Recently chicken farmers and meat processors were bailed out by the U.S. government, to the tune of $40 million dollars, for the purchase of chicken carcasses. Chicken producers are having a rough time these days with the combination of higher costs for feed and less chicken carcasses purchased due to a sluggish economy.
While a reduction in chicken consumption excites vegans and activists, this bailout brings a glaring problem into the spotlight. That problem is that a decrease in the purchase of meat, dairy and eggs by consumers has historically been covered by the government. Last year the government purchased $30 million of chicken products; $42 million in 2008.
These bailouts make it apparent that strictly focusing on the purchasing choices of individuals is not going to bring about a vegan world. We need to consider two large components: the U.S. government and the agriculture industry. To truly affect the industries of exploitation, we need to overcome these inherent obstacles.
The U.S. government is subsidizing these industries from the cost of feed for animals, land, and water; to supplying animal products for schools, food assistance, and other institutional programs, promoting and advertising animal products, as well as on the purchasing side via bailouts. This will not significantly change due to small consumer-driven shifts in market share, especially when we the taxpayers will make up the difference.
Animal agriculture is not as concerned about small shifts in the market because they know that the government will continue to bail them out. They can lower prices to create demand, knowing that the government has their backs. They can continue to cut corners and costs to produce meat, dairy and eggs more cheaply, which ultimately affects the nonhuman animals in even more egregious ways, such as speeding up slaughterhouse lines, feeding cheaper feed (which will be even more unnatural than present), denser packing in transport, more dangerous growth-promoting drugs, and on and on. All of this takes an even greater toll on farmed animals. If the U.S. market isn’t expansive enough, they will export their products to China, India, and other “developing” countries.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be advocating ethical veganism. For every vegan created, less animals will be bred, and quite frankly, we will need as many vegans and activists on our side. It’s only to point out that we cannot ignore the other two major components in this movement to create the vegan world that we are after.