Letter from Ryan Andrews

By Ryan Andrews


Since last week’s article reviewing my visit to a cattle feedlot was released – I’ve received some passionate feedback.  And I welcome all of it.  I’m far from being an expert about feedlots and how animals are being raised for food.

The two main types of feedback I’ve received include the following.

Feedback type #1:  Praise from the meat industry

For the record, I’m not a meat industry advocate.  I’m far from it.  With that being said, let me clarify a few points:

1) My article was based on one visit to one feedlot in Colorado.  And they knew I was coming.  I didn’t anticipate a tour of the most deplorable feedlot in Colorado.  No organization shows you their worst.  But maybe this is a glimpse of things to come.  Maybe these types of operations are beginning to change for the better.  Then again, maybe not.  There are countless other feedlot operations that exist.  I don’t know what they are like.

2) I didn’t write the article so the masses could rationalize eating a big burger.  And I don’t want to be used as a bargaining tool by pro-meat/pro-feedlot organizations.  Feedlots have been involved in despicable and reprehensible acts.

3) Don’t let my article be the final say on how you view animals raised for food.  Request farm visits.  See where your food comes from.  Talk to experts.  Read books.  Visit websites.  Listen to podcasts.  Keep challenging yourself to learn about food.  That’s what I’m trying to do.  That’s why I wrote the article.

4) I don’t know how animals feel being kept on a feedlot.  Based on my observations of animals in general, I’d imagine they are extremely fearful.

5) I’m confident that the amount of meat consumed by the average American (222 pounds excluding marine life) is excessive.

6) I’m confident that a highly plant-based diet is the optimal way to eat for human health and preserve our natural resources.

To help balance my perspective on how animals are treated, I stay open to many different resources.  Here are some that I’ve found to be the most honest and informative:

Website: Mercy for Animals

DVD: Earthlings

Book: Eating Animals

DVD: Death on a Factory Farm

Book: The CAFO Reader

DVD: Food, Inc.

Online presentation: 9 Nutrition Realities

After reviewing these, you’ll be able to understand that the way animals are treated in food production varies tremendously.

Feedback type #2:  Negative feedback from vegans/animal advocates

The animal advocates and vegans, a group I more strongly identify with, has taken my article extremely negatively.  To them, let me clarify a few points:

1) It’s thanks to animal advocates and vegans that any type of progression has been made in the animal welfare movement.  It’s because of you that feedlots are starting to make some of the improvements I discussed in the article.  It’s because of you that people are starting to think about these issues.  It’s because of you that I am who I am today.

2) The article wasn’t meant to cover if it’s right or wrong to keep animals in captivity and use them for meat.  The article wasn’t mean to cover the details about how the use of animals for food impacts our water, soil, and food supply.  It was simply a recap of one day on a feedlot in Colorado.  To learn more about the various issues related to animals in food production, see the resources listed above.

3) There are many activists and organizations who dedicate a great deal of their lives to exposing harmful practices towards animals when it comes to food, and I admire them.  It’s thanks to them that my awareness has been raised.  My article was not written to undermine them.

4) My goal with the original article was to enter the feedlot experience with an open mind and convey my thoughts in writing.  I wanted to begin opening communication lines between vegans and feedlots.  I did my best to accomplish that.  Some may think I was striving so hard to neutralize my vegan views that my tone actually became biased in favor of meat.  If that’s how you read it, I apologize.  That was unintended.

5) Finally, the truest indicator of what we believe in and care about is best exemplified in how we live – and I live a 100% vegan lifestyle.  Remember that.

So, let’s keep discussing these issues.  Let’s keep communication lines open.  Certainty is static; it does little but endlessly reassert itself.  Challenge your beliefs.

Meat eaters, find a vegan to chat with.  Vegans, find a meat eater to chat with.  Let’s all do our best to live a life that minimizes harm to other beings, the planet and our bodies.

I’ll close this the same way I do with every one of my emails:

“One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

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