Tell me again why we eat all those animals
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Once, human beings hunted, fished and foraged for fruits and vegetables to survive. 10,000 years ago, we learned to farm animals and it became easier to provide enough food for ever-growing societies.
Sadly, since then livestock farming has been transformed into a global enterprise, the objective of which is profit. Like many such enterprises, the livestock industry has to maintain demand and reduce costs. This has led to the sad state of affairs we see today in which the animals themselves have been reduced to little more than a resource.
The resulting level of harm, suffering and cruelty is completely out of balance with any human benefit. In Australia, some 600 million land animals are killed each year for our food industry. Of these, the vast majority - our unfortunate meat chickens - suffer short, highly stressed and simply awful lives. But many others are also treated abominably - pigs, lambs, male dairy calves etc.
Increasingly, to ensure profitability and to meet the growing demand for food, animals are raised in what are known as intensive operations. For example, around 95% of the 5 million pigs slaughtered annually in Australia are farmed in this manner and thereby subjected to lives in entirely artificial conditions where they experience a range of cruel and damaging practices. Even dairy, traditionally farmed by small family run operations, is experiencing a trend to larger, more intensive operations.
Most people think this is all a necessary evil as we have to eat animals - it is natural, necessary and normal. But is this true? In modern Australia, there really is little need to eat animals. It is entirely possible for people to get the sustenance they need from non-animal based products. A plant-based diet can be as healthy, sustaining, enjoyable and rewarding as a mixed diet. Health authorities agree that limiting meat and dairy intake is important to good health and increasingly we see studies confirming the benefits of a largely or completely plant based diet.
There are also significant environmental and health concerns. Globally, livestock farming may prove unsustainable on current trajectories. Studies have suggested that environmental impacts are significant with evidence that this industry is a major contributor to climate change by way of greenhouse gas emissions and land clearing. In addition, there is increasingly stronger evidence that many animal based foods are contributing to substantial health impacts.
By any reckoning, these are significant ethical concerns. And yet, many people simply are not aware of how damaging this industry is, largely because the public debate is dominated by the self interest of the meat and livestock industry. Should this be so?
Considering the impacts in environmental and animal welfare terms, as well as in terms of health outcomes for people, shouldn't we see more discussion about the negatives of this industry and ways to alleviate these? And shouldn't the public be told more about the ethical shortcomings of an industry that at every turn seeks to harm millions of animals every year to make a profit?
There is no shortage of thoughtful, knowledgeable people that could contribute to such a debate. And what a refreshing change for the public to hear the views of such people rather than the one-sided conversation that currently persists.
Isn't it time that the public debate became serious about why we farm animals in modern Australia and what that means for their well-being and ours? We believe that Q&A would be a well regarded platform to begin this public discussion and we ask ABC TV to devote a panel to this increasingly serious and complex issue.
Please sign and share this petition if you agree that a more balanced public discourse is needed around animal welfare in livestock farming.
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