Meat Free Monday: A Curse in Disguise?

The idea of ‘Meat Free Monday’ has become increasingly popular recently, and many people are praising the progress being made in the name of animal welfare and environmental sustainability. If you are not familiar with the concept, people are encouraged to not consume meat products on Mondays in an effort to improve health, save money and reduce environmental impact. Many argue that this can only be positive, it is a step towards the eventual transition to a completely plant based diet that is needed to avoid environmental collapse. However, as usual it is our duty to look deeper and examine the latent implications in order to fully understand the situation. Meat Free Monday may indeed be more of a curse than a blessing.

  • Meat Free Monday encourages complacency. Instead of properly tackling the ethical, environmental and health issues that surround animal products, people may feel as though they are doing enough by just avoiding meat for one day. By championing the herculean efforts needed to not eat meat for just one day, people remain unaware that their effort is minuscule compared to the good they could be doing by going all the way. Also, it detracts from further efforts to encourage change: If people are already satisfied that they are ‘doing enough’ they are far less likely to make further efforts. The importance of the plant based movement is diminished by praising the only partial recognition of environmental issues, animal lives and personal health, so Meat Free Monday could be actively damaging the vegan message.
  • There is not enough emphasis on educationThis is always a driving point to my arguments, education is essential for almost every aspect of progress, whether it be environmental protection, animal rights or anything else. The problem with Meat Free Monday is that not nearly enough emphasis is placed on actually educating people as to why animal products are harmful. Without really knowing why they are participating the whole purpose of the activity is lost and people are left assuming ‘it’s something to do with health’ or ‘I think I’m saving the environment’. The only way to really stress the importance of the plant based movement is by making sure that people are educated about the issues that need addressing. However, armed with the knowledge about the harmful nature of animal product industries, Meat Free Mondays would seem pointless and nothing short of complete veganism would be logical.
  • Dairy and eggs are not included. By placing the importance on meat, the egg and dairy industries are ignored and reduced in importance. Physical meat becomes the symbolic representation of animal products and makes people blind to the total saturation of animal products in our everyday lives. If the activity was to avoid all animal products for one day, people would realise how damaging animal products are sneaked into a ludicrous percentage of everyday items. The dairy and egg industries are extremely damaging and unethical (read more about the culling of day old male chicks here) and it seems illogical to leave them out of the picture.

There may be more points, but these are the blaringly obvious points that come to mind immediately. I’m interested to see what your ideas are on the subject, do you support the Meat Free Monday campaign, or do you think it is actually damaging? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

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Victory or Loss? – Culling of Male Chicks to End by 2020

You may have heard the news that the practice of chick culling (gassing or grinding up day old male chicks) may be stopped, or at least be phased out by 95% of US farms, by the year 2020 which sounds like a major step forward, but is it as good as we think?

Why are male chicks culled?

Chicks are bred by hatcheries and sorted by sex before the females are sent to farmers for a life (of around 80 weeks) producing eggs for human consumption. However, the male chicks are economically useless since they are bred to be small framed unlike muscular meat chickens, and this means the hatcheries must dispose of millions of day old chicks by grinding them alive or gassing them. This is largely kept quiet by egg companies since it poses an unbelievable ethical issue, and letting people know the truth behind egg production would obviously be bad for business.

*Warning this video contains footage that is upsetting, but I do recommend watching if you don’t know the truth behind the egg industry.*

So how is this going to be stopped?

New technologies and procedures have been discovered that can determine the sex of chicks before they are hatched, which could effectively end the culling of male chicks since they would never be allowed to hatch. By placing a fluorescent protein gene onto the male chromosome via micro-injection into a male chick embryo, the genetically modified birds can then be bred so that when the females lay their eggs. The male embryos could then be identified by a laser that picks up the fluoro mark, a process called ovo-sexing. Eggs containing female chicks would be incubated, hatched and sent to egg farms, whilst eggs containing male chicks would not be incubated, instead being used for vaccine research and pet food.

But how is this problematic?

Taken at face value this seems like a winning situation. However, we know that taking things at face value is never a wise thing to do, and examining the situation further reveals numerous worrying implications. I’m not arguing that stopping the culling of male chicks is bad, after all countless lives could be saved and horrific pain avoided, all I’m saying is that as intelligent, rational thinkers we need to consider what the effects of this discovery will be before we count it as a victory.

The first and most obvious issue is the fact that the egg industry will be very much alive, and indeed will be better off because of these discoveries. Workers and machines that sort and kill the male chicks will be replaced by laser identifiers and money will be saved. This of course means that the suffering of egg laying female hens will continue.

Secondly, the ethical problems of culling male chicks faced by egg producers will no longer be present, allowing both producers and consumers to forget about the suffering and pain that remain within the industry. Eggs will be considered ethical products since the methods used to produce them would not include gassing or grinding up day old chicks. As a way of convincing people that veganism is the only compassionate way of life, this could actually be considered a big step backwards, since non-vegans would consider the egg industry less problematic.

male chicks - battery hens

The suffering of egg laying hens would continue regardless

Not to mention the fact this method of identifying male chicks is reliant on genetic modification, altering the genetic makeup of the male line to produce modified young. This is a major concern for many consumers, but the details regarding genetic modification seem to be mysteriously left unsaid by many media outlets covering the story.

What should we think?

Personally I believe that we cannot completely dismiss this as a loss, since massive pain and suffering can be avoided. HOWEVER, this should be considered simply as a step towards the dismantling of egg production companies and the movement away from the consumption of eggs. We can’t celebrate yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

But what do you think, should we consider this a victory, or is this just a way for egg companies to justify their practices and keep consumers on their side? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Don’t forget to share this page and subscribe to the website to receive updates for new content, you can also follow the Fox Eyed Man on Twitter, Facebook, Google+Tumblr and now Instagram for further discussions about environmentalism.

Images:

Featured Image: ‘chick‘ by apsande is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Battery Hens: ‘Industrial-Chicken-Coop‘ by איתמר ק. via Wikimedia Commons.

Featured Video: Undercover Investigation at Hy-Line Hatchery by mercyforanimals

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