billion dollar corporations who govern the mass meat industry. 5% is a tiny blip of their radar, and obviously not enough to make a dent in sales or change their ways. And these same vegetarians have the convenience of processed soy meat-replacement products(who are also owned by major corporations, who do just as much damage to the environment from growing and processing soybeans, let’s not even go down that path) on the shelves in most stores, so it’s really not a huge inconvenience to them to not eat meat.
Who are the people actually making a difference in this industry? Small to mid-size farms and the people who buy from them. If 5% of the US population took it’s dollars and spent them with these smaller farms who are practicing ethical ways of raising and treating animals, that would boost ethical businesses exponentially. It is rough being a small business and fighting for market share against huge companies who have turned what should be a beautiful and respectful transaction between animal and man into a machine and systems show of efficiency and profits over all else. Instead of viewing a video like the one above and thinking, I should stop eating meat, start thinking about sourcing your meat from the right people. Be prepared. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes sacrifices, either more money or less meat. It is hard. But if you want the animals to have the right feed, good living conditions, environment friendly practices, and still pay your farmer a living wage, it’s going to cost more. And it’s going to be harder to find. And thus in lays the problem.
I think becoming a vegetarian or vegan, because of these unethical practices, is just an easy way out. There are thousands of products on major grocery chain shelves that vegetarians can eat without feeling bad about animals(even Oreos are vegetarian!). It is much harder to make the time and effort to find an ethical source of meat, eggs, and dairy if you so choose, and budget for it properly than it is to walk into the same grocery chains selling the unethical meat and buy veggie burgers instead. Now here me out! I fully understand that many people eat vegetarian or vegan for health benefits or because they truly don’t believe in killing other animals for food, no matter how they are raised. I’m not knocking those people, but I am tired of seeing clips like this being used as scare tactics away from meat in general. Let’s have a less heated, more thoughtful conversation about this entire issue.
Let’s even look back in recent history for an example of how this works. People started becoming educated on the negative effects of rbST when given to dairy cows to boost milk production. Some people stopped drinking milk altogether and switched to something like soymilk. The soymilk drinkers boosted the non-dairy drink industry, which yes has benefits for those who are truly lactose or casein intolerant or allergic, but did nothing to actually change the rbST riddled dairy industry. Others started buying organic milk and rbST free milk. This showed people still wanted real milk, and were willing to pay more for it without the rbST. This shift alone brought the largest retail chain in the US, Wal-Mart, to demand it’s dairy providers stop using rbST. And once a corporation with as much influence and power as Wal-Mart makes a change, most others will follow. This is the key. We must show large meat producers that we want meat! We want it raised humanely, fed properly, and in a sustainable fashion so it doesn’t harm the earth. And we are willing to pay more for it!! It’s a sad fact but if you want to talk to major corporations, you have to talk their language and that is cold, hard cash. I don’t think these corporations will ever completely change their ways either, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to get them moving in the right direction. Not everyone can afford or source ethical meats, so making changes, however big or small, in the mass production industry is at least a start. Those of us who do have the finances and resources to make different choices, need to change to get the ball rolling for these small and mid-sized farms as well as the stores and cooperatives selling their products to grow their reach and production to become more accessible for all.
Now, imagine if every meat eater in the US stopped buying from the major chains, and started buying it from smaller, more local farms. Now THAT would cause some alarm. For many, this is impossible to fully do, but even changing to buy half of your meat ethically and half from a more conventional source can make a difference. OR change the cuts of meat you buy to make buying all of your meat from local sources more affordable! Let’s stop with the ground hamburger or boneless, skinless chicken breasts already! Eat nose to tail, literally, and you can afford to buy from the right sources. Tongue and Heart are delicious and act like stew meat, so simmer it all day or grind it up and mix it in with your burgers. I put liver in pretty much any kind of liquid or sauce, and it goes unnoticed but packs a huge nutritional punch. Eat the dark meat, use the bones for broth and stocks, learn what to do to not waste a single piece of that animal. Now that’s ethical eating!
Focus on knowing your farmer or finding a smaller local store who has done that research for you. There are more and more small grocery stores or cooperative stores who have higher standards for what goes on their shelves. You’ll pay more for the work of vetting each and every source to make sure it meets the stores qualifications, but you’ll also be making a much bigger difference in the lives of those small businesses and producers who are doing things right: ethical, sustainable, and profitable. After all, we want these small farmers to make a profit so they can stay in business and continue providing products the right way. We don’t want to see them posting, “Going Out Of Business” signs, and leaving us with one less option other than the mass meat industry. I hope and pray that this is the message people take away from the Samsara video clip, not to just stop eating meat, that does nothing to solve the problem.