When we talk about what we eat, it's usually about how those choices impact us — our health, our enjoyment, our waistline. But what about the animals we are consuming? Nobody expects humans to stop eating animal meat anytime soon, but we can take steps to behave more responsibly. In fact, since 1983, October 2 has been marked World Day for Farmed Animals — a day to raise awareness about the cruel conditions these abused animals face on factory farms. (The same day is also Gandhi's birthday.) The more ethical and humane food production is, the better it is for our human health and well-being. So, what can you do? Here are a few facts and courses of action to consider:
Meat consumption comes at a higher cost than you think
In our world, we can buy and eat meat whenever we want to in an instant. That's a bit crazy when you think about it — an average cow weighs around 1,200 pounds, after all. But our meat industry produces so much and so fast that inexpensive meat is always available and consumable. That comes at an invisible price. While most people are aware of the heavy environmental costs associated with meat production, fewer people realize how their consumption affects the animals.
Large-scale meat production — again, part of "factory farming" — frequently involves raising animals in cramped, unsanitary conditions. These conditions lead to high levels of stress and disease, and the routine use of antibiotics further contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In addition, transporting animals to slaughterhouses often involves severe crowding and rough handling, resulting in additional stress and suffering.
Even eating less meat will make a difference
We can help reduce the demand for these cruel practices by eating less meat. In addition, choosing to eat sustainably raised meat from local farms is a more humane option that supports small businesses and helps to protect the environment.
The first step to improving all this is to become aware of it. Without knowing the problems that come with it, we can't change anything about the status quo. What can you change? Try to be mindful of your meat consumption. It doesn't always have to be burgers with three meat patties each. Reduce your daily consumption — or try to eat meat only once a week. Every little bit helps.
You can look for humanely produced meat
You may not want to reduce your meat consumption. But even then, you can change your food source for the better. Seek out labels that show the meat comes from animals raised humanely.
The Certified Humane label, for example, is awarded to animal products—including meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy — that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal welfare. These standards check everything from the housing and transportation of the animals to their feeding and handling.
The program is administered by Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003. And they actively improve the lives of farm animals by promoting humane standards and practices.
There are many labels like this that you can look for. Just look at which one you like best and which represents the values that suit you. They offer consumers a way to support farmers committed to raising animals humanely.
Consider adopting veganism
If you genuinely want to make a bold change, embrace veganism. It's certainly become an increasingly popular choice for many.
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and is an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.
Meat production isn't the only way in which animals suffer at the hands of humans. The pet trade and scientific research are just two more examples. Veganism seeks to end all animal exploitation and cruelty by withdrawing support from industries that profit from it. For example, the demand for animal-based products would decrease if more people adopted a vegan diet. This would lead to less meat consumption and fewer animals raised on factory farms.
Starting to live the vegan life? Plan in advance!
If you have ever tried living vegan, you will know the key is planning your food well. Monday: pumpkin curry. Tuesday: broccoli soup, Wednesday: oven vegetables with cottage cheese. And so on. This way, you are always eating healthy, tasty food — and avoiding the fast-food trap of grabbing a drive-thru burger because there's nothing to eat.
Donate to animal welfare organizations
Of course, there are many more ways to help animals. And if you want to do more than simply change your lifestyle, one of the most impactful is donating to animal welfare organizations.
You can help these organizations continue their vital work of rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming animals in need by giving them financial support. Because if we're honest, we don't treat the animals on our planet very well. The suffering of animals has so many facets that the average person can't keep track of it. Organizations that care about animal welfare, however, have this overview.
So, donations can help to fund research into better methods of care and support, as well as educational initiatives that aim to promote compassion and respect for all animals. Whether you make a one-time donation or set up a regular giving plan, your help will make a real difference in the lives of animals. Check online for the best organizations to pursue your goals.
Switch to products made without animal cruelty
Beyond the abusive practices of factory farms, it's also important to consider using your purchase power to support cruelty-free products — created without animal suffering. At SaltyLama, we're committed to positively impacting the world. Our eco-friendly detergent strips — chemical-free and safer for your household and the environment — are produced without animal testing.