There are people whose life and work have changed the course of history. The late Rachel Carson is one of those people. Carson was the legendary biologist and author who transformed environmental protection with her groundbreaking 1962 work "Silent Spring."
Rachel Carson and Bob Hines conduct
marine biology research.
This Sunday, May 27, marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. Her centennial anniversary has promoted a great renewal of interest in Carson and "Silent Spring," which called attention to the dangers of the overuse of toxic pesticides in the environment.
At The HSUS, we are commemorating the centennial with a six-part series that explores Carson’s activism concerning animal research issues, factory farming, humane education, wildlife protection and the safety of domestic pets. Carson’s legacy as an environmentalist is known worldwide, but far fewer people are aware of her deep commitment to animal welfare and her active participation in humane work during the 1950s and 1960s.
All too many people view animal protection and environmental protection as separate causes, but they are as tightly woven as the strands of our DNA, as Rachel Caron realized more than five decades ago. The connections between the two causes have always been apparent to me, and especially so during my study of environmental history in college.
I am proud to say that The HSUS has always operated with the understanding of the inseparability of the causes. Whether it’s litigation on behalf of endangered species, or efforts to protect the biological support systems upon which all life depends, the work of our Wildlife Land Trust, or campaigns to end the most egregious cruelties associated with factory farming, we are pursuing an environmental agenda every day. It’s axiomatic that animals and people need a healthy environment to thrive and survive.
The issue of global warming reminds us more powerfully than ever of the linkage between environmental concern and the mistreatment of animals. "Livestock’s Long Shadow," a recent report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, exposes livestock agriculture as one of the most environmentally destructive of human practices, including it as a serious contributor to global warming.
The report, which predicts that global meat consumption will double and milk consumption will nearly double by 2050 (from 2001), says that livestock agriculture already contributes 18 percent of all greenhouse gases—more than contributions made by all forms of transportation worldwide.
This report is a wake-up call. We cannot confront global warming in a comprehensive way if we do not rethink our food consumption habits and arrest and reverse the growth of the livestock agriculture sector in the United States and throughout the world.
© The HSUS
Before Rachel Carson, few people contemplated the local and global effects of the widespread use of pesticides. To say nothing of the effects on the animals themselves, too few now think about the devastating local and global effects of raising 50 billion domesticated animals a year for food—with 50 percent of pigs and 70 percent of chickens coming from industrial systems.
We can remedy this situation, but it involves more than just writing a check. We can start by making better food choices in our own lives by decreasing meat consumption. And the policy debates over global warming can no longer sidestep the impact of livestock agriculture. We need your help on both counts—please join us in these campaigns. It’s an urgent matter.