Growing up as an Afrikaans girl in Heidelberg, Gauteng, we were never really presented with the concept of being vegetarian and the impact our behaviour was having on the environment, the animals and our own bodies. Every Sunday was braai-day (BBQ) and whether it was Snoek, steak or boerewors (sausage) – huge amounts of meat would be consumed (that was just the way things were).
Growing older and hopefully wiser, I initially started questioning the manner in which animals were raised and the conditions they “lived” in prior to being slaughtered and attempted to make informed decisions regarding whether an animal was raised free-range and whether they were free of steroids – which was (and still is in many cases) common practice in the meat and dairy industry.
This worked for a short time, being of an inquisitive mind – I came across more than a few websites educating readers as to the atrocious ways in which animals were being put to death – the stress and terror they go through at hands of humans. There was no choice to make – I could not be part of this industry. How is a cow, sheep, pig or chicken different than my cat or dog? How come it is alright to eat certain animals and not others? Animals act on instinct – we are supposed to be the more intelligent creatures and we have a choice as to what we eat and we have the advantage of making informed decisions regarding how we live our lives.
The impact of “growing” farm animals for food on the environment is also of great concern. The amount of live-stock on earth is estimated to be three times that of the human opulation. Grains have to be grown to feed these animals and the impact the farming of these feeds alone is concerning. Top-soil is eroded and robbed of essential nutrients because feed is grown in rows and the exposed topsoil is subject to wind, hail and other elements that it would not have, had it been grown as nature intended. There are so many other elements and resources affected by live-stock farming, another of which of course is water consumption – water is needed for the farms and for the live-stock being farmed for the meat industry. A lot more water than the environment can afford to lose through “wastage”.
Then there is the issue of vivisection and experimenting on animals for cosmetics and medicine. An experiment was done where a young woman volunteered to sit at a display and have a lot of the procedures done on her that would be done to a laboratory animal (unnecessarily). Hoards of people stopped and were outraged that these procedures were being done on her – why is it any different for animals? Studies have shown that there is NO NEED for ANY type of experimentation on animals for human benefit! In my opinion, the fact that we breed animals for the most horrific torture and seem to be able to “justify” it, is unacceptable. It is not always clear which companies do use animal products in their cosmetics and drugs – but it is possible to boycott the companies that we are aware of that use these practices.
The best one person can do is to be conscious of their actions. Be compassionate towards other living things. Respect nature and attempt to do the best you can to live a healthy, happy life and actively boycott companies and practices that contradict these efforts.