Rising Meat Consumption Threatens Animals and Our Environment
We know that China is the biggest consumer of wild animals and their parts in the world—driving the killing of wildlife by buying up rhino horn, ivory, and tiger parts, just to name a few products—but it’s now also the undisputed top consumer of domesticated animal products. A recent report in the UK’s Telegraph notes that China now eats twice as much meat as the United States, even though per capita consumption there is half what it is in the U.S.
Humane Society International
If this trend continues, driven by increased economic security and opportunity, billions more animals will be caught up in industrial food production systems—in China and throughout the world. The United States already exports billions of animals a year, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been actively promoting U.S. beef, pork, and other animal products abroad.
This is why our movement against factory farming must be a global one. Even when we succeed in banning extreme confinement of farm animals in the United States, we also need to achieve these same gains worldwide—especially in China and Brazil, which together with the United States account for almost half of total global meat production. We need to do all that we can to support farmers committed to high animal welfare practices, and to create a marketplace that puts more value on improving conditions for animals. And in the broadest sense, we must encourage people to eat lower on the food chain, for reasons of animal welfare, environment, resource conservation, human health, and climate impacts.
Americans are eating less meat than we were just five years ago, representing the first significant decline in domestic meat consumption in decades. Meat consumption at current levels is just not sustainable, and that’s one of the reasons The HSUS is promoting Meatless Mondays, to accelerate this positive trend. Americans simply don’t need to eat such a high volume of animal products—it’s bad for their health, for the local and global environments, and it’s not good for farmers or for animals.
With demand for meat so great, it creates pressure to opt for bigger, more industrialized production systems, where farmers lose touch with the animals and where animals are moved to more extreme methods of confinement. In the United States, while total production has increased, the nation has lost more than 95 percent of its egg farmers, 90 percent of its pig farmers, and 40 percent of its cattle farmers in the last 30 years. We see the same trend towards consolidation and concentration in the meat industry around the world, with small farmers increasingly being pushed out of the market in developing countries.
Our international affiliate, Humane Society International, is not only working against confinement, but also talking about the benefits of diets that include more plant-based foods. Our planet has finite resources, and we’ve got to be mindful of how every citizen of the world has an impact on the creatures who share our planet.