Humans are top of the food chain
And that's why it's fine to eat animals
I think the main issue here is that 'the food chain' implies some kind of beneficial order of events in which we're involved (at the top). It's pretty easy to see though that our consumption of animals and their secretions actually causes an endless list of problems for both us, the animals, and the planet. Little about what we do could ever be considered 'beneficial'.
But before i get into the positively unchain-like nature of what happens when we choose to eat animals, a few other points to consider:
1. The food chain is a man-made construct
The food chain is something that we've invented and placed ourselves at the top of. By doing so we're
able to justify using, abusing and killing any animal we consider 'lower' than us.
It's also a sad reality that within this 'chain' we're the only species whose removal would benefit every
other species within it. Take insects out of the chain and the whole thing collapses, remove plankton and
everything fails. Remove humans and everything flourishes.
2. Due to modern society and agriculture, we're completely removed from the food chain
We artificially raise and eat domesticated animals who are intentionally kept apart from the wild and the
rest of nature. Nothing that we or the animals we raise for food do is involved in any sort of chain that
continues through the rest of the natural world.
3. If we do include ourselves in the food chain, we're not even at the top
Despite being another often-heard claim, humans are not apex predators and actually place closer to the
middle of the food chain, at a level similar to pigs.
Below you'll find selection of the many problems caused by our continued desire to eat animals. They harm our planet's ecosystems, provide a poor source of nourishment for us and none whatsoever to the planet itself.
It's difficult to look at these issues and claim with any kind of honesty the actions that cause them are part of
a beneficial chain of events we should continue to live by.
The list is a long one because the problems are many, but this is only a brief glance at the myriad problems we
create by raising animals for food.
- Animals -
- More than six million animals are killed for food every hour.
- We kill around 1,200,000,000 (1.2 billion) animals for food every single week (if you counted in seconds, it
would take thirty-two years to reach one billion).
- On a planet of seven billion people (a large portion of whom eat little or no meat) we slaughter seventy
billion land animals every year.
- The animals we eat have been selectively bred to increase yields, and suffer a variety of debilitating health
defects as a result.
- The animals we eat are killed as babies or infants. The slaughter age of chickens is just 42 days old and for
pigs it's twenty-six weeks (their natural lifespans are eight years and twelve years respectively).
- Animals are forced onto crowded transport trucks when taken to slaughter, a trip which can take up to 24
hours without food or water often in extreme temperatures. Each year millions of animals arrive at the
slaughterhouse dead, dying, sick or injured.
- Male dairy calves are removed from their mothers shortly after birth (cows, like humans, must be pregnant to
produce milk) then killed not long after that (usually for veal). The mother is then re-impregnated whilst
the milk she creates is taken away for humans to consume.
- The 'layer' breed of hens have been genetically manipulated to lay up to three hundred eggs per year. In
nature they would lay less than twenty. This results in massive losses of calcium and other vital minerals
and the animals suffer many health problems (or early death) as a result.
- Male 'layer' chicks are deemed useless to the industry as they don't produce eggs (and don't grow large
enough to be profitable for meat) so on the day of their birth they are tossed alive into grinding machines,
dumped en masse into gas chambers or simply piled into large plastic containers to suffocate or starve to
death. They are born and die in motherless, mechanised hatcheries. Six billion male chicks are killed this
way globally each year.
- 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock, to prevent the many illnesses the animals
would otherwise suffer living in filthy, cramped conditions. Doing this is causing increased antibiotic
resistance in humans, as well as creating the perfect conditions for potentially fatal superbugs to develop.
- The Environment -
- There are no sewage or treatment works to remove the massive volumes of waste produced by the billions of
animals we raise for food, and so waste is pumped into giant open-air 'lagoons'. The issues this creates are
the leading causes of environmental problems ranging from freshwater pollution to ocean dead zones, as well
as poisoning the local communities.
- 2500 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef.
- One thousand litres of water are used to produce one litre of milk.
- Up to one third of all freshwater consumption on earth is attributed to animal agriculture.
- The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and livestock feed production.
- 91% of Amazon deforestation is caused by animal agriculture.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, experts believing we've now entered the sixth
mass extinction event in earth's history (the last one being the dinosaurs).
- 130 times more animal waste is produced in the United States than human waste.
- Nourishment -
- The United States could feed 800 million people with the grain it instead feeds to livestock (around 900
million people are starving globally)
- We currently grow enough grain globally to feed ten billion people but much is instead fed to livestock.
- 82% of starving children live in countries that feed much of the food they grow to animals. The animals are
then eaten by people in wealthier countries.
- The majority of the leading causes of death in western countries are dietary related.
- Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the developed world. A plant-based, whole foods
diet can help prevent (and even reverse) it.
- At least 30% of all cancers in the western world are dietary-related.
- Vegetarians have been found to be 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters.
- Evidence suggests a plant-based diet can prevent many of the world's top killers.
When we consider the above with an honest and open mind, it's pretty clear that 'top of the food chain'
arguments in favor of eating meat are rooted in ideas of dominance and oppression rather than any genuine interest in being a vital part of nature's process. So perhaps instead we could consider how being the dominant species on earth brings with it a responsibility to protect those more vulnerable beings 'below' us rather than using our powerful position to kill, hurt or destroy for whatever trivial reasons we see fit.
At the risk of sounding like a superhero movie, with great power comes great responsibility
and in that respect, top of the food chain or not, we are failing miserably.
A quick glance at the ADAPTT Kill Counter is also worth your time. It's a running total of the number of
animals killed for food that starts running when you open the page. The speed and volume at which the
numbers rise gives a truly sobering perspective.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."