Why are farm animals treated differently?
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from All-Creatures.org


Four Paws
October 2017

The more we become aware of how similar farmed animals are to our more ‘favoured’ animals, the more we are able to make the connection and make better, conscious food choices.

farmed pigs
© Fotolia | agnormark

Have you ever wondered why we treat some animals as our friends and others as food? How some animals are considered as family members like cats and dogs, and others like pigs, cows and chickens, as commodities?

Approximately 65 billion animals are farmed for food each year, and the number is set to increase as the world population is expected to reach between 9 and 11 billion by 2050. Farmed animals, such as cows, pigs and chickens, are not commonly seen nor interacted with in our day to day lives. This disconnection is potentially one of the reasons that many people still opt for animal products: we have become “detached” from these animals and see them primarily as food.

It has already been proven that animals are sentient beings, meaning they are responsive to, or conscious of sensory impressions and feel pain. Farm animals, which are often undervalued, can be in distress and show signs of fear and emotions too, just as we do, as well as other more commonly favoured animals.

farmed chickens
© iStock | IvonneW

When we eat animals, we might feel that we are not actually aware or conscious that we are eating them since we see them as food products rather than living beings. Psychologist, author and speaker, Dr Melanie Joy, has studied why people eat meat for over 25 years, and stated how perceptions about different animals vary across different parts of the world in terms of certain animals being considered as edible and others not.

Although there are millions of different species in existence, only a handful are chosen as food. Each culture defines which animals are ‘acceptable’ to consume while others are often labeled as disgusting or even offensive to eat. For example, cows wouldn’t be eaten in certain parts of the world due to the dominant belief system, while chickens might be.

In others parts of the world, such as in the West, dogs would never be seen as food but pigs, cows and chickens would be. This suggests that eating certain animals and not others is based primarily on cultural choices where it becomes a ‘given’ to see some animals as food and others not.

We know that meat, dairy and eggs cannot be obtained without a level of mistreatment and cruelty due to the sheer amount of farm animals being consumed globally to match our growing taste for meat. Since we don’t see the inner world of farmed animals we are detached from the suffering they endure behind closed doors.

Now that societies have standardised the consumption of certain animals, it has become natural for many to continue doing so without being aware of the impact it has on the animals, the climate or even our health. But is there any way we can help farmed animals and reduce the widespread implications that animal-based diets cause?

The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the planet, from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved on the way from factory to plate. An average of 4300 litres of water is required to produce 1kg of chicken, whereas less than half of that is needed to produce 1kg of cereals. In the EU alone, the average consumption of animal proteins per capita is about twice the global average.

© iStock | fcafotodigital

The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is also a significant cause of deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. There are many animal welfare organizations aiming to improve the lives of animals in intensive farming systems, where animals’ needs are not made a priority. For consumers who wish to know more about farmed animals, visiting farm -animal sanctuaries is a good motivator to learn more about the characteristics and personality traits these animals share with both humans and other animals alike.

Until the lives of animals are made a priority we can follow a more compassionate diet by refining our food choices, reducing our meat, dairy and egg consumption and ultimately opt for a plant-based diet which is the most animal friendly diet of them all. The more we become aware of how similar farmed animals are to our more ‘favoured’ animals, the more we are able to make the connection and make better, conscious food choices.

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