Meatless goes mainstream
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1998:
by Henry Spira, founder, Coalition for Non-Violent Food
It would be difficult to imagine a more
mainstream endorsement of the meatless lifestyle
than came in June 1998 in the latest edition of Dr.
Spock’s Baby and Child Care. The perennial best
seller grabbed national headlines when the world’s
leading pediatrician recommended that children be
raised on a vegan diet.
Yet this is just one among many current
opportunities to inspire the public to adopt the
Recognizing the enormous destruction
caused by meat eating, the Sierra Club has joined
the debate on the negative impact of factory farming.
And Brian Halweil of the Worldwatch
Institute, writing about collateral damage associated
with meat, notes that “Reducing global meat
consumption even slightly offers win-win solutions
to some of humanity’s most pressing problems.”
At Johns Hopkins University, the Center
for a Livable Future has drafted an extraordinary
statement which not only encourages eating lower
on the food chain but also questions the ethics of
current factory farming practices.
Veggie awareness has never been higher
in the public consciousness. The American Dietetic
Association takes the position that “appropriately
planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally
adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention
and treatment of certain diseases.”
The New York Times recently added its
voice to the debate with a powerful editorial blasting
the intensive confinement of pigs.
Opinion polls show that the public disapproves
of current factory farming practices. The
public further agrees that those who profit from
cruelty should be held responsible.
Public outcry over facebranding a few
years ago was so intense that the USDA launched a
farm animal well-being task group.
Stung by activist lawsuits, corporate
giants McDonald’s and Wendy’s have both instituted
farm animal well-being programs with significant
participation on the part of senior management.
Burger-King is expressing interest in a similar
The Time Is Ripe
Together, all these developments suggest
that the time is ripe for action. There is escalating
interest in the nine billion victims of factory farming
and the health and environmental consequences
of meat eating, including at the grassroots activist
level, where professor Scott Plous in a recent
Journal of Comparative Psychology article documented
a major shift of activist interest towards
farm animals in the past six years––especially
among younger activists. The practices and consequences
of factory farming are coming under discussion
in ever-increasing numbers of articles, not
only in the animal and environmental press, but
also in mainstream publications like Newsweek.
Clearly there is momentum. The inertia
from decades of thoughtless, habitual meat-eating
is being overcome. Together we can create the critical
mass to inspire the public to consider the meatless
lifestyle and challenge the abuses of factory
farming. We want the public to rethink meat as is
being done with tobacco.
If we are to succeed, we must work on all
fronts. And this will include keeping up the pressure
on the fast food and supermarket industries so
that more corporations join in the pioneering efforts
of McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Those like Kentucky
Fried Chicken (KFC), who resist the idea that animals
need to be treated humanely, need to have
their callous corporate cultures held up to the light
of public scrutiny.
We must continue to work with governments.
The USDA’s Farm Animal Task Group has
made some initial progress. Their initiatives could
be greatly energized by greater public involvement.
Above all, we need to measure our success
by results—by increasing the numbers of vegetarians
and part-time vegetarians and by the number
of farm animals whose lives are improved.
We Can Do It!
The animal protection and vegetarian
movements have already demonstrated the will and
resources to influence public thinking.
Campaigning on behalf of farm animals, we can
work with other constituencies dedicated to
improving food safety, protecting the environment
and small farmers.
Working together, we can improve the
quality of life for all. We hope that both the grassroots
groups and national organizations will take
advantage of present trends and brainstorm with the
goal of turning words into action. The time has
never been better. Let’s seize the opportunity!