Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Animal Welfare Labels

The U.S.-based Whole Food's Market Inc. is planning a labelling system for their organic grocery stores that informs consumers of the conditions in which animals were raised.  The system goes from a 5+ in which the animals live outdoors and eat foods intended for their digestive system (i.e. grass for cows, etc.), to a 0 for animals crowded in cages which is called "Does not meet Whole Foods market requirements."  It's unfortunate that much of the meat processed today would rate a "0" on this scale.

Of course the next day's paper had several letters suggesting that if people really care about animals, then they shouldn't eat meat at all.  That's true, BUT I don't think it's a useful way to provoke change.  If we maintain an all or nothing mentality, people aren't going to budge from their current place.  It's just too great a leap to go from possibly eating meat from fast food outlets several times a day to never eating meat again.  It happens once in a blue moon, but not nearly enough to have a significant effect.

If we want to help the world, we're unlikely to convince everyone to become vegan, but we might be able to convince them to eat "kinder" cuts of meat.  This doesn't necessitate changing our eating habits, just changing suppliers.  And when enough people shift to buying only animal-centered meat from Whole Foods, then this is what grocers and fast food restaurants will start to supply.  And that will affect our groundwater and river systems, our health as neighbours and consumers, and our conscience.

It's a start.
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