While on the surface, this does sound like good news -- I knew that there was more to this story -- and it wasn't good. While it is true that MORE PEOPLE in the US are choosing to eat LESS meat, there is also a subset of people (mostly motivated by weight loss -- of the low-carb sort) who are eating more meat. Furthermore, some people eating less meat, are substituting more dairy and eggs for that meat (the main problem with the "Meatless Monday's" campaign.) If you look into the production of dairy and eggs -- you will see that there is actually MORE cruelty in them then meat:
Female cows and chickens (who we steal dairy and eggs from) are enslaved longer, have their reproductive systems exploited, and suffer the loss of their children -- before finally ending up in the very same slaughterhouses as the animals who are raised "just" for meat. But beyond that, the bigger issue is that due to a growing export market for animals' bodies and their excretions, any decreases in domestic consumption are being more then offset by demand for these elsewhere. So there are actually more and more industrial animal farms being constructed.
This is why I am not in the camp of --strategies whose purpose is primarily to just get people to "reduce" their meat intake. While I agree, it is better for many reasons if individuals who ARE eating animals, DO cut back, for those of us who appreciate the damage eating animals and their excretions does to the planet and to the animals, I think WE must encourage them to END this practice. As a practical matter, if upon hearing the information, THEY choose to cut back instead of stop -- then that is THEIR choice, and we can support it with the understanding that it is on the way to ending this harm -- but WE should still encourage people to stop contributing to exploitation and violence.
It's like if you are trying to help a man to stop beating his wife and he tells you, "Look -- I know it's bad, and hurts her, but I just am not ready to stop completely -- so I will just do it a whole lot less." What should our position be? Well of course less is better then more -- but it's still causing harm right? As a general matter, should we approach wife abusers and tell them, "Look, we know it's hard to break this habit -- so could you just please limit it to once or twice a week -- that would be so much better"?
Furthermore -- the exportation of animal products from the US will continue no matter how much we get Americans to cut down unless/until we get people to appreciate that exploitation and violence in our relationship with animals is fundamentally the problem. This is also why I find the shift from CAFO meat/dairy/eggs to Local/organic/small-farm problematic as well. Not only does it do nothing to challenge the fundamental exploitation and violence, but often people who have made this shift, feel like they "arrived" at their destination and are even more desensitized to the injustice associated with it. (Furthermore, as a practical matter, when people tell me that they buy their meat and dairy from local farms -- upon further questioning it becomes clear, that at parties and restaurants they still eat whatever is served.) But once public perception shifts so that most people recognize that ALL SLAVERY is a violation of deeply held moral values that most of us do subscribe to, then you won't find CAFO's being able to expand in rural areas and then both domestic consumption AND export will significantly decrease. THAT will be true progress.
From the perspective of the animals and the perspective of maintaining a livable planet -- it makes zero difference whether the animals being raised and killed are being eaten in this country or eaten in other countries. When animal advocacy organizations try to call what is happening some sort of win (in order of course to keep people donating to them!) it is a waste of resources and a distraction for those who really are wanting to make a difference.