Many vegans adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle for ethical reasons. While I fall into this category, I recognize that it is impossible to force others to share your moral viewpoints. Also, framing the issue as a moral decision actually does a disservice to the cause of veganism. If the idea that “eating meat/ dairy is wrong” does not resonate with somebody’s own ethical code, then framing the issue this way closes people’s minds to the other ways in which their actions are significant. While I personally could talk for hours about the philosophical question of whether it is “wrong” to unnecessarily harm sentient beings, there are factors that hinder this approach from being wholly effective. People’s core beliefs are influenced by things like their family and personal background, their culture, religion, their environment, and more. Unfortunately, those who are passionate about this issue cannot control all of the aforementioned factors. However, what we can do is provide the facts, particularly since ethics are only one of many reasons why somebody should/could/would go vegan.
Although ethics are debatable, these facts are generally not. I hope the following information inspires you to reduce your consumption of animal products, even if you are not ready to commit to eliminating them entirely!
- Environmental impact:
In case it isn’t obvious, it takes far more resources to feed and sustain livestock, which will then be used as food, than it would to feed people the plant products directly. Yet, over 2/3 of all agricultural land is devoted to feeding livestock, while only 8% is used to grow food for direct human consumption.
Studies have shown that animal agriculture contributes significantly to water use, pollution, and land use, as well as harming our oceans.
Here is a quote from The Guardian, citing research led by Professor Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state:”
Additionally, Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment cites that livestock production comprises 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Since greenhouse gas emissions and climate change go hand-in-hand, this link is not good news. And, we in America are the biggest contributor; the article states that if everybody on Earth were to consume as much meat as we do, the amount of land required for agricultural production would increase by two thirds.
Oh, and if you think eating more “humane” meat (i.e. “free range,” “grass-fed” etc.) is a better idea? Think again; it comes with an even higher environmental cost. Did you know that if we were to raise all cows on grass, cattle would use about half of the country’s land– plus they emit more methane than grain fed cows? That “pastured organic chickens” have a 20% larger impact on global warming? That nutrients from the interruption of the life cycle of animals land in our water systems, a major contributor to pollution? Unfortunately, there’s no way around the environmental degradation that accompanies animal agriculture, besides reducing the need for it.
- Health benefits of a vegetarian diet:
In general, studies have shown that becoming a vegetarian reduces one’s risk for heart disease, cancer (processed meat is a Group 1 carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization- the same as cigarettes!), type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Here is some information from Harvard Health Publications:
And did you know that cholesterol is only found in animal products? So, vegetarians tend to have healthier cholesterol levels than meat eaters, and vegans have some of the healthiest cholesterol levels, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their bodies produce the amount that they need and they do not consume any more through their diet. Yes, cholesterol is only one facet of health, but high cholesterol leads to health risks such as heart attacks, clogged arteries, gallstones and digestive pain, and more.
- Save money! Don’t let the overprocessed, overpriced, specialty vegan foods fool you; a vegan diet is cheaper than the standard omnivore’s diet, not more expensive, if properly planned. (Don’t get me wrong, I do love Gardein ❤ but products like these are not necessary for a healthy vegetarian diet.) I often hear the argument that “being a vegetarian/vegan is a luxury that only the privileged can afford.” This is simply untrue. And don’t just take it from me: you can find more information and anecdotes from a variety of perspectives here, here, here, here, here, and here. Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find a bunch more. Or go to the grocery store and shop in just the produce section, instead of whatever your usual list includes; you might be pleasantly surprised. 😉
It’s pretty easy to maintain a “SAD” (Standard American Diet) lifestyle when it feels like a personal choice, based entirely on preference and what tastes good. But when presented with information about how it impacts the environment, your health, and your wallet, is it still all about preferences? The choices that you make impact the people and world around you more than you might have realized, and it is your purchasing power that determines the success of the industry.
Hopefully this information provides you with the motivation to do some research of your own and make choices that are aligned with the contribution you desire to make on this planet. If there are reasons that you don’t feel inclined to change your habits and begin to consume fewer animal products, I would love for you to comment below and start a discussion!