“I’m articulating an ideal that may take a very long time to achieve. It’s a process that, even if it happens, will take hundreds of years,” says James McWilliams, author of “The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision To Eat Animals.” In an interview with Jonathon Knutson for AgWeek, McWilliams says the “ideal” he wants to perpetuate is veganism, and he’s targeting what he calls “ethically minded” Americans.
“If you have a choice between eating animals or not eating animals, it is more ethical to choose not to eat animals. The fact of the matter is, the animals we eat have a sense of self — they’re sentimental, they feel pain, they don’t want to feel pain — and (eating them) is causing unnecessary harm,” he says.
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McWilliams, a history professor and animal rights activist from Texas, gave up meat in 2007, and he criticizes both large and small livestock operations.
His book focuses on these farms “that make promises to raise animals a certain way.” He says, “I argue (in the book) that, in fact, a lot of what we believed about these small farms being sustainable, practicing humane rearing practices, treating animals in a more natural way — a lot of these promises are empty promises.”
He hopes to take this ideal worldwide. His crusade might find acceptance in places like India, where traditional vegetarianism is more widely followed. However, research data shows that as people’s income rises, they tend to eat higher on the food chain; that means they are consuming more meat. China provides credence to this, as its growing middle class is buying more meat, not less. Meanwhile, he says, Americans have inherited deep-seated values and beliefs in the existing food system.
I decided to blog about this book because I want livestock producers to be aware of the latest factors potentially impacting consumers of our products. Of course, there are plenty of reasons that Americans can continue to eat meat with confidence and without guilt, and I’ve rounded up five blogs that might resonate with consumers. Please feel free to share some of these and help alleviate some of the concerns consumers might have about including meat in their diet.
Do you think consumers will pay attention to McWilliams’ book? What effect do you think it might have on consumer perceptions regarding meat? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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