Cows experience joy, loneliness, frustration, fear, and pain just like the dogs and cats who share our homes. Despite this, the meat industry subjects them to unspeakable cruelty, like mutilations without painkillers, neglect, and violent deaths.
When many people think about the meat industry, cattle raised for beef are the first animals who come to mind. But what many don’t realize is that the idyllic farms they’ve seen along country roads are not where the vast majority of beef in the United States comes from.
How Are Cattle Treated?
In more natural settings, they would spend their time grazing in fields and socializing, but at factory farms and feedlots—a type of animal feeding operation where cattle are “fattened up” before slaughter—these gentle animals are often kept in crowded, filthy conditions.
They are forced to endure excruciating procedures, such as dehorning, branding, and castration, often without painkillers.
And while their natural diet consists of grass, leaves, or stems, cattle at feedlots are typically fed a grain-based diet and often given growth hormones to make them grow faster and antibiotics to prevent disease in unnatural conditions.
Once they reach “slaughter weight,” these sensitive animals are packed onto transport trucks sent to slaughter.
To make matters worse, the beef industry is also harmful to the environment and our health.
How Does Beef Harm the Environment?
The beef industry pollutes the environment while consuming huge quantities of water, land, and other resources. It is also a major emitter of dangerous greenhouse gases, such as methane.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth and most alarming report. In it, the IPCC focuses on the role of methane in heating the planet and advocates rapid reductions in methane emissions to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that cattle emit during digestion, and animals raised for food account for about one-third of agriculture’s methane emissions. Methane’s climate impact is about 25 times greater than carbon dioxide’s.
Animal agriculture is also a leading driver of deforestation and habitat loss. Raising animals for food, including land for grazing and growing feed crops, uses nearly one-third of the earth’s ice-free land. And according to a recent study of deforestation drivers in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru, 71 percent of Amazon deforestation in these countries between 1990 and 2005 was driven by increased demand for pasture.
How Does Beef Harm Your Health?
High consumption of red and processed meat may increase the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Studies suggest that replacing red meat with nutritious plant foods may lower the risk of heart disease. Last year, the Stanford University SWAP-MEAT study compared the health effects of consuming plant-based versus animal meat and found that eating plant-based meat improved several risk factors for heart disease.
In 2017, a study in the British Medical Journal found at least nine different causes of death associated with red meat—processed and unprocessed. The study concluded that people consuming red meat had higher risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, infections, lung disease, and cancer.
What You Can Do
A new Mercy For Animals investigation reveals animals suffering in sweltering heat at a Nebraska feedlot that raises cattle for meat companies, including JBS, one of the world’s largest. Our investigator documented animals forced to live in barren pens amid their own waste without any shade or protection from temperatures that often soared well into the triple digits. As the world’s largest meat company, JBS has the power to prevent the suffering of animals in their supply chain.
From protecting animals to safeguarding our health and the environment, the positive impact of plant-based eating cannot be overstated, and there’s never been a better time to choose plant-based food.