As tens of billions of animals are slaughtered each year for food, humans must re-evaluate this inhumane practice and reconsider our relationship with our fellow earthlings, says Juliet Gellatley, founder and director of Viva!, the UK’s leading vegan charity.
As veganism continues to grow exponentially, so do the desperate marketing campaigns devised by the meat industry. Recent years have seen a flood of adverts and media campaigns created by the industry trying to reassure consumers that animal products are healthy, good for the climate and that animals killed for food live happy and content lives. All of which are a completely untrue.
The breeding, rearing and slaughter of animals for food is a barbaric practice that has no place in modern day society. As a nation of animal lovers, we are shocked by examples of animal cruelty to cats, dogs and other domestic animals, yet most turn a blind eye to the miserable short lives of factory farmed animals.
Over 80 per cent of farmed animals spend their short and wretched lives in factory farms, crammed into filthy sheds with little or no natural light. Bred for rapid growth, they are highly stressed and this combination of factors provides the perfect environment for pathogens to mutate and spread. It’s hard to tell which poses the greater threat from factory farming, antibiotic-resistant superbugs or a mutating virus. Both could be the source of the next pandemic.
For over 25 years I have investigated some of the UK’s worst factory farms – witnessing the miserable lives of pigs, dairy cows, chickens, ducks, turkeys and egg-laying hens. The sights, smells and horrors I have witnessed have shaken me to my core and will haunt me forever.
One of the worst farms I visited was a place called ‘Hogwood’, which housed thousands of pigs crammed into colossal sheds, with more tightly packed pigs than it is possible to imagine. I tried to step carefully through them but they swarmed towards me, keen to investigate my unfamiliar presence. They were inquisitive adolescents, about three months old and wide awake, despite the early hour.
In other sheds I found sick animals left abandoned in gangways; pig’s skulls, a jaw and a hacked off lower leg, all left to rot in what looked like years’ worth of filth; a dead, blackened and bloated body of a pig being pushed and prodded by his cellmates, all covered in excreta; and mothers giving birth onto cold, unforgiving concrete, locked inside farrowing crates with little room to move forwards or backwards, let alone turn around.
This is just one example of the countless atrocities I have witnessed first-hand on British factory farms. Inside these farms, animals are seen as commodities and profit is priority.
To progress as a species, we must acknowledge that farmed animals are sentient beings who can feel not only pain and suffering, but also love and kindness.
I am firmer in my belief than ever before that when animals are humiliated and abused we surrender our most basic humanity. When we force sentient beings to contend with the disgusting squalor of factory farms we all suffer. When we treat living creatures as a commodity to be exploited on a never-ending conveyor belt of corporate greed, we ride roughshod over the most basic ethical standards.
Viva! has launched a Crowdfunder campaign to broadcast our first vegan TV advert, Takeaway the Meat, on Channel 4 and its associated networks in February 2022. With additional funds secured from match-funding and a grant from Channel 4, we aim to reach a staggering 16 million viewers.
The TV advert follows the journey of an everyday meat-eating couple as they decide which takeaway meal to order. Snuggled up on their sofa, with their beloved dog, they choose pulled pork from the food delivery app ‘Just Meat’.
Viva!’s new advert encourages the public to make the connection between the animals they choose to keep as companions and the ones that are destined for their dinner table. Viewers are invited to consider the morality of eating meat, helping them to make the connection between animals and food. The solution? Try vegan of course!
All major health bodies recommend reducing meat consumption, not only for your own health but for the planet too. Animal agriculture is having a devastating effect on the environment. A varied vegan diet can meet all your nutritional needs and is the best diet for animals and the planet.
We all desperately need the human race to stop ravaging our world. Central to a behavioural shift is veganism – the understanding that the exploitation of animals causes untold damage and pain. As peoples’ hearts and minds are changed, the growth of vegan foods will ensure that our crumbling world, riddled with the horrors of factory farming and slaughter, evolves into a vibrant world where we protect and celebrate life. Our motto could be ‘Viva! life’.
To find out about Viva!’s work please visit viva.org.uk/tv-ad.