The Truth About Animal Agriculture

Lily Woods investigates the sad realities of breeding animals solely for human consumption.

The presence of meat and other animal products across the world is difficult to ignore. From supermarkets to cosmetic stands, the use of animals in the everyday life of many is pervasive. And, it is placing a painful strain on the beautiful planet we are lucky enough to call home. Yet while the aisles of meat and dairy products in nearly every shop across the nation indicate a huge industry reliant on animals, the realities of what animal agriculture is may not be as obvious.

What is animal agriculture?

Ultimately, it’s the mass production of meat and animal products for the purpose of consumption. Whether that be through food, or other industries such as fashion or cosmetics. Consequently, this method of farming is to produce products as quickly as possible for large-scale consumption. Each year in the UK, over 1,000 million animals are killed for the purpose of food. In addition to this, research from Animal Aid, reveals that  ‘this figure doesn’t include fish, who are killed in such vast numbers that they are counted in tonnes’.

The toll this rigorous form of agriculture takes on our beloved animals is truly heartbreaking. Millions of species are bred each year for consumption. For example, PETA estimate over 300 million turkeys are killed in the U.S each year, mostly for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Add to that an average of 10 million turkeys killed for Christmas per year in the UK – the numbers are staggering.

Cruel conditions

What’s more, the physical conditions of these factory farms are cruel and inhumane. Animals are fed copious amounts of food in order to ‘fatten them up’ and produce the largest livestock possible for slaughter. Often, these conditions also leave many animals with no room to move around or even stretch their wings.

Environmental impact

In regards to the planet, animal agriculture is the leading cause of issues such as pollution and climate change. Approximately 80 per cent of the viable agricultural land is used for meat and dairy production in the United States. This equates to almost half of the total land mass of the lower 48 states. Plus, almost half of the Earth’s total land mass is dedicated to the rearing of livestock for purposes of agriculture. As for emissions, it is estimated that 51 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases are a result of livestock. In other words, a farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city with a population of 411,000.

In 2017, it was estimated that rainforest land equal to one football pitch was lost every second. As a result, up to 135 species of plant, insect and animal were tragically lost every day. Other creatures, such as orangutans, are deprived of their natural habitats as a result of this mass deforestation. Organisations such as the United Nations Environment Programme have suggested that unless the scale of deforestation is significantly minimised or ceased altogether, orangutans will be eliminated from the wild within two decades.

What can we do?

Ultimately, anything you can do to help the planet is commendable and a wonderful step toward saving our world. And who wouldn’t want their home to be the best and brightest it can be? Whether it be reusing plastic bags or swapping them out altogether, choosing public transportation over driving, or making more of an effort to sort your recycling from your rubbish, no act is a small one. By doing even one of these things, you are making our world an infinitely better place.

You could adopt a vegan diet to alleviate the strain animal agriculture. Each day that someone follows a plant-based diet, they save approximately 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forested land, and 20 pounds of CO2. With the surge in vegan restaurants or supermarket alternatives in recent years, it really has never been easier. Want to know a little more about vegan living? You can head over to The Vegan Society, where there are a variety of excellent articles and links that can give you a wider idea of what it means to go vegan, as well as advice on how to help you get there.