What is veganism?
Veganism is not a diet; it is a lifestyle. In everything we do, vegans aim to mimimise animal suffering. This means that:
- Vegans do not eat meat or animal products such as eggs, milk, gelatine, honey, shellac, cochineal and anything else that comes from an animal.
- Vegans choose cotton, bamboo or synthetic fibres for their clothes and shoes, and avoid leather, wool or silk.
- Vegans use cosmetics and household products that do not contain animal products and are not tested on animals.
- Vegans contribute to animal sanctuaries and not to zoos.
- Vegans find their animal friends at rescue centres and not through pet breeders.
It has never been easier! It is impossible to avoid animal exploitation ENTIRELY at the present time; animal products can be found in building materials like plywood, clothes dye, cars, computers, life-saving medicines…the list goes on. The good news is that veganism is growing fast, and alternatives are appearing all the time.
The Vegan Society’s definition is this: Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
It isn’t always easy to go against the grain. Wouldn’t it just be simpler not to think about it and carry on doing what everyone else does?
Here are my top three reasons for going vegan:
1. The meat, dairy and egg industries are inherently cruel. The animals exist only to be used for commercial gain. Would you want to swap places with any one of them? Whether it’s a male chick destined for the grinder, a dairy cow (who spends 10 months of every year being artificially milked, after having her calf taken from her) or an organic, free-range, grass-fed animal from a picturesque farm in the countryside, all have their lives drastically shortened, and all are sent to the slaughterhouse. Pigs and lambs who could have lived for 12 years are sent to slaughter at just 5 or 6 months. Chickens are killed for eating when they are about 6 weeks old, when they could have lived for 8 years or more. You might think eating eggs causes no death, but hens are sent to slaughter at about 18 months when their laying declines, and up to 40 million day-old male chicks are killed each year in Britain alone as an unwanted by-product of the egg industry. More than a million people in the UK have now made the decision to go vegan, and many more are beginning to reduce their meat and dairy consumption and eat more plant-based foods, which in turn are more readily-available. Animals feel fear and pain. Is it justifiable to use them as commodities when we don’t even need to?
2. There is mounting evidence that eating meat, eggs and milk increases the risk of some life-threatening diseases (such as heart disease) and ultimately, an untimely death. Conversely, eating more nuts, fruits and vegetables and fibre has a protective effect. There are numerous studies on diet and they all seem to differ slightly, but none conclude that eating animal protein confers any sort of advantage; they all suggest the opposite.
Here are some unbiased links:
Processed meats do cause cancer – BBC news
Calcium and milk – Harvard
ALL diets should be well-planned, and a well-planned vegan diet is healthy for people at every stage of life, including during infancy, pregnancy and old age. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds are packed with all of the protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and fats that your body needs. There is plenty of advice available, in addition to nutrition charts and food-tracker apps that you could use if you need some extra reassurance.
3. Veganism is much, much better for the environment. No one can deny that animal agriculture is the most inefficient way of feeding people possible; it uses more land, more water and more fossil fuels, whilst also giving off far more greenhouse gases. One billion people in the world go to bed hungry, and yet an extra FOUR BILLION people could be fed using the grain that is currently fed to farmed animals.
One major concern is the amount of land needed for animal agriculture (including the land needed to grow crops for animal feed). Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to 85% of endangered animals. Every year, millions of hectares of natural habitats (such as tropical rain-forests) are lost to agriculture. It is estimated that desertification claims a further twelve million hectares.
As well as causing habitat destruction, animal agriculture wastes water. Raising animals uses an absolutely staggering amount of water. Estimates vary, but one study suggests that refraining from eating a single beefburger saves as much water as not showering for THREE MONTHS! I know which I would rather do.
Raising animals for food is so damaging to the environment that in February 2017, the German government banned meat at official functions. Vegans have the smallest carbon footprint, and happily, going vegan will reduce your carbon footprint more than giving up your car! You can decrease it further by buying more locally grown fruit and vegetables.
Red meat production is especially damaging to the environment. Eating 1kg of lamb produces harmful emissions that are equivalent to 39.2kg of carbon dioxide, or driving your car for a whopping 91 miles. Lentils, on the other hand, produce the equivalent of 0.9kg of carbon dioxide – just 2 miles in your car!
The question should definitely be “Why not?”