Vegans choose their animal-free diets for many reasons. According to Farm Sanctuary, one major cause for the diet switch can be attributed to compassion for animals. The animal agribusiness has become extremely competitive and fast-paced. The demand to produce meat, eggs, and dairy at inexpensive prices has led to a trend of replacing small family farms. Factory farms have exercised many inhumane treatments, and this diet can be seen as a proactive attempt to lessen the suffering of animals.
It is estimated that each year 10 billion animals (cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and others) are brought to factory farms. At these factory farms animals are usually injected with drugs and antibiotics to speed up production. Many of these animals never make it to the slaughterhouse because of the alleged conditions they are put under. Animal liberation organizations say that the animals usually die from stress, disease or injuries (11). Most state and federal laws do hold protection for domestic animals but exclude farm animals for anti-cruelty laws and humane protection (13).
This has become institutionalized violence, and serves as the second largest industry (12). The largeness of this industry has allowed it to become a keystone for the economy.
Chickens account for 95 percent of all land animals slaughtered each year. Their life cycle is known to usually go through a seven week cycle, being bred to gain weight as quickly as possible. During this time period the amount of animals in a cage is maximized to be more economical for the factory farm system. Bernard Rollin, PhD, states that it is “more economically efficient to put a greater number of birds into each cage, accepting lower productivity per bird but greater productivity per cage…individual animals may ‘produce,’ for example gain weight, in part because they are immobile, yet suffer because of the inability to move…Chickens are cheap, cages are expensive (13).”
Many religions surround some of their teachings and beliefs with the idea of vegetarianism. Examples include eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, as well as ideals found throughout teachings in the Judaism, Christianity and Islamic traditions (12). Considering the religious teachings of a cruel-free animal diet, many cultures and religions have adapted this diet or have been practicing it for centuries.
Mohandas Gandhi gave an examination of religious standpoints and a no-flesh diet. In one letter he promoted the vegetarian diet and compassion: “Most eminent physiologists declare that fruit is the natural food of man, and…we have the example of Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, Porphyry, Ray, Daniel, Wesley, Howard, Shelley, Sir Isaac Pitman, Sir W.B. Richardson, and a host of other eminent men as vegetarians…Looked at from every point of view, vegetarianism has been demonstrated to be far superior to flesh-eating (12).”
Some farms are responding responsibly to the factory farm frenzy. Awareness has inspired some farms to produce eggs and meat more humanely. These farms, catching the phrase “free-range,” are giving animals more living space which enhances the quality of the food that people are consuming. Not only does this make it more of a humane option, but healthier for people (without consuming extra antibiotics and drugs).
The Sierra Club offers a guide to buying meat and having the ability to question your grocer:
1. How were the products in the meat case raised? 2. Were they fed antibiotics? 3. Did the dairy cows receive hormones to boost milk production? 4. Did the animals have access to pasture (15)?
For the past 25 years, Whole Foods Supermarket has been offering natural and organic foods throughout their stores. Now with such a strong position as a national grocer, they have created the Animal Compassion Foundation to achieve higher standards for the life of an animal on a factory farm. “The foundation seeks to improve the quality of life of farm animals through educational services and research aimed at assisting ranchers and meat producers around the world to achieve a higher standard of animal welfare excellence (16).”