With more and more Americans learning how inhumanely many farm animals are treated, the interest in combating factory farming is higher than ever. Groups like The Humane Society of the United States are seeing an upsurge of public interest in the issue, especially as more whistleblowing exposés of slaughter plants continue pricking our national conscience.

Of course, evidence of the progress in farm animal protection is all around us. Ag-gag legislation that could restrict our ability to expose farm animal cruelty is going down in flames. Massive retailers like McDonald’s are banning the cruelest standard farming practices — like confining pigs and egg-laying chickens in tiny cages that immobilize them.

This is all good news. After all, nearly all of the animals we abuse in our nation are farm animals, and they suffer in ways that many people would find hard to even watch.

But these types of gains for animals are representative of huge societal shifts. It makes many wonder: how can one person make a difference?

How You Can Stand up to Factory Farms

Before asking others to change, we need to look inward and wonder how we can do better ourselves. That means starting with our own plate. Fortunately, meat reduction programs like Meatless Monday and Vegan Before 6 are more popular than ever.  For great animal-free recipes to get you started, check out The HSUS’s free recipe library.

With this in mind, we have three (maybe more) opportunities a day to make a big difference. Our food choices allow us to have a positive impact on several important issues all at once: Fighting factory farming, creating a sustainable food supply, decreasing diet-related disease, and saving us money on food and healthcare costs. It’s hard to think of any other daily decision that saves us money and simultaneously saves the planet, our health and animals.

Getting Started

It’s exciting to find that you can have such a positive impact with simple food choices.

Getting started might mean embracing Meatless Monday where you give your body a holiday from meat once a week. Maybe you eliminate one animal product from your diet one day a week, or limit how often you eat meat to only on weekends. How about trying renowned food journalist Mark Bittman’s “VB6” idea: eating vegan before 6 p.m. every day?

If you’re simply starting with one meal a week, check this out: The Environmental Defense Fund said that if we in the U.S. all just replaced one meal of chicken a week with vegetables and grains, the carbon dioxide savings would be as if we removed half a million cars from U.S. roads!

After getting our own house in order, it’s time to start changing the world.

Talking With Family and Friends

In considering the power of community and the role food plays in our social circles, you could be the make-or-break factor for others trying to eat healthier, more humane and sustainable meals. The simple gesture of including a meat-free option at your dinner parties or choosing a restaurant that has veg options (even Burger King has a veggie burger these days) can greatly help our friends along the way. Livening up our colleagues’ work day with delicious plant-based food is a fun and generous way to help, too!

Spread the Word

Remember how you became familiar with the issues of factory farming? Chances are it took hearing about the issues more than once. Consider writing a letter or op-ed for your local newspaper, suggest Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” for your book club, host a screening of “Forks Over Knives,” or share information on your social media pages. You may be surprised how those you think might not be paying attention become the next to join you in the fight—I certainly have been.

Don’t be Shy to Ask for More Options

Do you have a child who wants more veg options in school or are you looking for something better to eat in your company’s cafeteria? Just ask! It’s amazing what we can get if we just ask. Think of some specific ideas of what else you’d like to see – perhaps protein-packed three bean chili for schools or a veggie burger for your workday lunch spot.

Say “Thanks!”

If your school district or cafeteria already has great veg options, have you thanked them for it? Communication about plant-based foods and praise for those taking steps in the right direction is how we as a community are going to best fight factory farming. And so I must say, thank you for joining the fight!

To learn more about how you can use your food choices to benefit animals, the environment, and your own health, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

Lead image source: Farm Sanctuary/Flickr