Taxpayers Fund Animal Cruelty and Environmental Devastation

“A new report finds that $62 of every $100 that U.S. farmers earn comes from one level of government or another.  In 2009, that added up to a staggering $180.8-billion (U.S.).”

~ The Global Mail, 2010

As explained in Animal Cruelty: Who is to Blame?, the atrocities of animal slavery are essentially consumer-generated. What this means is that not only are consumers responsible for the brutality that is inflicted on our behalf, we also have the power to actually put an end to widespread animal cruelty by refusing to purchase products and services that involve exploitation in any form.

But many people may not be aware of how much taxpayers are indirectly, but overwhelmingly, helping to fund this excessive and corrupt business in another way: government assistance. When you begin to investigate the huge excesses and waste associated with large-scale animal farming, it becomes clear that assistance from the government is an essential factor in helping this industry to stay afloat.

Because industry and investors are primarily business people, who are focused on making money by fulfilling demand for specific products, they would ordinarily be indifferent to whether they are selling apples or animal products. There are, however, two strong economic factors which cause industry to nurture the demand for animal products, and, on the flip side, resist efforts to promote vegan living.

The first economic factor is the highly profitable excesses of animal agriculture. Animals consume (in plant foods) multiple times the protein that they provide. Depending on confinement and feed factors, cows require 9 to 13 times as much protein as they provide; pigs 5 or 6 times; and chickens twice as much. This means that most of the crops grown in huge monocultures, such as soy and corn, are sold to animal agriculture.

When you add the extra transportation, harvesters, and fuel to the high demand for crops fed to animals, along with the other resources required to raise, transport, and slaughter animals (and refrigerate them afterward), it’s easy to see why multiple large industries have a strong interest in the continued existence and growth of animal agriculture (and why socially responsible consumers should reject it outright, even without taking into account the deplorable rights violations to the individuals in question).  With its extreme waste and inefficiency, animal agriculture makes all agriculture many times larger than it would otherwise need to be to feed its human consumers.

Image: Flickr – Alex E. Proimos

But how is it possible that such waste and excess should actually pay-off financially? The answer is that the animal industry (including the huge monoculture crops that feed it), is supported by tens of billions of dollars in annual farm subsidies and other government handouts that make it highly profitable to produce animal-based foods over plant-based foods. A recent article from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains the extreme inconsistency between government nutrition guidelines and the subsidies they provide to suppliers.

Not only do such colossal government handouts artificially affect supply, these subsidies also lower the prices of animal products, which would be close to three times as high without subsidies. Considering the exorbitant costs of animal agriculture to the environment; and the costs of saturated fat, cholesterol, and excess sodium to human health, a responsible government would tax, not subsidize, animal products, even if the rights of animals were not an issue.

This is tremendously important because, according to the economic principle of “demand elasticity”*, the demand for animal products would likely decline to nearly half of its current level if the government simply stopped providing subsidies, since this would cause prices to rise closer to their natural level of 2.6 times current (subsidized) prices. If animal products were taxed to compensate for their disastrous effects on the environment and human health, prices would rise to multiple times current rates, dropping the quantity demanded to a small fraction of its current level – a boon for the environment, human health, and most important, the individual animals whose lives are discarded like one more waste product of this obscene business.

* In economic terms, “demand elasticity” indicates the percentage change in quantity demanded in response to a one percent change in price. (Animal products likely have an average demand elasticity of -0.7, ranging from -0.01 to -1.7).

In addition to subsidies, the animal industry receives various other government handouts which contribute to the deceptively low prices of animal products. These extra “sweeteners” are in the form of extremely low costs for grazing animals on public land, and the purchase of surplus animal products for government activities such as the National School Lunch Program.

Given these huge economic gravy trains enticing Big Food to push animal products as relentlessly as Big Tobacco used to push cigarettes, it is no wonder they do so with such zeal. These powerful special interests are unlikely to be attracted to the strong market potential for environmentally-sustainable, healthy, and ethical vegan food. Indeed, we can expect them to use every trick in the book to thwart efforts to move consumers in such a direction.

A large proportion of animal advocacy hours are currently dedicated to targeting the animal industry and the government with demands for greater social responsibility and tougher legislation. However, not only is it obvious that this approach is heavily flawed when examined according to the principles of demand and supply, but when you remember that Big Food – along with Big Oil and other huge corporate interests – control the government itself (including tax and subsidy policy makers), it becomes clear that we cannot influence such a powerful and heavily entrenched industry on any large scale – either directly or through government policy.

But again, there is one way in which we do have power over them. If we target our advocacy toward the consumers of animal products, by helping people to understand how and why to become vegan, we can actually help to shift demand toward vegan products and away from animal products and the extreme misery that they cause.


Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition.

Dan Cudahy is author of Unpopular Vegan Essays: Unpopular Essays Concerning Popular Violence Inflicted On The Innocent.

Image: savit keawtavee /

Related Stories:

Animal Cruelty: Who is to Blame?

Are Anti-Cruelty Campaigns Really Effective?

Legal Slavery in the 21st Century

The Importance of Being Vegan


Steven Bryant
Steven Bryant7 years ago

We must all admit that by doing nothing, by keeping quiet we contribute to the cruel treatment of animals.

Monique D.
Mon D7 years ago


Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

Of COURSE there are, Bill K. You said, "it's funny how people point to some unhealthy vegans as somehow proof that a vegan diet doesn't work. are there no unhealthy meat eaters?".........examples of very unhealthy vegans and those who tried such a lifestyle and it ended up with severe issues have been provided to refute remarks made by vegans that such a lifestyle is BETTER than any other way, which is UNHEALTHY because "blah, blah".

Being either vegan or NOT can result in being unhealthy if the diet is not balanced and does not contain all the necessary nutrients the body needs. Some people need different nutrients, others can't digest things are have allergies. There are as many variables as there are people.

Brigid C.
Brigid C7 years ago

Thanks for this article It leaves much to think about

Bill K.
Bill K7 years ago

meat is animal abuse (and human abuse and environment abuse). ethical omnivore is an oxymoron.

it's funny how people point to some unhealthy vegans as somehow proof that a vegan diet doesn't work. are there no unhealthy meat eaters?

Emma S.
Emma S7 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Grace B.
Grace B7 years ago

I wish we would get off of meat in this country. We treat these creatures so badly. We treat them like canned goods, instead of living beings. Go Vegetarian! Its better for you and its better for the environment.

Lilithe Magdalene

Thank you Diane!

I am posting this link (again? was it another thread? can't remember) of a devout vegan who not only got ill following a "nutritionally balanced" vegan diet, but when surveyed all of her friends and acquaintances, found they all supplemented their vegan diets on the sly with animal products - because their bodies were in need of the nutrients:

Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

Again, well said, Lilithe! Maybe more people haven't "come out of the woodwork" for a few reasons........#1, they don't waste time in sites such as Care.2, #2, they don't think it's important enough to SHOUT to the world about their choices, or #3, they're a bit hesitant to explain for fear of being attacked and bashed by the militant vegans who criticize them as James is doing and being called names and an attempt of a guilt-trip being laid on them. So, they keep what they've gone thru to themselves.

Lilithe Magdalene

James, I am thrilled to hear one of your kids did a report on factory farming and how that information has now been shared with the rest of the kids. Great work!

I do hope you are being balanced in your teaching, however, that the alternatives are not just veganism, but responsible animal food shopping if one chooses meat - getting in touch with your local community of farmers, asking questions of those who raise animal foods, making informed choices.

I honor a person's desire to go vegan (even though I personally think they will HAVE to switch to eating some animal products at a future date - I believe it an unsustainable diet for the human body - but you know how I feel about that already) , but I also hope that one such as yourself who is helping to mold the impressionable minds of these kids, gives them as full of a picture as possible, and not imposing your own agenda onto them. Guilt trips about food are EXTREMELY unhealthy for a young mind and a young body.

I will NEVER be a part of your vegan world. Been there, done that, made me sick, makes thousand of others sick (who are fessing up and coming out of the woodwork right now) and is truly a nice idea that is unrealistic. Perhaps your body will be one of the ones to evolve this way. Who knows - it's a magical Universe...