World Animal Day: What is the impact of the animal industry? | NDR.de

Status: 10/04/2022 16:43

How is our relationship with animals? Where do we protect them? Where do we use them? Where do we use them for our purposes? A conversation on World Animal Day with animal ethicist Friederike Schmitz.

Ms. Schmitz, animal ethics is still a relatively young science. What exactly does that mean?

Friederike Schmitz: This is an attempt to decide how we should treat animals. What do we owe them? do they have rights May we use them? All these questions are discussed there.

In Western society, our relationship with animals is essentially shaped by two poles: On the one hand, many people know the conditions for meat production in Germany – and yet they reach for the cheap schnitzel in the discount store. On the other hand, we can see a movement on social media that promotes a plant-based diet – not only to protect the animals, but also the climate. How do you think it is connected?

Smith: These are ultimately two sides of the same coin. As a society, over the last few decades we have created a system where animals are massively exploited for the production of meat, milk and eggs – on a completely different scale than before. They also used to be exploited, but not in these numbers. This is getting more and more public awareness of how bad it is for the animals. If you look at research pictures and facts, we have created hell on earth for many pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals. This also has a massive impact on the environment and climate. In response, there is this backlash that calls for the end of this industry and the reorganization of agriculture and food.


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Leaving the animal industry is also one of your priorities. You also belong to the alliance “Together against the animal industry”. What are you asking for? What are the most urgent steps?

Smith: It requires agricultural and food policies to move away from this industry. A fair transition is needed in the agricultural sector: it must be possible to get farmers on board and, for example, enable livestock farming to switch to crop production or other alternatives with debt relief, compensation and phasing out programmes. You have to redistribute subsidies and change laws. Of course, it all only makes sense if people eat differently, for example if the products are not imported. A nutrition policy is therefore needed, and there is much that can be done about the nutritional environment: create other offers, change communal dining, change the price situation – make animal products more expensive, vegetable products cheaper.

At present, unfortunately, it does not appear that the government wants to take such measures. Therefore, before that is possible, a stronger social movement that demands this and creates pressure is needed. This is another reason why I am involved in this alliance.

How difficult is it to define a limit to which we go when it comes to ethical issues in dealing with animals? A limit that shows how far we humans go when dealing with animals, when it comes to the question: Where do we use animals? But where does it end when it comes to our human needs?

Smith: It is true that at some point it becomes difficult to live or farm if we do not want to restrict or harm animals. For example, every crop has to deal with pests in some way. But I think there are many steps we can take that are easy for people. We can also eat plant-based, healthy, tasty and enjoyable food. This is a very clear case, where all reasons – animal ethics, but also environmental and climate protection and global justice – speak for no longer locking animals in fattening plants, egg factories, dairy farms and then driving them to the slaughterhouse, but planting them . them directly to grow and eat. You can try to keep the damage that remains as low as possible. Much can also be changed to open up more animal-friendly plant agriculture. The biggest factor is actually the animal industry, the meat industry and the dairy and egg industry itself.

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You are a co-founder of the association “Mensch Tier Bildung” – what does it stand for? Is there also the animal industry the main subject?

Smith: Yes, that is also the priority. We offer project days and workshops for groups of children and young people, e.g. on the topic “animals in agriculture”. We want to inform about how pigs, chickens, cattle, turkeys and so on are doing in agriculture. We do this in a child-friendly way. We do not primarily want to drum our convictions into the children, but we want children and young people to be able to develop their own attitude towards it with the help of information and engagement with the subject.

The conversation led Friederike Westermann.

This topic in the program:

NDR Culture | Journal | 04.10.2022 | 16:45

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