Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to climate change. Combined with the health effects of meat eating, and cruel treatment of animals, it’s no wonder many people become vegetarian and vegan. Clearly we need systemic change in food production.
Farming animals is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s transport combined. A total of 136 million acres of rainforest have been cleared for cattle grazing alone. Underdeveloped nations are exploited for resources by dominant capitalist countries in order to export their environmental destruction.
People often become vegan with the intent to stop profits from going to the animal agriculture industry. This is overwhelmingly a genuine attempt to change part of the system by consuming more ethically.
Ethical consumerism comes from the idea that people can vote with their dollar. It is seen in labels such as “fair-trade”, “organic” and “eco-friendly” which are marketing measures to exploit people’s real concern for environmental and social atrocities. These issues aren’t caused by individual choices, but instead by a system that only exists for the benefit of the capitalist class.
Veganism can put the blame on working class people and guilt them into believing that they are responsible for pollution and destruction. But the richest 10% of people are responsible for 59% of the world’s private greenhouse gas emissions. Individual actions can make people feel better about living under capitalism, but unfortunately there are no real solutions without systemic change.
Veganism is big business now. Just ten giant multinationals control almost all food products on earth. The big meat corporations are finding ways to keep making fat profits off of vegan and vegetarian fast food, while still expanding meat production. Globally this system of distribution leaves billions of people malnourished and does not allow for the spread of a healthy balanced diet, let alone a mass spread of veganism.
For many people, the issues in the industry can seem far away. Capitalism alienates us from the natural world. Unlike in past forms of society, we are detached from the process of food production and livestock rearing.
For capitalists seeking profits it is most cost effective to keep animals in small spaces, feed them artificial diets, give them unnatural growth hormones, and then pump them full of antibiotics when they get sick. These practices are harmful to the wellbeing of animals and are detrimental to human health when we consume their meat.
Slaughterhouses, live animal markets and dirty factory farms are breeding grounds for all kinds of diseases. COVID-19 was transmitted from an animal to a human, and wouldn’t have been exposed to a human host without capitalist expansion into wild areas. Capitalist exploitation of animals will almost certainly lead to more pandemics.
Under capitalism, food is produced for the profit of capitalists and not for the needs of the population as a whole. COVID-19 panic buying made it clear that people fear that the capitalist class aren’t capable of guaranteeing the things that we need.
The problem is not just with the meat industry, but with the capitalist system as a whole.
In a democratic socialist system, big food production and distribution businesses would be brought into democratic public ownership and the profit motive would be scrapped. This means that working class people would decide how animals are treated, how best to farm for the environment and our health. They would also be in control of how this food is distributed in order to provide for all people of the world.
With public ownership of animal agriculture, any surplus wealth from the industry could be reinvested to improve technology and farming practices so that smaller areas of land are used for a greater amount of efficiency. This would be part of a democratic plan to produce food sustainably. Socialists want to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy while also creating and protecting jobs and the environment.
Healthy food should be available for all and not considered a reward for selling your ability to work to a boss. In a democratic socialist system food production and distribution would work to meet the financial and nutritional needs of the people and not for profits for the hyper rich.
Socialists are about making better lives for all people via a worldwide democratic socialist system. A planned economy and a worker’s democracy can only be achieved through struggle against capitalism. Only a revolution led by the working class will be able to break the control that capitalists have over our society and unleash the potential for a sustainable socialist future, where animal cruelty can be a relic of a violent past.