When we talk about meat consumption, let’s not forget about the animals.
While I believe there really is no question (in reference to the title of the column, 'Meat or no meat, that is the question' published on April 9 in the Minnesota Daily), kudos to the Daily and columnist Ellen Ailts for devoting quality print space to addressing some of the issues with meat consumption in their latest publication. Despite the statistic cited in the article that the number of self-identified vegans has increased six-fold over the past three years, vegans and vegetarians are still very much in the minority and the systems in place that allow meat eating to be such a prevalent culture norm are still very formidable. Nonetheless, I do agree with Ailts that if recent trends are any indication, there are reasons to be hopeful for the future.
However, I do take issue with one glaring omission from the column: the effect that going vegan has on the lives of nonhuman animals. Of course the positive health and environmental effects are wonderful and merit discussion; however, to omit any mention of the immense suffering nonhuman animals endure due to the consumption of meat and animal products is to ignore the major issue that contributes to many (if not most) people deciding to go vegan.
If you spend any time around animals like the ones typically exploited and killed by animal agriculture, you quickly realize they are complex, emotional, loving, caring, social beings that deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation, same as you or I. For example, if more people knew that female cows are forcibly inseminated (i.e. raped) in order to stay pregnant for producing milk. They then have their babies stolen and slaughtered shortly after birth (veal). Knowing this, maybe they would be more likely to give up dairy? Additionally, if more people knew that male chicks are killed en masse (ground up alive or suffocated) because their reproductive systems cannot be exploited the same as hens', maybe they would think twice about ordering scrambled eggs for breakfast? These are just two examples of the myriad horrendous ways farmed animals are abused, exploited and killed for our consumption.
I know that going vegan is not always as easy as some celebrities or folks on social media might make it seem. Everyone’s individual circumstances will dictate at what pace and to what extent they are able to make the transition. My first recommendation would be to visit an animal sanctuary (I volunteer at Spring Farm Sanctuary in Long Lake – tours start soon!), where you can interact firsthand with formerly farmed animals. Then, visit one of the ever-increasing number of vegan (or veg-friendly) restaurants in the area and find out just how rewarding (and delicious) going vegan can be!
Joe Goetzke works in the University area.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.