Exaggerated claims about veganism make us lose the argument before it’s begun

Last month a spokesperson for PETA appeared on Radio Four in 4 as part of a topic called "Why does veganism divide us so much?"

The presenter, Charlotte Smith asked Dr. Carys Bennett, about a statement on PETA's website which says:

"Virtually none of the intelligent, sensitive animals raised for their flesh in the UK ever have the opportunity to spend time with their families, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs, root around in the soil, or do anything else that would make their lives worth living, let alone enjoyable."

Research proves this statement to be false.

According to The Guardian, there has been an increase in mega farms, a 26% rise in intensive factory farming in six years. But as two recent investigations point out, this type of farming largely is not the model used by the UK farming industry.

The UK has approximately only 800 livestock mega farms, according to an investigation in 2017 by The Guardian newspaper and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

This is compounded by the fact that US-style Beef farming practices only really started coming to the UK in 2018.

Michael Gove, the UK Environment Secretary, actually pledged that he does “not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country.”

When Smith questioned the statement made by PETA, the reply was:

“It is virtually none, because when you consider the number of animals farmed in the UK the majority are chickens farmed for meat, that are in terrible factory farm conditions, tens of thousands crammed into sheds and there’s almost a billion of those eaten a year in the UK so it’s about 98% of the meat that we’re eating comes from these indoor large shed-like conditions.”

Smith then called the argument “at best misleading.” Whatever happened next, the argument was lost. The information, as Smith said, is fundamentally wrong.

Having already been called out for false statements, how can any other information be trusted? It will either erode trust or allows the meat-eating argument to make falsehoods or exaggerated claims of their own.

Making seemingly false arguments allows comments to flourish like one from The Scottish Farmer which says that the vegan community “won’t let the facts get in the way as they ruthlessly bend the scientific community and the media to their will.”

In order to win the argument, animal advocates must work with facts rather than exaggerations. Fortunately, exaggerations are unnecessary. The true nature of animal agriculture is bad enough that it doesn't require any fluff.

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