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Frequently Asked Questions

Caged Chickens

Quick summary of the issues, w/links for much more information: http://www.goveg.com/theissues.asp

The responses presented here are by no means the only answers to common questions. They are intended as suggestions and as a source of ideas when formulating your own responses. We recommend that you do not try to memorize and repeat these, but rather, incorporate them into your own comments.

"Vegetarianism is a personal choice. Don’t try to force it on everyone else."

From a moral standpoint, actions that harm others are not matters of personal choice. Murder, child abuse, and cruelty to animals are all immoral. Our society now encourages meat-eating and the cruelties of factory farming, but history teaches that society also once encouraged slavery, child labor, and many other practices now universally recognized as wrong.

"Animals kill other animals for food, so why shouldn’t we?"

Most of the animals who kill for food could not survive if they didn’t. That is not the case for us. We are better off not eating meat. Many other animals are vegetarians, including some of our closest primate relatives. Why don’t we look to them as our example instead of to carnivores?


"The animals have to die sometime."

Humans do, too, but that doesn’t give you the right to kill them or to cause them a lifetime of suffering.


"Farmers have to treat their animals well, or they won’t produce as much milk or lay as many eggs."

Animals on factory farms do not gain weight, lay eggs, and produce milk because they are comfortable, content, or well cared for, but rather, because they have been manipulated specifically to do these things through genetics, medications, hormones, and management techniques. In addition, animals raised for food today are slaughtered at extremely young ages, usually before disease and misery have decimated them.

Such huge numbers of animals are raised for food that it is less expensive for farmers to absorb some losses than it is to provide humane conditions.


"What will we do with all those chickens, cows, and pigs if everyone becomes a vegetarian?"

It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will stop eating animals overnight. As the demand for meat decreases, the number of animals bred will decrease. Farmers will stop breeding so many animals and will turn to other types of agriculture. When there are fewer of these animals, they will be able to live more natural lives.


"If everyone turned vegetarian, it would be worse for the animals because so many of them would not even be born."

Life on factory farms is so miserable that it is hard to see how we are doing animals a favor by bringing them into that type of existence, confining them, tormenting them, and then slaughtering them.


"If everyone switches to vegetables and grains, will there be enough to eat?"

Yes. We feed so much grain to animals in order to fatten them up for consumption that if we all became vegetarians, we could produce enough food to feed the entire world. In the U.S., animals are fed more than 80 percent of the corn we grow and more than 95 percent of the oats. The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth.


"Don’t vegetarians have difficulty getting enough protein?"

In the West, our problem is that we get too much protein, not too little. Most Americans get about seven times as much protein as they need. You can get enough protein from whole wheat bread, oatmeal, beans, corn, peas, mushrooms, or broccoli—almost every food contains protein. Unless you eat a great deal of junk food, it's almost impossible to eat as many calories as we need for good health without getting enough protein.

By contrast, too much protein is the major cause of osteoporosis and contributes to kidney failure and other diseases of affluence.


"Don’t humans have to eat meat to stay healthy?"

Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Dietetic Association have endorsed vegetarian diets. Studies have also shown that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than meat-eaters and that meat-eaters are almost twice as likely to die of heart disease, 60 percent more likely to die of cancer, and 30 percent more likely to die of other diseases. The consumption of meat and dairy products has been conclusively linked with diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, clogged arteries, obesity, asthma, and impotence.


"Eating meat is natural. It’s been going on for thousands of years. Our bodies are designed that way."

Actually, human bodies are better suited for a vegetarian diet. Carnivorous animals have long, curved fangs, claws, and a short digestive tract. Humans have flat, flexible nails and our so-called "canine" teeth are minuscule compared to those of carnivores, and even compared to vegetarian primates like gorillas and oranguatans. Our tiny canine teeth are better suited to biting into fruits than tearing through tough hides. We have flat molars and a long digestive tract suited to a diet of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Eating meat is hazardous to our health; it contributes to heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems.


"What’s wrong with drinking milk? Don’t dairy cows need to be milked?"

In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. "Dairy cows" are impregnated every year in order to keep up a steady supply of milk. In the natural order of things, the cow’s calf would drink her milk (eliminating her need to milked by humans). But dairy cows’ babies are taken away within a day or two of birth so that humans can have the milk nature intended for their calves. Female dairy calves may be slaughtered immediately or raised to be future dairy cows. Male dairy calves are confined for 16 weeks in tiny veal crates too small for them even to turn around in.

The current high demand for dairy products requires that cows be pushed beyond their natural limits, genetically engineered and fed growth hormones in order to produce huge quantities of milk. Even the few farmers who choose not to raise animals intensively must both eliminate the calf (who would otherwise drink the milk) and eventually send the mother off to slaughter after her milk production wanes.


"I know a vegetarian who is unhealthy."

There are healthy and unhealthy vegetarians. But doctors agree that vegetarians who eat a varied, low-fat diet stand a much better chance of living longer, healthier lives than their meat-eating counterparts.


"I didn’t kill the animal."

No, but you hired the killer. Whenever you purchase meat, that means that the killing was done for you and you paid for it.


"If you were starving on a boat at sea, and there were an animal on the boat, would you eat the animal?"

I don’t know. Humans will go to extremes to save their own lives, even if it means hurting someone innocent. (People have even killed and eaten other people in such situations.) This example, however, isn't relevant to our daily choices. For most of us, there is no emergency and no excuse to kill animals for food.


"It’s okay to eat eggs because chickens lay them naturally. The eggs we buy in the supermarket are sterile and not unborn fetuses."

This is true, but the real cruelty of egg production lies in the treatment of the "laying hens" themselves, who are perhaps the most abused of all factory-farmed animals. Each egg from today’s factory farms represents 22 hours of misery for a hen packed in a cage the size of a filing cabinet drawer with up to five other chickens. Cages are stacked many tiers high, and feces from cages above fall onto the chickens below. Hens become lame and develop osteoporosis from forced immobility and calcium lost to produce egg shells. Some birds’ feet grow around the wire cage floors; they starve to death because they are unable to reach the food trough. At just two years old, most hens are "spent" and they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Egg-laying hatcheries don’t have any use for male chicks; they are killed by suffocation, decapitation, crushing, or are ground up alive.

What does a vegan eat?
 
 

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