For some, getting to a store with fresh fruit and vegetables is an all-day mission, especially in areas known as “food deserts,” where the closest place to buy food is a convenience store that sells unhealthy snacks. Food deserts are disproportionately located in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. People in these neighborhoods are often forced to eat processed meats, snacks, and other unhealthy foods that are more readily available.
Research shows that those who regularly consume fatty, cholesterol-laden foods (cholesterol is only found in animal-derived foods) are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, conditions that are more prevalent among those living in food deserts. PETA has a solution—please continue reading and take action.
The U.S. government spends about $38 billion in tax money each year to subsidize the meat, egg, and dairy industries, while only about $17 million is used to subsidize the fruit and vegetable industries, even though the federal government’s dietary guidelines encourage people to eat more produce and fewer animal-derived products.
Our tax dollars are being used to keep the meat, egg, and dairy industries afloat, yet the subsidies do little to benefit local farmers and economies. Between 2006 and 2021, two-thirds of American farmers didn’t receive a single cent from subsidies, which totaled more than $100 billion. Most of the money went to big corporations, which harm animals and the environment on a massive scale. Corporations tend to employ fewer workers to care for the animals and buy most of their supplies outside the local areas.
Rather than throwing billions of dollars at the meat, egg, and dairy industries, PETA wants the government to end these subsidies and give incentives to grocers in food deserts to stock healthy vegan foods. Without a financial incentive, there’s no motivation for stores to help or change.
The money that’s given to wealthy meat, egg, and dairy companies could be better spent on initiatives that work to bring healthy foods and opportunities to food deserts. Healthy Retail SF, for example, is a program that designs and implements plans for convenience stores in marginalized communities in San Francisco to move away from selling unhealthy options and toward offering fresh produce. The Garden School Foundation seeks to improve food justice by teaching youth in Los Angeles about the benefits of gardening and nutritious eating. Other programs around the country offer financing to encourage the development of grocery stores in underserved communities.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that vegans enjoy a lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, lower rates of type 2 diabetes and cancer, and lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass indexes. Vegans also tend to have stronger immune systems, making them less susceptible to everyday illnesses, such as the flu.
Animal agriculture wreaks havoc on public health, too, because pollution from factory farms causes problems in humans, including brain damage, depression, miscarriages, and birth defects. The industry is also responsible for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and severe respiratory problems.
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media
In addition to residents in food deserts, animals used for food would benefit if the government stopped subsidizing the meat, egg, and dairy industries. It would help spare cows, pigs, chickens and other farmed animals the violence and abuse that are rampant in these industries. Farmed animals are typically crammed into filthy sheds and small cages and are routinely mutilated. At the slaughterhouse, they’re slit across the throat, often while they’re still conscious.
Redirecting meat, egg, and dairy industry funds could also benefit slaughterhouse employees , who endure unsafe work conditions. Transforming slaughterhouses into clean facilities that produce vegan meat (an exciting transition that’s already happening in some places) would help the workers—many of whom are immigrants or refugees and don’t report poor working conditions or cruelty to animals because they fear losing their jobs.
Redirecting subsidies for meat, eggs, and dairy would help the planet, too. Scientists and world leaders agree that climate change is the biggest challenge that humanity faces, and animal agriculture is one of the world’s leading causes of it. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it’s “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” including land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. If people in food deserts had access to healthy vegan foods, it would surely result in a dramatic decrease in meat consumption and, therefore, a decline in meat production. Mitigating the effects of the climate crisis is necessary for our survival and that of other animals.
Urge your local, state, and national representatives to join you in advocating for food justice. Ask them to act to redirect funds that support the meat, egg, and dairy industries toward incentives to grocers in food deserts to stock vegetables, fruits, and other healthy, humane vegan foods.
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