There are many reasons why people choose a vegan lifestyle: ethics and compassion for animals, worker justice, caring for the planet, and improved health. I have included information about each of these areas, with resources and links if you would like to learn more.
Compassion for Animals
If slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.Sir Paul McCartney
- Farm animals are sentient beings, and have feelings, personalities, and social relationships, just as our beloved cats and dogs do.
- 80 billion animals are slaughtered every year for food, and these numbers are increasing (www.awellfedworld.org). 10 billion animals are slaughtered each year in the US alone.
- 99% of all meat comes from industrialized animal agriculture (also known as factory farms).
- Animals raised in factory farms live in extremely confined, unsanitary conditions for the short duration of their lives. Most are given no access to sunlight or the outdoors, and suffer from painful procedures, deformities, stress, and disease. Their short lives end in an inhumane slaughter process.
- Even farms that describe themselves as humane may not be as “humane” as you think…and with the amount of meat currently being consumed worldwide, they are not a sustainable option.
- To learn more about the impact of animal agriculture, check out Melanie Joy, Ph.D.’s thought-provoking TEDx talk: Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices.
Compassion for Workers
- Workers in slaughterhouses and factory farms experience high risk of injuries and exposure to disease and respiratory illness
- Statistically, slaughterhouse workers tend to come from low income families, and 72% are born outside the United States (the majority from Mexico). They are often paid wages at or below the poverty line, and do not have power to advocate for better working conditions or pay (https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/the-human-victims-of-factory-farming/)
- During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid outbreaks of the virus in meatpacking plants, employees were forced to work (even with COVID symptoms) or face risk of losing their jobs.
Caring for the Environment
- Livestock production is responsible for more of the world’s greenhouse gases than the entire transport industry, including cars, planes, transport trucks, and boats (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
- Eating a plant-based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%
- Deforestation: 80% of the 3 million trees that are cut down every day are due to livestock production (mostly for grazing and growing feed)
- 60% of global biodiversity loss is due to land cleared for meat-based diets (World Wildlife Fund)
- US livestock produces 396 tons of manure annually, which ends up contaminating lakes, rivers, and our drinking water, and creating ocean dead zones.
- The world’s cattle alone consume an amount of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people – more than the entire human population
- 50% of the world’s grain is fed to livestock, while nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night.
- Eating plant-based (no meat or dairy) saves 1500 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, and 30 square feet of forest daily (Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time).
Physical Health and Disease Reversal
- Eating a whole food plant-based diet has been shown by research to prevent and reverse heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and some types of cancer and autoimmune diseases (How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D.)
- Eating a plant-based diet, along with other healthy lifestyle changes, has been shown to reverse early stages of cognitive decline, and may prevent the onset of more severe dementia.
- Not only does plant-based nutrition help to lessen risk of disease, it also can enhance athletic fitness, performance, and endurance, as shown by many vegan athletes.
- Mental and emotional well-being is improved by increasing fruit and vegetable intake and lessening or eliminating inflammatory foods (such as processed foods, meat, and dairy).
Ethical, Moral, and Spiritual Values
- Many spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions teach the importance of ahimsa, or non-violence. Ahimsa is the principle of holding respect for all living things, and avoiding harm or violence whenever it is in our power to do so.
- The major religions agree on a core message of compassion and not killing or harming others, particularly the vulnerable.
- Choosing not to consume animals or to use their “products” is an active choice toward nonviolence.
- Gary Francione, Professor of Law and Philosophy, states: “Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.“