I was recently asked if I thought animal welfare was improving. It’s a good question. Are people generally more aware of animal welfare than they were 20 or 30 years ago? I think the answer is undoubtedly yes. In many countries, there is now a more fundamental understanding of animal suffering and the consequences of our use of animals, than at probably any time in history. Every year, new laws are drafted to protect animals. And more people are making ethical, animal friendly choices than ever before.
But when we consider the level of animal suffering globally, it’s hard to weigh this increased understanding of welfare against the almost inconceivable scale of the problem that still exists.
For example, forty years ago, the number of animals raised and killed for meat globally each year was less than 15 billion (already an unimaginable number). Today, that figure has increased to almost 70 billion. Back in the 1970’s, only a small proportion of animals were intensively farmed. Today, two thirds of farmed animals are kept in factory conditions. And right now, at this moment, as you read this, there are about one billion animals suffering around the world in intensive farming systems.
While our understanding of, and attempts to provide, better welfare has improved, the proportion of animals suffering as a result of human actions is higher than it's ever been.
We've reached a pivotal point where we have to consider the impact of our lifestyle and the choices we make on our use of animals, because animal welfare, the environment, and sustainable food choices are not separate issues. They're completely interdependent, and it is impossible to care about one without acknowledging the others.
It's easy to see how animal agriculture greatly impacts the wider world. The livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation globally. It's responsible for devastating amounts of deforestation and the subsequent loss of biodiversity. Livestock consume a third of the global grain harvest, despite an average of 21,000 people dying every day of hunger or hunger-related causes. And in some countries, around 80% of all antibiotics are used by the farming industry.
The scale of the problems appears so huge, the numbers so unthinkably high, and the suffering so universal, how can we as individuals possibly make a difference?
But whether it’s the welfare of animals, the environment or creating a more sustainable world, it doesn’t really matter what we care about the most. What matters is what we do.
This Earth Day, April 22nd, we can take part in the #EatForThePlanet campaign and take steps to change the way we live. By adopting a plant based diet we can help end the suffering of billions of animals, heal and restore the environment, and build a more sustainable world.
Change For Animals Foundation is supporting One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign to inspire the public to take control of the damage being caused by animal agriculture.
Making the right choice about what we eat is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. Every single choice we make can be a change for good, and each time we consider the welfare of animals, we are making a difference.