1) What challenges does your association face with the food industry?
In our economy, farm animals are inherently viewed as units of production. Given the competition to sell the least expensive product or else go out of business, there is no room for respect or compassion. Animals are ultimately seen as meat, rather than the intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive individuals they are. Cruelty and suffering are built into the meat industry.
2) What steps do you believe are necessary to change the way that animals are treated?
At this time, it is important to outlaw the worst abuses the meat industry uses: battery cages, veal crates, and gestation and farrowing crates.
All talk of welfare and reform aside, as long as farm animals are viewed as meat or producers of products, they will not be treated well. Profiting from the death of an animal obviates truly caring for that individual. Ultimately, each chicken, turkey, pig, and cow needs to be seen as someone, not something.
3) Why do you believe animals are entitled to rights and humane treatment other than laws?
Anyone who can think and has the ability to suffer and feel happiness is an individual, not an object or a tool. They deserve respect for their own individual life. In our society, respect for individuals is codified by “rights.”
4) Why should animal abuse in the food industry be a concern to consumers?
Almost everyone opposes cruelty to animals! Earlier in 2015, Gallup did a poll and found that 96% of Americans actively want animals protected from harm. 96%!
If we are buying meat, eggs, and dairy from factory farms, we are paying for and consuming cruelty. Ultimately, in this capitalist society, we are culpable for the consequences of our choices.
5) How would a change in the industry benefit the economy?
An industry based on cruelty is wrong, regardless of the economic impacts. No one would ask if ending slavery would have benefits to the economy – slavery was wrong, and good people stood on the right side of history and opposed it.
6) What are the most common questions of skepticism that you receive regarding animal rights and how do you justify yourself against these qualms?
It isn’t a question of justifying myself. I understand that it is easy to feel the need to justify yourself when you are different from the majority. But really, none of this is about me or other advocates. Also, it really isn’t about “animal rights,” either. It is about having our actions match our ethics, and being on the right side of history.
7) Was there a specific moment that lead you to advocate for animal rights?
Like many individuals, I changed my views and my habits slowly over time, as I came to learn more and to realize I could act differently. The most important point, however, was the fact that my roommate, first year of college, was a vegetarian. That set everything in motion.
8) For what reasons do you believe that the food industry is able to justify the harsh treatment of animals in their production of “cheap meat”?
I don’t know that anyone justifies anything, really. As long as the public demands cheap meat, there will be supply. The more people who make ethical decisions, the fewer animals will suffer. We’ve already seen this in the veal industry. There is no doubt in my mind that it will eventually happen to the rest of the meat industry – it is just too cruel and immoral to survive.
9) Do you believe that the only certain way to end animal abuse in the food industry is for the entire population to become vegetarian/vegan?
Ultimately, yes. But there are two important additional considerations:
A. Not eating animal flesh doesn’t mean deprivation, a life of boring salads and weird, tasteless foods. There are absolutely amazing options out there that even hard-core carnivores love. See, for instance, http://v-lish.com/new-favorites/
B. Everyone can take steps that will help lessen the number of animals suffering. Every time you choose a cruelty-free option, you are helping change the world.
10) Do you believe that more humane methods of producing animals can ever completely change the food industry?
No. When an individual exists to be sold as meat, they will be treated as meat.
11) Any last thoughts on the way that the public can change the way that animals are treated in the food industry?
By far, the single most important thing everyone can do is stop eating factory-farmed chickens. Veterinarian professor John Webster rightfully noted that industrial chicken production is, “in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.” No matter what else you do or believe, boycotting factory farmed chicken is the most important, powerful step you can take.