Human Victims of Animal Agriculture
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from


LCA Last Chance for Animals
January 2018 The Meat and Dairy Industries ~ Human Victims of Animal Agriculture

Animal agriculture not only causes the suffering and death of tens of billions of farmed animals every year, it is also a primary contributor to some of the most pressing social and environmental justice issues that victimize countless humans worldwide.

farmworker face mask
Donn Young Photography

The horrors of animal agriculture have been revealed through numerous investigations, but animals aren’t the only victims of meat consumption. While there is no question that farmed animals endure the absolute worst forms of cruelty and violence in this industry, the implications of animal agriculture’s vast destructiveness extend to humans as well, threatening the rights and wellbeing of millions of people worldwide.


Animal agriculture is a leading cause of environmental destruction and climate change. Pollution and its devastating ramifications disproportionately affect individuals residing in poor communities. Industrial farms and meat processing plants are predominantly located in low-income areas, burdening inhabitants with toxic waste which pollutes the air and water and can lead to irreversible health issues. Powerless to the callous indifference of billion-dollar meat corporations, victims of environmental injustice are forced to endure this pollution despite its potentially deadly consequences.

Additionally, animal agriculture negatively affects both impoverished and indigenous communities on a global scale. Despite the fact that we currently grow more than enough food to feed the entire world’s population, starvation remains common. Over eighty percent of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to farmed animals who are then killed to be eaten in affluent countries. Furthermore, poor and rural communities, which rely on natural resources for sustenance, bear the brunt of the decimation of oceans and rainforests caused by animal agriculture.

pig manure lagoon

“It’s like being held prisoner… The smell and particles in the air burn our eyes and make us gag. We can’t swim in the rivers and streams near us because they’re polluted with hog manure, and we can’t drink or wash with water from our wells…We were here before the pork industry even came in here, so what about our rights? It’s as if we have none.”
- Elsie Herring, victim of factory farming pollution


Workers at meat processing plants face inherently hazardous conditions in an industry that is riddled with workers’ rights issues and safety violations. Regarded as the most dangerous factory job in America, the rapid speed at which workers are ordered to kill and process animals leads to serious accidents, ranging from amputations to suffering lifelong repetitive motion injuries and PTSD. Commonly, meat industry workers are undocumented immigrants, recruited due to their vulnerable status and desperate need for work. When workers attempt to fight for safer conditions or higher pay, companies have threatened to call immigration, exploiting workers’ immigrant status in order to avoid paying for injuries or improving conditions. Additionally, the brutal nature of this work breeds further harm due to the documented link between slaughterhouse employment and an increase in violent crimes. The choice to consume meat not only supports unfathomable cruelty against animals, but perpetuates an industry that continually exhibits utter disregard for human rights and welfare.

chicken slaughterhouse

“They love you if you’re healthy and work like a dog, but if you get hurt you are trash. … They will look for a way to get rid of you before they report it. They will find a reason to fire you, or put you on a worse job … or change your shift so you quit. So a lot of people don’t report their injuries. They just work with the pain.”
–meat processing worker, Nebraska

Public Health

Animal agriculture and animal product consumption pose a serious threat to public health due to their role in causing the world’s deadliest diseases as well as the industry’s severe overuse of antibiotics which leads to dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria. The consumption of meat and other animal products significantly increases one’s risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—the leading cause of death in the US. Even fish consumption, which is frequently touted as a healthier alternative to other meats, is plagued by alarming mercury concerns which present serious human health risks. Indisputably, the pervasive consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs contributes to the preventable death of hundreds of thousands of people every year. Thousands of other individuals die annually due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a global threat caused by, among many factors, the rampant overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Normal artery

clogged artery

“The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.”
-  Dr. Neal Barnard

Animal agriculture not only causes the suffering and death of tens of billions of farmed animals every year, it is also a primary contributor to some of the most pressing social and environmental justice issues that victimize countless humans worldwide. By simply choosing plant-based substitutes to your favorite meat, dairy, and egg products, you can take a meaningful stance in favor of both animal and human rights. Learn helpful tips for adopting a cruelty-free diet here.

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