High Court judge Michael Kirby recently said that some members of Gen Y are going through a "process of enlightenment" by not eating meat. So as a vegetarian for a year and now a vegan, here is my take.
If you read one book this year, it should be Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer. The United States writer explores our relationship with food and extensively researches the meat and dairy industries.
I don't have the space to list all the reasons not to eat meat, but the main points of the book are: factory farming's contribution to climate change; avian/swine flu being traced back to factory farms; humans today becoming immune to diseases because of the amount of antibiotics that are pumped into the geneticallyengineered animals we eat; the fact the industries are pretty much selfregulated so no one actually safeguards the consumers; and the annual inhumane slaughter of hundreds of millions of animals.
Factory-farmed animals are excluded from the protection of our animal welfare legislation, and are subjected to lives in cages where they are unable to walk or turn around for the duration of their short lives. Their stressful, lightless, overcrowded, faeces-filled living conditions are a breeding ground for disease so they're pumped full of antibiotics which we ingest when we eat them.
Battery hens live in wire cages, in a space about three-quarters the size of an A4 page, and usually live for around 35 days before they are slaughtered. That's right, the chickens you eat for dinner are only a month old. Do you think they grow to that size naturally? Then because of the sheer volume of animals sent to the slaughterhouses, animals aren't killed humanely (we all saw that Four Corners report, but does anyone think about how animals are treated within Australia?) and the meat is infected with pathogens because of how quickly they have to be gutted. According to a US study published in Consumer Reports, 83 per cent of all chicken meat (including organic and antibioticfree brands) is infected with either campylobacter or salmonella at the time of purchase. These cruel and dangerous practices are the norm because the objective is profit and efficiency. Our demand for meat has overridden the industry's ability to supply it safety.
The United Nations says greenhouse gas emissions from livestock exceed those caused by the entire transport sector by about 40 per cent globally.
The point of young vegans' or vegetarians' "enlightenment" comes from a refusal to support cruel and dangerous trade practices. The disrespect that companies show humans is almost as bad as the cruelty they show animals.