1. Eat Less Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
About 9 billion land animals are slaughtered for food in the United States each year. The average person in America consumes significantly more meat than is recommended. In fact, the average meat-eater will consume a total of 2,500 pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, and sheep in their lifetime.
Less than 1 percent of farmed animals are raised on pasture, with space, fresh air, and sunshine and the chance to interact with others of their kind. It would be very difficult—if not impossible—for the United States to raise billions of animals under these conditions. To give all farmed animals a life worth living, Americans need to eat fewer of their products—that means less meat, dairy, and eggs.
Consuming fewer animal products isn’t just good for animals, it’s better for people too—reducing the risk of a number of chronic, preventable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Eating fewer animal-based foods also benefits the planet by saving precious resources and reducing greenhouse gases associated with global warming.
Eating less meat doesn’t have to be daunting. Simply eating smaller servings and cutting out animal products from one meal per day, or for one day each week, can have a significant impact. To find out how to get started, visit meatlessmonday.com.
2. Shop for Higher-Welfare Food
Most animal foods sold in supermarkets come from “factory farms,” where massive numbers of animals are confined to very small spaces. Conditions for the animals are usually nothing like the bucolic images used by corporate farming operations to advertise their products. Many of the country’s most popular meat and egg brands are produced from animals raised under the worst conditions.
You can avoid factory-farmed meat, dairy, and eggs by shopping at farmers markets or buying directly from small family farms. Ask the farmers how their animals are raised and whether you can visit the farm.
If you shop at a supermarket, ask the manager to stock food from pasture-raised or free-range animals and products certified to meet higher animal welfare standards. Use customer comment cards and helplines to tell food retailers you care about the welfare of farmed animals. And beware of the claim “natural,” which has no relevance to how the animals were treated.
You can identify foods with the highest animal welfare standards by looking for these food certification logos on packages:
- Global Animal Partnership (Steps 4, 5, 5+)
- Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW
- Certified Grassfed by AGW
If certified products are not readily available, look for these claims:
- “pasture raised”
- “free range”
If shopping online, consider downloading Consciously, a browser extension with an “animal welfare” tool that can help you choose higher-welfare or plant-based alternatives.
To learn more about common label claims found on meat, dairy, and eggs, check out AWI’s Food Label Guide.
3. Never Eat These Foods
Certain foods are produced from animals who have been raised or slaughtered in an especially inhumane manner. Unlike foods such as eggs, pork, and chicken—which can come from animals raised either on “factory farms” or higher-welfare farms—these foods always involve significant animal suffering, and should be avoided.
Milk-fed veal: Milk-fed or “white” veal comes from very young calves (often under one month of age) who have been confined to limit their exercise and muscle development. The animals are also typically fed a diet lacking in iron and fiber to produce pale, tender flesh.
Frog legs: Frogs are being eaten to extinction with possibly 1 billion taken from the wild each year. Frog-farming operations almost never kill the animals humanely.
Foie gras: French for “fatty liver,” this dish is made from the liver of ducks or geese, which have been unnaturally enlarged by ramming a feeding pipe down the birds’ throats twice each day to force-feed them.
Crustaceans: Scientific research suggests that lobsters, crabs, and crayfish are capable of feeling pain. These animals are not rendered unconscious before they are killed, but are instead almost always cooked alive.
Live sashimi: Various species of aquatic animals are dismembered while still alive and sent out squirming on a plate. Octopus, among the most intelligent of invertebrates, is sometimes served alive, and shrimp may be stunned in liquor and then served alive in a dish called drunken shrimp.
Shark fin soup: As many as 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Sharks are typically caught in open water and have their fins cut off before they are tossed back into the sea to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other animals. Shark finning is illegal in US waters and some US states ban the sale or possession of shark fins.
4. Fight the Growth of Factory Farms
The rearing of farmed animals today is dominated by industrialized operations known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, or “factory farms”) that maximize profits by treating animals not as sentient creatures, but as production units. Raised by the thousands at a single location, animals in factory farms are confined in such tight quarters that they can barely move, let alone behave naturally.
Factory farms not only mistreat animals, they also pollute the environment and endanger the health and well-being of their workers and residents of the surrounding community. They consume large quantities of natural resources and lower community property values.
Local opposition is among the most effective ways to fight the construction or expansion of animal factories. In fact, small groups of local activists across the country have succeeded in keeping factory farms out of many communities. If you learn about a planned development in your area, here are a few things you can do to stop it:
- Learn everything you can about the company and its plans for the facility.
- Join a local citizens’ action group or start your own, and seek legal advice.
- Organize a letter-writing campaign or circulate a petition.
- Meet with your local elected officials or decision-makers to voice your concerns.
5. Spread the Word–And More!
Other ways to help farmed animals:
- Share what you’ve learned with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Expand your audience by sharing via social media.
- Consider volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary or adopting a rescued farm animal if you have the required resources.
- If you witness or learn about possible neglect or cruelty to a farm animal, report it to your local humane society, animal care agency, or law enforcement official.
- Become politically active by supporting state and federal legislation to protect farmed animals, and opposing efforts that benefit factory farms.
- Remember to take your values with you when you travel, and don’t be tempted to try local cuisine that involves cruelty, such as dog or cat meat, “bushmeat,” whale meat, or live seafood.
- Sign up for action alerts from AWI to receive the latest news on how you can help all animals.