“Vegucated”. Have you seen it yet? If not, you will be shocked or you should be shocked. Vegucated is an American documentary which tells a story about 3 people who decide to go vegan for 6 weeks. That means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and other products produced from animals for 6 weeks. In this time frame, they also learn the truth behind mass meat production and what animals have to go through before they end up on somebody’s plate. This documentary also reveals some cruel realities about the dairy industry, but not only that; animal agriculture has a big impact on the environment too and if you love nature and natural environments you should think twice before you eat meat again.
I watched Vegucated but I also did more research as you may think that in America everything is exaggerated right? I wanted to know the state of meat, dairy and egg industry in the UK and see what welfare standards there are currently in place to prevent animals from suffering. Here I summarise my findings and highlight some of the issues we currently face.
How healthy is meat today?
If you eat meat you should really know where it comes from, what animals eat and how they are treated before they are killed. Healthier animals mean healthier meat and healthier meat means healthier you, right?
However, eating too much red meat is not good for you anyway, everybody knows that (I hope). White meat is healthier as it’s supposed to have less fat but the quality of it depends very much on what birds eat, what conditions they live in and how active they are.
Did you know that chicken meat today contains more than twice as much fat as it did back in 1940? This is because chickens need to put on weight very quickly in a short period of time and live in crammed conditions and have little exercise.
Free-range farming doesn’t always mean healthier chickens as space can still be an issue and some chickens still never go outside; also they still have to put on weight very quickly in a short period of time.
About a third of chicken fat is saturated fat which is bad for you and increases blood cholesterol levels. Organic chicken meat is not necessarily any healthier and faces the same issues.
Impact on the environment
Are you a nature lover and concerned about the greenhouse effect? Did you know that animal agriculture produces greenhouse gasses which are contributing to climate change? In 2010 emissions of methane and nitrous oxide related to livestock worldwide represented approximately 9% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emissions were from beef cattle followed by dairy cattle (1).
The demand for meat today is enormous and increasing. Small farms had to turn into large scale operations to meet the demands of increasing world population. Have you ever thought about how animals are treated on these huge farms? And what conditions they live in? How does milk really end up in your fridge? The truth is sad and shocking and you should know it. Here are a few videos that will open your eyes.
Warning! The following is a very graphic video!
What can you do?
If you want to continue eating meat you can buy healthier, safer and more sustainable meat by buying directly from a local farm or a farmers’ market. Check Local Foods to help you find your local farm or a farmers’ market. You can also go organic as organic systems provide high levels of animal welfare (4).
Also, look for Freedom Food logo on the packaging of the meat, fish and eggs you buy as you know the animals have been inspected to the RSPCA’s strict farm animal welfare standards. Freedom Food is the only UK assurance and food labelling scheme dedicated solely to improving farm animal welfare.
Sainsbury’s sells more Freedom Food labelled products than any other supermarket. (4)
Finally, you can give up meat altogether and don’t have to worry about any of the above. Wouldn’t that be easier?
The truth is: food production is hidden from public view for clear reasons but you have a choice. You can decide to reduce your meat and milk intake by using alternative options which there are plenty. If you want you can also turn a blind eye and continue your life as normal but I really hope this article made you think, think of your next meal, think of the animals and what they had to go through before they ended up on your plate.
I would like to end this with a quote from George Monbitot:
Rather than mindlessly consuming meat at every meal, we should think of it as an extraordinary gift: a privilege, not a right. We could reserve meat for a few special occasions, such as Christmas, and otherwise eat it no more than once a month. (2)