DEAR READERS: This is Part 2 of a planned three-part series on the harms of the cattle industry.
The contributions of the U.S. beef industry to the climate crisis have been well documented, as well as the health risks of high beef consumption. Yet the cattle industry continues to be heavily subsidized with public funds, the termination of which many analysts are now calling for. (See the study “Public policies and vested interests preserve the animal farming status quo at the expense of animal product analogs” by Simona Vallone and Eric Lambin, published in One Earth, August 2023.)
According to a fact sheet from the Humane Farming Association (HFA):
“The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) is like an insurance policy for livestock producers where the taxpayer pays the premium rather than the livestock producer. When animals die in harsh weather, the producer files a claim with the USDA. Despite the fact that the producer provided no protection from inclement weather and paid no premium to insure the animals, he or she collects compensation for the dead animals. ...
"Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that between 2013 and 2017, LIP issued payments of $198,877,658 to farmers and ranchers for animal deaths due primarily to weather-related issues. Since that time, says USASpending.gov, another $157,283,183 was paid to producers under LIP. LIP benefits represent misuse of taxpayer dollars and government waste at its most flagrant. ...
"Compensating producers for dead livestock without ever requiring adequate shelter, shade, or other safeguards is actually a disincentive to farmers and ranchers to take the necessary steps to provide their animals with protections from inclement weather.” (To read the full document, visit HFA-LIP-fact-sheet.pdf.)
To top this off, a vast tonnage of discarded animal parts unfit for human consumption -- notably the remains designated “4-D” from dead, dying, debilitated and/or diseased animals at the processing plants -- is profitably recycled into pig and poultry feed and pet foods.
This subsidization results in artificially low prices for beef and other animal products. According to one review from the American Institute for Economic Research, "The United States federal government spends $38 billion every year subsidizing the meat and dairy industries. Research from 2015 shows this subsidization reduces the price of Big Macs from $13 to $5, and the price of a pound of hamburger meat from $30 to the $5 we see today." (See aier.org/article/the-true-cost-of-a-hamburger.)
Our historical consumption of meat does not justify the present quantity and frequency of same. Raising an animal for consumption, or tracking and killing one to eat, are practices that are generations removed from most people in the world. Rather, most people have others kill and dismember the animals they will eventually eat. This is done in slaughtering facilities where there is much animal terror and mishandling, and, especially in the U.S., unsafe conditions for workers, many of whom are immigrants. (See the 2006 book “Slaughterhouse, The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry” by Gail Eisnitz.)
U.K. UNIVERSITIES URGED TO GO VEGAN
Hundreds of academics, politicians and health care and veterinary professionals have signed an open letter urging U.K. universities to switch to 100% plant-based meals. The full letter is available at bit.ly/3Rk9nvE.
I wish all such institutions in the U.S. would start a similar campaign to help shrink our carbon footprint, improve our health and reduce the suffering of billions of animals destined for human consumption.
DEAR DR. FOX: I noticed that one of your recent columns referenced an outdated stat -- specifically, that the global plant-based meat market was predicted to grow to $15.8 billion by 2028. Based on our most recent data, this figure has been updated, and the global plant-based meat market is now expected to reach $18.41 billion by 2030.
For your reference, and to verify the new statistics, please visit our page: worldanimalfoundation.org/advocate/how-many-vegans-are-in-the-world. -- Patricia Gomez, World Animal Foundation
DEAR P.G.: I appreciate you sending this update. It is indeed evident that more plant-based dog and cat foods will soon be on the market, leading to documented benefits for these animals and the planet.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)