Why food system reform must include animals

By on July 23, 2021 with 3 Comments

The newly released Rockefeller Foundation report, “True Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the U.S. Food System,” strengthens the case for substantial reform of animal agriculture in the U.S. and elsewhere. The primary purpose of the report is to demonstrate that the $1.1 trillion Americans spend on food is but a third of the actual costs of that food, as measured in healthcare costs, spending associated with biodiversity loss and the direct environmental impacts of farming and ranching. When we take those into account, the report claims, it becomes evident that the true cost of the U.S. food system is at least three times as big—$3.2 trillion per year.

Some of the report’s most powerful points highlight disparities in the broader individual, social and public cost of food across communities of color, finding that “rates of diagnosed diabetes are 1.7 times higher in Latinx Americans and 1.5 times higher in Black Americans than in White Americans. And it found air pollution exposure is 41 percent higher for Black Americans than White Americans.”

No doubt, “True Cost of Food” adds value to an urgent discussion around reforming the food system. At the same time, the report never fully comes to terms with the centrality of animals to what the authors call the overlapping crises of “climate change, diet-related disease, and inequity.” The report identified animal welfare as one of seven key unaccounted costs of the food system, but only carried five of these areas forward for full discussion, and animal welfare wasn’t one of them. The report does get it right when it points out the need for more research quantifying the substantial animal welfare costs of contemporary food production involving animals and animal products, costs that include substantial negative externalities that are not being paid for by the meat industry or by the consumer.

We have found, in our domestic and global advocacy and nutrition work, that for millions of people the suffering of animals in intensive confinement systems is a main driver of dietary shifts that are good for us, good for the planet and good for our fellow creatures. When people see that pregnant pigs are confined in “gestation crates” for months, unable to even turn around, trying to relieve stress by chewing on the bars of their crates until their mouths bleed, they can’t help but reexamine the true cost of their pork products. Both the marketplace and the public policy sector are already responding to consumer demand for healthier and more humane food choices. Giants in the food industry are diversifying their product lines and menus with plant-based offerings and a dozen states have passed laws that ban the intensive confinement systems responsible for so much animal misery. Many of these shifts are the result of our corporate and legislative campaigns. Consumer choice and political action have already been decisive in transforming food production, with clear benefits for people and animals.

We share the report’s concern about the food system’s impacts on people and communities of color, and we’ve increased our focus on extending access to healthy and environmentally friendlier food options for everyone. We’ve done so by working with food service corporations to offer affordable and healthier plant-based meals in public school systems, fast-food restaurants, university dining halls, corporate cafeterias and supermarket chains across the country. While this work does not focus exclusively on communities of color, it’s certainly the case that as consumers the individuals in these communities have gained much greater access to healthier food in their daily lives, and increasingly that food is plant-based.

It’s heartening that the urgent need for reforming the food system has increasingly entered public consciousness in recent years, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s new report adds a valuable framework for quantifying what the real costs of our dysfunctional food system are. We believe a deeper awareness of farm animal suffering will play an even stronger role in shaping dietary habits in the future. Far from being a fringe issue, it is an intersecting part of effective change in the interests of animals, people, the environment and planetary resilience. For this and other reasons we will continue our own efforts to bring animals into such discussion.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Travelers: What you should know about encountering wildlife right now

By on July 21, 2021 with 0 Comments
Travelers: What you should know about encountering wildlife right now

A poignant Washington Post story about a black bear mourning her 6-month old cub, struck dead by a vehicle in Yosemite National Park, is a reminder that even in wild spaces animals are at risk when they come into contact with humans. Since 1995, motorists . . . 

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Victory! These US states just made great progress for animals

By on July 20, 2021 with 5 Comments
Victory! These US states just made great progress for animals

One of the ways we make a difference for animals is by working on the state and local levels to secure the passage of laws that prevent cruel and inhumane practices that threaten animals—from puppies born in massive puppy mills to coyotes and foxes at . . . 

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Why the summer heat is particularly dangerous for these types of dogs

By on July 15, 2021 with 1 Comment
Why the summer heat is particularly dangerous for these types of dogs

Recent heatwaves across the U.S. and Canada have proven to be deadly for people and animals. And just a few weeks before these fatal heatwaves, the Westminster Dog Show declared Wasabi, a Pekingese, winner of its “best in show” award at its 145th annual competition . . . 

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The narrative about sharks needs to change—before it’s too late

By on July 13, 2021 with 1 Comment
The narrative about sharks needs to change—before it’s too late

A bad reputation can mean the difference between life and death for animals, and nowhere is this clearer than for sharks. Sharks may be depicted as terrifying animals in films like “Jaws,” but the true tale of horror is how humans have treated shark species . . . 

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How Korean chefs are using plant-based recipes to replace dog meat soup

By on July 12, 2021 with 2 Comments
How Korean chefs are using plant-based recipes to replace dog meat soup

When three peak days of summer approach in South Korea, so do the peaks of slaughter of dogs from the country’s dog meat farms. The three hottest days of the year according to the lunar calendar are known as Boknal, a period when some people . . . 

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Corporate campaigns are making a fundamental difference for animals

By on July 8, 2021 with 4 Comments
Corporate campaigns are making a fundamental difference for animals

Fashion seasons and runway shows without animal fur. Organ-on-a-chip technologies for testing cosmetics and other products. A transition to cage-free and crate-free systems that can change the lives of countless chickens and pigs in vast food supply networks. Plant-based meals in major restaurant chains and . . . 

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The decades-long fight to save America’s lion

By on July 6, 2021 with 5 Comments
The decades-long fight to save America’s lion

For some, freedom means the right to use nature, even to the point of destruction. Others view freedom as involving an enormous duty to present and future generations: to protect native wild species and their habitats that make America one of the world’s most fascinating . . . 

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Has trophy hunting changed since the death of Cecil the lion?

By on July 1, 2021 with 4 Comments
Has trophy hunting changed since the death of Cecil the lion?

It has been six years since the death of Cecil, a male lion who was a popular individual for wildlife viewing tourists visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The heartbreaking details of the hunt that killed Cecil made international headlines: Cecil was lured out of . . . 

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Breaking: US House passes amendments to transportation bill containing big wins for animals

By on June 30, 2021 with 10 Comments
Breaking: US House passes amendments to transportation bill containing big wins for animals

Update 7/1/2021: The INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684) has passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 221 to 201. We urge the U.S. Senate to include the House amendments in their version of the bill and pass it swiftly in order . . . 

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Breaking news: Neiman Marcus Group will ditch fur

By on June 30, 2021 with 17 Comments
Breaking news: Neiman Marcus Group will ditch fur

Today, we are one step closer to a fur-free society now that Neiman Marcus Group, which includes retailers Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Last Call and Horchow, has just announced it will end its use of animal fur in favor of more ethical alternatives. The luxury . . . 

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Breaking: Supreme Court rejects meat industry challenge to historic farm animal law

By on June 28, 2021 with 12 Comments
Breaking: Supreme Court rejects meat industry challenge to historic farm animal law

Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to take the North American Meat Institute’s appeal of its lawsuit challenging Proposition 12, widely considered the world’s strongest law for farm animal protection. Proposition 12 bans the extreme confinement of egg-laying chickens, mother pigs and baby calves . . . 

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