It is natural for the average person to want to live as ethically as possible. This may include personal life, fashion, and food choices. At times, this may also include advocating for others to live an ethical lifestyle. An example of this would be vegan animal rights activists will often urge the community around them to change their dietary choices. The food industry in it’s current state is filled with ethical issues, both vegan and non-vegan, with the rampant mistreatment of animals and workers, sometimes even children. And while those who call for boycotting most definitely have good intentions, perhaps such a complicated issue cannot be solved through the personal choices of a few people.
While eating animals has always been a part of life and is most definitely natural, the unnatural part is the torture animals are put through for the sake of consumption, something is done to produce meat today. Factory farming is a prominent contributor to animal abuse, with animals being crammed together in a large, windowless shed with artificial lighting without any of their basic needs being met. The Human League reports “Often, factory farm corporations will argue that animals are well cared for in factory farms, whereas animal advocates tend to believe that factory farming is rife with the inhumane treatment of animals.” Despite what factory farmers might say, animals within factory farms are never given veterinary care, are never able to meet their own mothers, and spend all of their life confined. Male chickens are ground due to not having any worth, while females are artificially fattened to an unhealthy and dangerous degree.
Animals aren’t the only ones mistreated either, so are the workers themselves. Human workers within a factory farm have a 50 percent chance of being injured. Along with this, employees often go without healthcare. There is no denying that these awful conditions are unethical. The people who work on factory farms are also exposed to air pollutants which can cause chronic illness. On top of this, workers and children in this field go hand in hand. Just like the adults who work within the industry, child workers are also mistreated, working with the risk of injury in extreme temperatures in the case of fruits being harvested. On off-shore fishing sites, they are forced to live in cramped spaces. Children do not belong at work, it is their right to have a proper education and healthy upbringing. Along with this, there is a racial disparity. To quote:
Today, immigrants produce the majority of our food, from farms to processing plants to restaurants and grocery stores. Wages are low, conditions are often harsh or dangerous, and immigrants not legally allowed to work in the US are often afraid to report abuses for fear of deportation. (foodprint.org)
While vegan activists undoubtedly have good intentions, they are going about it in the wrong way. One biggest criticism would be how much they forget the human aspect, and this is quite true, considering their ignorance towards so-called ethical food choices. Harvesters have one of the most dangerous occupations, and with excessive exposure to heat and nothing put in place for preventing heat-related illness. This caused at least 11 workers to have died in the year 2005. Foodispower.org reports, on a specific victim:
“7-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. Maria worked in the grape fields of Stockton, California, pruning the vines and picking the fruit. She died of heat stroke after working a 9-hour shift in 95-degree heat. Maria was two months pregnant at the time of her death. Two years before her death, Cal-OSHA had fined Maria’s employer, Merced Farm Labor, for not providing adequate drinking water during workers’ shifts.”
To this, the well-meaning ally may think to themselves that they will grow their own vegetables, and thrive off of that. This however is utopian nonsense, and frankly quite childish. Many have attempted this. An average person without any trace of power growing fruits and vegetables will not and never will be able to tear down such a massive industry. What needs to happen is reform. An excellent place to start would be joining and starting up movements that fight against factory farming, sponsoring children in child labour situations, and spreading more awareness. While all of this is still small, it will at least have an impact.