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[factory farming] | [exploitation of developing countries] | [subvention politics] | [alternatives]

Vegetarianism and Veganism

According to www.vegetarismus.ch (German only) 267 million tonnes of meat were produced in 2005. But what's the bad thing about it?

1. Factory Farming

In Austria, more than 99 per cent of the pigs are kept in mass stocks, 95 per cent of the cows don't even have the opportunity to move, they are kept in stables for their entire lives. (source: "Tierschutz konsequent - Fleisch, ein Stück Lebenskraft?", VGT) The animals are unable to turn around, they don't have any activities and not rarely they even lie on top of each other because there's not enough space. Even lying down is a problem for the pigs. The floor beneath them is crossed by gaps so that the urine and the droppings can flow out more easily which means there's less work for the breeder. Straw is not used as it would block the gaps. The consequences of these living conditions are inflammations and wounds on nuckels and skin. Cows also have to suffer from similar pains. Nevertheless, there is a ray of hope for the Austrian battery hens: Since 01/01/09 laying batteries are banned in Austria although there are still illegal factories. In other countries of the European Union the same law was implemented in 2012. Due to the higher prices of deep-litter eggs (one-fifth more expensive than eggs from caged hens, free-range eggs cost another fifth more) companies and bigger culinary establishments will probably import eggs from caged hens from other countries.

Unfortunately, many breeders are not considerate of the natural behavior of the animals. Their aim is to generate a profit with as little physical and financial effort as possible. The animals are mostly artificially inseminated, the pregnant individuals are locked up to avoid any contact to conspecifics. They are unable to move more than two steps forwards and backwards, turning around is impossible. The consequences are inflammations, injuries and abnormal behavior. There can't be any natural relationship between mother and child because the piglets are separated from the dam at the age of four weeks although the suckling period naturally takes 15 weeks. Pharmaceutic products are required to enable the pigs to stand this torture. Because of the boredom the piglets would nibble on each other if this was not prevented by cutting off the curly tails. The breeders use glowing knives or pliers for this procedure. Furthermore, earmarks are affixed and the eyeteeth are cut off. After that, male piglets are desexed without any anesthesia. This is perfectly legal if it happens during the first 7 years of life. (sources: http://www.fourpaws.org.uk, "Tierschutz konsequent - Fleisch, ein Stück Lebenskraft?") (German only)

Another sad highlight of the distress is the transport from the breeding facility to the slaughterhouse. The animals which haven't seen daylight for their entire life are violently forced to go outside. The people don't care if they harm damageable body parts like eyes, head and genitals while they are kicking, slapping and shocking them with electric shocks. Because of this unfamiliar exertion many animals collapse. To make matters worse, they already smell the blood when they arrive at the slaughterhouse and panic.

When the animals arrive at the slaughterhouse, the torture isn't over. The following films visualize what I mean (viewer discretion is advised): Earthlings (Engl./German subtitles, run time: ca. 1h 30 min) Apart from farm animals this film is about pets, clothing, entertainment/sport and animal experiments. Also watch: Meet your Meat (English run time: ca. 12 min)

2. Exploitation of developing countries

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Oraganization) 963 million people suffered from malnutrition in 2008. The consumption of meat plays a major role. It is estimated that between 40 and 50% of all cereals are used to feed farm animals. In order to produce one kilogram of meat, 10 kilograms of feed are required. That's 600 millions tonnes per year.
That means:

Type of Meat Nutrition Required for 1 kg of Meat
Chicken 3 kg
Pork 5,5 kg
Beef 10 kg

If we take a closer look at how much protein is produced from one sqm of acreage, we encounter a similar problem:

proteins / m² acreage
Soybeans 41 g
Rice 29 g
Maize 24 g
Legumes 22 g
Wheat 15 g
Milk 9 g
Eggs 8,7 g
Beef 2 g

According to the WHO and the FAO that means: One hectare of acreage provides enough food for 22 people eating potatoes, for 19 people eating rice but only for 2 people eating lamb and for one person eating beef.

But that's not enough: The situation concerning the consumption of water isn't any better:

Water per kg
Potatoes 500 liters
Wheat 900 liters
Maize 1.400 liters
Rice 1.910 liters
Soybeans 2.000 liters
Chicken 3.500 liters
Beef 100.000 liters

If the humans decreased the consumption of meat by only 10 per cent, a 100 million people could be nourished in a vegetarian way. These facts don't originate from animal rights groups but from the WHO, the FAO, the USDA and from UNICEF. The data concerning the consumption was published by David Pimentel in the science magazine "Bioscience" 42 97-106.

3. Subvention Politics

Due to monuculture, mechanization, overfertilization and high use of pesticides, the production of animal feed can be cheaper and, as a consequence, more meat can be produced at a very low price although the market is already oversaturated. In this case, quantity is more important than quality.
This surplus must be conserved, stocked and exported. This needs to be paid by public money. About one third of the entire budget of the European Union is used for market and price support of the agricultural economy. The recycling of surplus milk, butter and meat costs more than 35 million euros (52 million dollars). In addition there are other follow-up costs (see below).

  • Health problems caused by excessive consumption of meat as, for example, adiposity, diabetes, heart- and cardiovascular diseases, cancer etc.
  • Costs for pharmaceuticals and consultations in case of an outbreak of a disease in mass stocks.
  • The enormous environmental consequences: The costs are estimated at four billion euros just in the tiny country of Austria.
  • The enormous consumption of water (see consumption of water)

4. Alternatives

The German institute for cancer research analyzed the health conditions of vegetarians, vegans, moderate vegetarians and meat eaters in a long-term study which took 20 years. The scientists found that vegetarians are not undernourished and that they don't live in an unhealthy way as long as they eat consciously. Actually, the life expectancy of vegetarians is higher than the life expectancy of meat-eaters. This is certainly only possible if the vegetarian diet is well-planned. You can watch the video in which this study is presented here (German). You will find further information about health concerns on Wikipedia: Vegetarianism - Health benefits and concerns, please also read Longvity. On kidshealth.org - Vegetarianism you will be informed about a healthy vegetarian diet of children.

Want to become a vegetarian? Well, changing your eating habits might not be easy, especially if you've got used to eating meat. In that case, you might be interested in trying "vegetarian meat", products which taste like meat but don't contain any. Unfortunately, I am not informed about the offers in your country but if you have something to recommend, kindly leave a comment below (comment section yet to be implemented). I will happily promote any product that might make it easier for people to become vegetarians. After all, becoming a vegetarian or even a vegan is a decision anybody has to make for themselves. I am not trying to convince anyone but personally, I do think that everyone should at least be aware of the consequences our excessive meat consumption entails regarding the treatment of animals, the environment and the problem of malnutrition.