The rise of animal-friendly products, including cruelty-free and vegan ranges, is creating jobs within the food industry.
While many people fear loss of jobs due to the reduction of animal farming, a radio show explored how new jobs are also being created at the same time.
Radio show discussion
The subject of animal cruelty, and the way that we are changing our treatment of animals, was brought up in BBC Radio 4’s Futurproofing show. Presented by Timandra Harkness and Leo Johnson, the show examines subjects with expert points of view in order to help us understand how things may be changing in the future.
Harkness opened the show with this thought: "We've always treated animals as necessities for what we want: to eat them, wear them - but people are starting to question 'should we treat them this badly?'"
Jacy Reese is the Co-Founder and Research Director of the Sentience Institute. His view may be very interesting to those in food jobs, as he talked about the big changes which are currently going on in the world of animal farming. In particular, he stressed the sentience of animals, how they feel, and how the way they are treated on farms can be very cruel.
Harkness wondered what might happen to the species of animals that we currently breed for farming purposes – such as cows, pigs, and sheep – if we stopped farming them. Reese countered that these species have been domesticated and born in order for them to suffer for our benefit, and that there is no real value in keeping them alive just for the sake of it. Moreover, we have interfered directly in their evolution, and if left to themselves, they would have gone in a very different direction.
Worry about jobs
Reese also spoke about the concerns that are often brought up by farmers and others with production and food manufacturing jobs. He said, "With any technological transition there is a temporary employment cost. You've seen this with typewriters turning into computers, you've seen it with horse and buggies turning into cars, and ultimately it seems worth it for society. I do think it's going to be a cost and they will need to transition, fortunately with the efficiency gains, and the job opportunities within animal-free food, there's lots of room for change."
In order to support this point, Reese described a dairy in New York which stopped producing dairy milk and switched over to nut-based milk instead. Despite this change, they are still a valuable employer for the local economy.
There are opportunities for employment wherever a new type of production opens up. As we see more of these alternative products coming to the market – such as the development of lab-grown meat, which is approaching a commercial reality – there will be more jobs created in their manufacture. For a while, this will provide a jobs boost, as we produce both meat-based and alternative products in tandem. Should the meat industry die off – a reality which is far from certain – there will be a loss of jobs in that area, but only momentarily, according to Reese. Those who find themselves unemployed will soon be able to replace their work with the new manufacturing and production lines that open up – we still need to produce the same amount of food for people to eat, no matter where it is coming from.
Speaking about the show after it had aired, Reese said: "One of the big arguments for an animal-free food system is the sheer inefficiency of using animals. This is very convincing since it doesn't rely on the better angels of human nature. It just relies on undeniable biological facts… the days of animal exploitation are numbered."
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