In the second half of the 20th century, global ‘meat’ production increased by nearly 5 times. The amount of ‘meat’ eaten per person doubled. By 2050 ‘meat’ consumption is estimated to increase by 160 percent (The World Counts, 2017). While global per capita ‘meat’ consumption is currently 43 kg/year, it is nearly double in the UK (82 kg/year) and almost triple in the US (118 kg/year).
Have you ever wondered how ‘meat’ became such a central part of the Western diet? Or how the industrialisation of ‘animal agriculture’ came about? It might seem like the natural outcome of the ‘free market’ meeting demand for more ‘meat’. But from what I have learned from Nibert (2002) and Winders and Nibert (2004), the story of how ‘meat’ consumption increased so much in the post-World War II (WWII) period is anything but natural. They argue it is largely due to a decision in the 1940s by the US government to deal with the problem of surplus grain by increasing the production of ‘meat’.
When social justice advocates argue that animal rights is not a social justice issue it makes me wonder, do they really believe this? Or have they just never honestly considered the moral value of other animals before. In the hope it is the latter, I put together an overview of some of the key arguments for viewing other animals as legitimate subjects of social justice. It’s the type of overview I wish I had come across before I went vegan. I like to think reading something like this might have made me reconsider (or rather honestly consider for the first time) my exploitation of other animals.
Like most vegans who spend time on social media, I have seen my fair share of ‘mmm bacon’ comments on vegan posts. In fact, this flippant response is the one I see most often (along with ‘lions tho’ and ‘plants tho’). I have also had the ‘mmm bacon’ type comment from those I have talked to about veganism in person. I have even heard it from health professionals who really should know better. Especially given the WHO has classified processed meat, including bacon, as carcinogenic to humans.
I have often wondered why so many different people have this same, seemingly automatic, response to discussions around veganism. How did bacon become “the one thing that people are unwilling to give up”?
I decided to look into the story of bacon. To find out the real reason bacon became so popular. What I found was a story of propaganda, manufactured demand and elite manipulation of our habits, beliefs and desires.
I became vegan because I wanted to align my actions with my belief that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering to other animals. Once I allowed myself to see the injustice I was supporting, I knew I had to go vegan.
Veganism is a social justice movement for other animals. It seeks to end animal exploitation, reject speciesism and promote animal rights. When I first became vegan it didn’t occur to me that it might have anything to do with other social justice issues. Recently however, I have begun to realise how interconnected our exploitation of other animals is to our oppression of humans and our destruction of the natural world.