When people find out that you’re vegan, or considering to becoming one, the first question they’ll usually ask is ‘why vegan?’. There’s always a host of other questions, ‘but do you eat fish?’, ‘then what DO you eat?’ and everyone’s favourite ‘where do you get your protein?’.
My initial reason for no longer eating meat was animal cruelty, however I have since learnt so much more about the vegan lifestyle that I now have many other reasons supporting my choice. So here they are, and to prevent me from writing an essay I’ve suggested documentaries for you to find out more about each topic.
Why vegan? For your health, for the planet and for the animals.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines state that ‘appropriately planned vegetarian diets or vegan diets are healthy and nutritionally adequate.’ and the Victorian government backs this up saying a ‘vegan diet can provide many health benefits, such as a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes [and] some types of cancer.’ There are also numerous credible scientific articles that show that a plant-based diet can prevent and in some cases reverse these serious health issues. The youtube video below is a presentation by Michael Greger, M.D., which shows how the top 15 killers in the US (and in all likelihood Australia) can be solved by a vegan diet – it’s well worth a watch, along with my recommended doco.
Recommended documentary on the health aspects of veganism: Forks Over Knives
2. THE PLANET
The farming of animals for consumption is disastrous to our environment and its people. The United Nations announced that livestock is one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Livestock now use over 38% of the earth’s entire land surface, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, and emit a higher amount of greenhouse gas each year than all transport combined (19% of total emissions). Our greed for animal flesh is causing deforestation (with 70% of former forests in the Amazon turned over to grazing), land degradation, water scarcity, water pollution and climate change.
Not only does raising animals to eat negatively effect the environment, but also its people – specifically those living in poverty. Here’s the real shock – nearly 80% of the world’s soybeans and up to 50% of corn is fed to animals killed for meat while 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. In the words of Philip Wollen ‘Poor countries sell their grain to the West while their own children starve in their arms. And we feed it to livestock. So we can eat a steak?… Weapons of Mass Destruction are our knives and forks’. The UN’s suggestion when it comes to the environment and poverty? Go vegan.
Recommended documentary on environmental aspects of veganism: Food Inc.
3. THE ANIMALS
Most people grow up with this image of a farm being a lovely green field where cows, pigs and chickens enjoy the sunlight until their time comes. Sadly, while these farms may have existed in the past, the reality of today is that the vast majority of animals don’t feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.
Did you know that pigs are as smart as a 4 year old child and can be taught tricks? Or that chickens form complex social structures, and can remember up to 100 faces of their mates? All animals are inquisitive individuals who value their lives, solve problems and are capable of using tools. In 2012 The University of Cambridge declared that animals are sentient beings and are capable of emotions, fear and pain.
By nature, humans despise cruelty to animals, but Australia’s ‘animal welfare’ laws deny legal protection to the majority of animals in human care. The laws deliberately exclude animals from protection against cruelty to ensure that animal industries remain as profitable as possible. If someone committed these acts to a puppy the public would riot – but our law makers have deemed it acceptable for bits and pieces to be cut off conscious baby animals to fit them into cruel systems. Baby pigs are castrated and have their teeth and tails removed without anesthetic, chickens are debeaked without pain relief and are modified to grow at a rate that their bodies literally can’t support. The chickens bought in supermarkets were killed for consumption at just 5 weeks old and pigs at just 6 months – they’re still babies.
If their horrible lives were not enough, the ways that they are slaughtered is horrifying. There are daily cases of abuse in farms around the world and in Australia (the most recent here and here). There are so many horrors faced by animals in factory farms, too many to list here, but Animals Australia does a fantastic job of explaining what factory farming means for animals in their Make it Possible campaign.
Edgar’s Mission really do answer the question ‘why vegan’ quite beautifully. “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others… why wouldn’t we?”. It’s possible to not only survive on a vegan diet, but even prevent and reverse disease. We can positively influence the planet by not supporting environmentally unsustainable products, and educating others to do the same. And by voting with our dollar we can lower demand for factory farmed meat to ensure a kinder world for these animals, eliminating the most systematic animal abuse in history.
Don’t ask me why I’m vegan, ask yourself why you’re not.