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Oberlin Students Should Consider Decreasing Meat Consumption

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Imagine a world identical to ours, except for one aspect: No one eats meat. For whatever reason, however, billions of farm animals — many not unlike our pets — are still raised in horrific and unnatural conditions and then slaughtered after a few months. In this world, nothing is done with the meat these animals produce. It is simply thrown out.

I think most of us have the intuition that such a world would be a moral atrocity. But how different is that world from our own, especially given that we waste roughly 40 percent of our food anyway? Does our demand for cheap meat — particularly from affluent households in affluent countries — justify the cruelty of factory farming?

Roughly 70 billion land animals (10 times the number of humans on Earth) are raised and killed each year for human consumption. Two-thirds of these animals live in what we call “factory farms”; and in the U.S., that number increases to 95 percent.

Conditions in factory farms are miserable. Pigs are confined in crates so small that they can’t turn around. Chickens are genetically manipulated to grow twice as large as they did 60 years ago, leading to broken legs and mangled feet. Modern turkeys can’t reproduce naturally and must be artificially inseminated. Fish are sometimes eaten alive by the sea lice that thrive in the densely-packed waters on fish farms.

All of this is to say nothing of the climate impacts of animal agriculture, nor of the horrific working conditions of slaughterhouses — both of which disproportionately affect underprivileged human populations.

So what can we do about it? 

Despite what we often hear, you do not have to be vegan to care about the welfare of farmed animals. You just have to oppose extreme and pointless animal cruelty. Reducing your meat consumption — even if you don’t cut it out entirely — is a great way to show your support for farmed animal welfare. Oberlin has numerous vegetarian options at nearly every restaurant, and they are even more widespread around campus dining spots. 

You can also get involved with Oberlin Animal Rights, an organization which advocates for farmed animal welfare issues, such as national campaigns that encourage food companies to improve the welfare standards for their animals. 

With persistent poverty, systems of oppression, climate change, and increased threats from new technologies, we are living in a pivotal time. Let’s not have the enormous suffering caused by factory farming be yet another cause for our grandchildren to look back at us with shame. We can, and must, create a better world for all.

You can reach out to animalrights@oberlin.edu for more info on how to join the millions of people worldwide who are fighting for a food system that is truly humane.

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