The production and consumption of animal products causes many social justice issues. Some of these are briefly described below.

For a more detailed discussion of many of these issues, see Discussion Paper: The Link Between Meat Production and Human Rights by Aloysia Brooks.

Human hunger and malnutrition

“Every day forty thousand children die in the world for lack of food. We who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Over 20 million people will die this year as a result of malnutrition and approximately one billion people, mostly rural women and children, suffer chronic hunger. A lot of food that is currently fed to animals could instead be used to feed the world’s hungry people directly. To produce just one kilogram of beef protein, it takes at least seven kilograms of grain and other plant protein to be fed to a cow. Eighty percent of starving children live in countries that actually have food surpluses – the children remain hungry because farmers use the surplus grain to feed animals instead of people. References: Feast or Famine: Meat Production and World Hunger by Mark Hawthorne,Immoral maize: how meat-heavy diets are pricing sub-Saharan Africa out of nutrition, Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed.

The environment and human rights

Animal production is a major cause of environmental destruction, including global warming. In all countries, a healthy environment is a pre-condition for the enjoyment of many human rights, such as life, health, and wellbeing. Global warming will have most impact on countries which are already suffering in terms of human rights and hunger.

Lack of fresh water

Fresh water is becoming a scarce resource and is used to excess for the production of animal products. The lack of fresh water is a major cause of disease transmission, especially amongst the poor.

The rights of indigenous people

Major causes of deforestation are growing cattle for meat and growing crops to feed farmed animals. Deforestation is often in areas occupied by indigenous people and their rights are likely to be ignored.


As the environment degrades there will be more conflict between nations for access to natural resources such as fresh water and food. Those most affected by these resource wars will be the powerless and the poor.


The effect of the normalising of violence towards non-human animals on acts of violence towards humans has been the subject of some scientific research. For example, the article Vegan Diet Impacts California Prison, says that the results of adopting a vegan diet were “amazing”.

Effect on workers in slaughterhouses

Human Rights Watch states that working at a slaughterhouse is “the most dangerous factory job in America”. Slaughterhouse workers suffer from illness or injury many times more than workers in other manufacturing jobs. As well as the physical injury slaughterhouse workers suffer from, there are also the disturbing psychological costs, as detailed in A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform. Workers suffer from a loss of compassion, allowing them to kill without caring. Natural instincts to empathise with the pain and death of animals are suppressed. This desensitisation to suffering in animals is linked to a higher propensity for committing violent crimes towards humans, particularly domestic abuse. For more on this topic, see Creating Killers: Human Tolls of Slaughter and Distanced from death: animal cruelty at the abattoir.


  • New President Must Confront Global Food Challenge
  • Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus (see page 153, World Hunger)
  • Real Vegan Options: Veganism and Social Justice
  • More Reasons to Go Vegan by PETA
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  • Far from needing extra livestock, livestock are an anchor chain around the necks of the poor in Africa – Part 1, Part 2
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