When the choice is all or nothing, most people will choose to do nothing, especially when it comes to what they eat. By now, most Americans have heard the many arguments for vegetarianism, yet well over 90 percent of the population still eats meat.
It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, though. One small step that requires almost no sacrifice can make an enormous difference for animals.
Consider these five facts.
1. The vast majority of land animals who suffer in the United States today are birds.
If you look at the standard American diet, the average American consumes about 25 animals from factory farms every year. Twenty-four of those are birds.
If these chickens and turkeys and ducks all lived happy lives, this fact might not be compelling. However, factory-farmed birds are quite possibly the most abused individuals on the planet.
Chickens live in their own waste such that the ammonia fumes burn their lungs. They have been genetically manipulated to grow many times faster than they would naturally. This causes many birds to collapse because their legs cannot hold them up. They cannot move even to get to food or water.
Every year in the U.S. alone, millions upon millions of these birds die, not in the slaughterhouse, but from their horrible living conditions and their manipulated genetics. More chickens suffer to death before reaching slaughter than all the animals who are killed for fur, in laboratories, and in shelters, combined. The situation for these individuals is so horrible that animal science professor Dr. John Webster noted that industrial chicken production “in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.”
2. It takes over 200 chickens to provide the same number of meals as one cow.
Any move that leads to any shift from red meat to chicken causes more animals to die and vastly more suffering.
3. Almost every argument for vegetarianism or veganism applies much more to avoiding red meat and eating birds instead—environmental and health arguments especially.
An important insight in this regard is the idea that won Herb Simon his Nobel Prize in Economics: People don’t make optimal or “perfect” decisions. Instead, almost everyone makes choices based on what is a bit “better” or “good enough.” For example, most advocates for veganism believe their particular vegan diet is “best” for water usage (or global warming, or heart disease).
But the vast majority of people who care about water usage (or climate change or heart disease) realize that chicken is much better than beef in these regards. It is simply undeniable that for most people, choosing chicken instead of beef is “better”—and easier.
4. While beef consumption has generally fallen over the decades, chicken consumption has risen significantly.
After a few years of decline, per capita consumption of animals in the U.S. is currently at an all-time high and continuing to move higher, despite all the work done by vegan advocates for the past decades.
That means that no matter what you see on your Facebook feed, the average person in the U.S. is causing more suffering than ever before. Even with all the efforts of animal protection and welfare groups, animals have never been worse off.
5. The vast majority of individuals (~80%) who go vegetarian or vegan go back to eating animals.
Not only do these people eat animals again, they tell everyone who will listen that being vegetarian is “impossible.” Almost everyone who is convinced to stop eating animals eventually serves as a spokesperson against making compassionate choices.
These facts may seem unbelievable, given our understandable desire to believe we are making progress. Also, organizations that want your donations have a vested interest in making you feel like you are a part of the “winning team.” They have full fundraising teams to convince you that what they are doing is successful and worth your money.
We understand this. My colleagues in the animal rights movement and I used to be part of groups that tried to do the same thing over and over again and convince donors that we were “winning.” But we eventually recognized that the reality is different.
We only want to reduce suffering as much as possible. Period. We don’t care about justifying our specific personal lifestyle. We don’t want simply to promote our personal diet. We only want to reduce suffering. And to do that, we need to be honest. We need to recognize the five facts above and adjust accordingly.
For this reason, we promote a simple message that is accessible, sustainable and maximally impactful: Please stop eating chickens.
The average person in the U.S. is responsible for the factory farming and slaughter of more than 25 land animals per year. If we can convince someone simply to stop eating birds, they are responsible for the death of fewer than one animal.
Isn’t this amazing?
Beyond numbers, though, this message is also psychologically sound. Study after study has proven that a big ask is far less likely to lead to any change at all. Relative to full vegetarianism or veganism, just giving up eating chickens—no other change required—is simply far more achievable.
Please join us by keeping chickens off your plate. Given how small chickens are and how much they suffer, even replacing chicken in just one meal a week is meaningful. You can learn a lot more by downloading One Step’s free guide.
Already vegetarian/vegan? Based on the five facts above, please consider rethinking the message you promote and the example you set. Applaud everyone’s every effort to cut out chickens. Showcase plant-based versions of chicken for those in your sphere of influence. Gardein Chick’n Tenders, Tofurky’s Deli Slices and Slow Roasted Chick’n, and the Beyond Meat Chicken Strips have all amazed many avowed meat eaters. Just look at the pictures.
By accepting these five facts and taking this one simple step, you can reduce suffering right now.
Chickens can be wonderful friends, if we let them. Meet rescued chicken Red Baron and you’ll see why:
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- USDA Reports Dairy Farmers Are Sending Younger Cows to Slaughter
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