A lot of people have asked me why I’m vegan recently, so I thought I’d do a post to answer everyone past, present and future at once. In short, there are three reasons:
- I don’t support animal cruelty
- I don’t want to cause uneccessary damage to the environment
- It’s better for my health than a diet involving meat and dairy
Each of these categories could easily be their own post, but I’ll just summarise the main points of each.
Most animals raised for meat come from factory farms, where poor conditions include tight living quarters where the animals often can’t even turn around. Animals are slaughtered in abattoirs by stunning them with an electric shock or a bolt gun, are tied upside down and then have their throats slit.
What about dairy and eggs?
It’s obvious but many people don’t think about the fact that cows (and all milk producing animals) only produce milk while they are pregnant or shortly after. Cows are typically forcibly impregnated, and the male calves are either slaughtered on birth or raised for meat so the mother’s milk can be harvested. The females are killed once they can no longer consistently produce milk. Chickens living in close quarters have their beaks removed to stop them from fighting each other, and can be put under intense 24 hour light to make them lay eggs faster.
What about cruelty free farms?
‘Cruelty free’ is a bit of a misnomer. You can raise an animal in pleasant living conditions their whole life and kill them without them feeling a thing, but that doesn’t justify it any more than you might consider it sane to kill and eat your dog because you like the taste and you do it ‘humanely’.
But if you’re still not convinced…
The effects of animal product consumption on the environment are many-fold.
- It takes 2-2.5 acres of land to grow one cow in a factory farm*. Free range farming is even worse, and can take 10 times the amount of land or even more*. To use some figures from the documentary Cowspiracy, growing beef on a free range farm, and assuming the average meat intake of an American, it would take 3.7 billion acres of land to satisfy beef demand, yet there are only 1.9 billion acres of land on mainland USA*. Not all of this is suitable land either, and the population keeps on growing, which means a lot of land needs to be cleared!
- Factory farms produce significant amounts of waste which ends up in waterways and eventually in the ocean, producing dead zones and harming marine life, and just wrecks the environment in general.
- Livestock has a major greenhouse footprint, and not just from cow farts! The transportation and other associated activities all take energy, not to mention that it takes many kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of meat. Cattle alone accounts for 18% of global greenhouse emissions, compared to just 13% in the transport sector*.
Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher, has stated that “You can’t eat meat and call yourself an environmentalist.”*
But if you’re still not convinced, do it for yourself.
- Most chronic health diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes can be cured with a plant-based, whole foods diet. The risk of getting cancer is non-trivially lower, and even erectile dysfunction is completely curable through a vegan diet!
- Most health concerns about a vegan diet are moot. Vegans get more than enough protein, calcium and iron just by eating a variety of plants. The only supplement a vegan needs to take is vitamin B12, and there are many fortified food options such as soy milk and nutritional yeast available.
- Livestock are given antibiotics en masse to keep them alive, contributing to global antibiotic resistance.
Once you learn a lot about meat and the livestock industry, it’s hard to continue supporting it without some severe level of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy. I intend to do an extended piece on hypocrisy in general, but in the meantime, here are some of my favourite examples.
- “I get distraught when a lion is needlessly shot dead by a dentist or dogs are eaten, but don’t mind when a cow is needlessly killed for my enjoyment, even though there are plenty of alternative products.”
- “I can’t change, I’ve been doing this my whole life and humans have been doing it for a long time.” If this is an excuse you use, it’s hard to justify getting upset at slavers of the 17th century, as they could say the exact same thing to justify their ‘choice’, even though they’re not just choosing for themselves.
- “It’s wrong to force your opinion on your kids and make them eat vegan.” Generally said by people who force their way of eating meat on their kids. Also said by those who don’t mind advertisements that tell (not suggest) people to eat meat, e.g. ‘Real men eat…’ above a meat section (I couldn’t make this up).
- “Ugh tofu tastes disgusting!” Referring to an uncooked tofu. A bag of flour also tastes pretty bland uncooked.
- “Aren’t you concerned about your health?” Generally said by people who consume a lot of red meat and cow milk, which are both quite bad for your health.
If you consume an average amount of meat, every day you have the choice to save 4164 litres of water, 20 kg of grain, 2.8 square metres of forest, 9 kg of CO2 and 1 animal’s life*.
If, like me, you decide you want to do more, you might consider donating to a charity such as the Humane League who produce and distribute advertising to encourage people to consume less animal products. In fact, the Humane League is so effective at what it does, it takes less than $1 to reduce 1 year of animal suffering, not including the other benefits.
Effect on me
People often ask me what the hardest part about being vegan is. “I bet you really miss meat.” “How do you get all your protein?” The hardest, and only hard part about being vegan is being insulted by non-vegans who don’t understand. I work in a professional setting and regularly am made fun of for my ethical choice. People might think it’s just a bit of fun, but it hurts, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s bullying, and it’s not ok. There’s no difference between making fun of someone for being vegan and calling them a rabbit or joking that you’ll make a salad for them and making fun of someone for what they wear or any other choice they make. I’ve been told by someone that they were embarrassed to introduce me to their friends because I was vegetarian. Even if you don’t decide to consume less animal products, I urge you to take care with what you say about those who do. Besides that, I’ve never been happier or felt more satisfied in life since going vegetarian and eventually vegan.
I hope you also decide to make the switch for the environment, for the animals and for yourself. If you have any questions I would love for you to get in touch or leave a comment!
If you’d like to hear more I’d highly recommend you watch Cowspiracy, which is now available free on Youtube. A lot of the figures and facts used here (marked with a *) are sourced from there.