Productive ways to channel my disgust for the meat & dairy industries?
November 12, 2015 1:05 AM   Subscribe

Over the last few years, I have become increasingly horrified by the animal industrial-complex over its appalling treatment of living beings, the hugely negative impact on the environment, and the health issues related to contaminated or otherwise chemically treated meat and dairy. What actions can I take against these issues?

Becoming a vegan is an obvious answer, but I'd also appreciate suggestions of legitimate groups to fund, specific politicians or legislation to support (in the US or Europe), etc.
posted by ladybird to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Animal Charity Evaluators released a list of recommended organizations including the Humane League, Mercy for Animals, and Animal Equality.
posted by Jeanne at 4:46 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

A friend of a friend just organised a screening of COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret in our community - it was incredibly eye-opening and many members of the audience walked away from it vowing to make changes to, or at least be much more aware of, their meat consumption.
posted by champagneminimalist at 4:47 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Becoming a vegan removes you from the problem, without solving anything. Find places that share your view and buy exclusively from them, even though it will be very expensive. Vote with your dollars.
posted by myselfasme at 5:28 AM on November 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

I agree that becoming vegan is almost sidestepping the problem--and ignores the fact that veganism has its own issues (where is all that soy coming from?). Beginning reading: Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

Get involved with local farms, eat local, and tell your stores and farm what you want to buy from them (permaculture? organic? IPM? free range? pasture raised?). Also, don't just eat the 'choice' cuts of meat: learn to eat nose to tail (bones=stock, render fat and use instead oil, explore the scary-but-delicious world of offal) and waste less animal (Shannon Hayes's Long Way on a Little is a good intro; for more advanced cooking, try Jennifer McLagan's books: Bones, Fat, and Odd Bits).
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Farm Sanctuary is an A-1 charity.

They have a four star rating on Charity Navigator.

When there was a high-profile animal cruelty case involving a dairy farm in my area a few years ago, their president, Gene Bauer, was interviewed on the local media, and I was extremely impressed with how articulate and convincing he was.
posted by whistle pig at 7:39 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

where is all that soy coming from?
This is currently a bigger concern for the meat industry, which uses most of the soy grown, and almost all the damagingly farmed soy. Only a small percentage of soy is eaten by humans directly, and that includes Asia, not just western vegetarians.

Of course this wouldn't be the case if everyone went vegan, but it's likely this would still reduce and improve soy farming.
posted by BinaryApe at 8:09 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Seconding Animal Charity Evaluators' recommendations. They're based on the effective altruism approach of trying, as much as possible, to objectively measure how well particular nonprofits are achieving their goals. An imperfect method, but I think probably much better than other ways of trying to figure out which nonprofit to support.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2015

With the caveat that I've been vegan for 1/3 of my life and wouldn't go back to eating animal products if my life depended on it, it's uncommon for people to listen to someone talking about the cruelty of the animal-industrial complex if the person talking is readily partaking in it because of reasons. It's not about fixing globe-spanning problems, it's about living in accordance with your own values and reducing harm in any way you can.

Only a small percentage of soy is eaten by humans directly, and that includes Asia, not just western vegetarians.

Yup. The overwhelming majority of soy products (including half of all soybeans grown in the United States [PDF]) are used as food for farm animals, not vegan people. Only about 6% of soybeans produced worldwide are used to feed humans (of all dietary persuasions, not just veg*ns).

OP, if you're OK with direct action, you could volunteer to film hidden camera footage inside of slaughterhouses, pig farms, and chicken coops. I think undercover investigators are some of the bravest and most important activists on the planet. You could also petition restaurants and food manufacturers to use fewer eggs (imo the cruelest animal "product") and less factory-farmed meat. Compassion Over Killing are groundbreakers in both arenas. I honestly can't click through to their investigations page without spending the rest of the month in tears, but on the restaurant tip, their We Love Subway campaign has been inspiring and delightfully successful. Mercy for Animals is another amazing organization doing similar work.

On the local/regional level, screen Earthlings and petition your lawmakers to vote against "ag-gag" laws.
posted by divined by radio at 8:25 AM on November 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

Becoming a vegan removes you from the problem, without solving anything. Find places that share your view and buy exclusively from them, even though it will be very expensive. Vote with your dollars.

I would argue that "vote with your dollars" is also a way of removing yourself from the problem. If change is what you want, you should organize people, or support others' organizing efforts, or take action. I like champagneminimalist's suggestion to host a screening. I like divined by radio's suggestion of covertly filming slaughterhouses.
posted by the_blizz at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

How is becoming a vegan not voting with your dollar? You don't buy unethically produced milk and dairy anymore, whether by just stopping consuming them or by consuming more ethically produced meat. The problem with dairy seems to be that all the cows take up resources that humans need these days, so I don't think becoming vegan is doing nothing.
The problem is that society seems to dislike vegetarians/vegans, especially if we try to 'preach', but has no problem telling us to 'eat a steak'.

I guess the way the least likely to offend while educating is to share links on social media about cruel treatment of animals (some people just never thought about what their schnitzel suffered through) and cook delicious vegan food for potlucks or dinners at your house to convince people we don't just eat salad and tofu. Depends on your audience, though, as some people will never care.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 8:54 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

[Couple of comments deleted. Probably better if we don't go down the road of "some vegans are jerks, don't be a jerk" vs "some meat eaters are jerks"; everyone pretty much knows that dance by now, but it doesn't really address OP's question.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:19 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you able to keep your own chickens? So many good reasons to keep chickens including, they are great conversation starters. If people ask why I have them I can say one reason is I want to be sure the eggs I'm getting came from happy, healthy birds, unlike most eggs in the supermarket, despite the "cage free" label.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

All hatcheries kill male chickens upon hatching, so if you really want to end animal cruelty, having backyard chickens does not achieve that end, at least in the US. Germany is working on a solution involving determining which eggs contain males early on and then using those eggs in commercial baking. The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a good "big picture" organization.
posted by FencingGal at 5:53 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Germany and Switzerland have started initiatives to stop shredding male hatched chickens and instead let them live until they are big enough to be eaten. I like eggs too much to become fully vegan (yet), but I take care to buy eggs from places that treat all chickens humanely.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:32 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Generating content (articles, photos, video) of vegan recipes and meal plans (especially important!) help others switch over to a vegan diet. For example, I've been intending to go vegan for quite a while, but haven't had the time and resources yet to learn how to build a practical, healthy and tasty meal plan.
posted by mirileh at 5:31 AM on November 13, 2015

Nthing voting with your dollar. But instead of becoming vegan if you support local/sustainable farms (and ask your local eateries and grocery stores to stock them, thus increasing their availability for everyone), you'll be eating healthier and tastier meat/dairy products. If you aren't already eating them, you'll be surprised at the quality of yolks in 'happy eggs' (as I like to call them).

Yes, they are more expensive, but if you cut back your meat/dairy consumption you may be able to keep your food budget the same as it is (eat better dairy/meat, but less of it).

This route may be easier to evangelize as well. Bring your better food to potlucks, share your experiences with other folks.

Additionally/alternatively, take a day away from meat/dairy each week, increasing it to a two days (and then three). A painless way to do this (ie: without seemingly sacrificing) is to eat food that is to eat some food that you normally wouldn't that is vegan (eg: Indian, Ethiopian, vegetarian sushi).

People often have the opinion that diet changes involve sacrifices, but if people see that diet changes can increase the quality of their food, they may be more eager to give it a go.
posted by el io at 10:33 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

It is ENTIRELY possible to raise chickens WITHOUT buying eggs from a hatchery. I found other chicken keepers who gave us fertile eggs and we adopted two of our other birds who had lost their original home.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:37 PM on November 15, 2015

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