For the Animals
While it’s easy to give the facts such as how many animals die each year for human consumption, or speak about the conditions they face, sharing graphic details and images, I tend to try to appeal to people’s hearts. In the end, when you choose to consume animal products, you choose to consume the suffering and death of another living creature with family, who can feel pain, and has a sense of the world around them (although it might be a very harsh, negative one because of what they’ve endured). Why not make a conscious effort to choose foods and products that do not contribute to harming another? *And yes, plant based foods can sometimes contribute to harm of other humans (remember that there are also unfair/dangerous conditions for humans who work producing meat, dairy, and eggs as well) in which I suggest you check out the Food Empowerment Project for more details on how to choose food that is ethical for all.
One of my favorite vegan role models happens to be an animal, her name is Esther the Wonder Pig. She was adopted by her family as a baby when they thought she was a miniature pig. But she was actually a full size pig! Since then, her family’s love for grew along with her, and she has become a social media celebrity. Her family shares pictures of her chilling with dogs, wearing costumes, sleeping peacefully, and more. Now there is an animal sanctuary named after her, Happily Ever Esther. Esther is the perfect example of the hypocrisy of choosing some animals to love and some to destroy; she shows us that farm animals are worthy of our love. The Someone, not Something section of Farm Sanctuary’s (another large animal sanctuary, non profit, educational organization) website is a great resource in learning more about the emotions, intelligence, and behaviors that characterize farm animals.
Personally, I feel so much better as a vegan, both physically and mentally. My food choices reflect my ethics and speak to my desire not to cause any un-necessary suffering, which helps me feel at ease. I feel that I am contributing to positive change in the world, and saving lives.
There are also many potential health benefits of going vegan. When eating vegan, you do not consume dietary cholesterol. This can be helpful for people who have struggles with their cholesterol, have a history of heart problems in their families, or other medical conditions. Animal products can also contribute to hypertension, heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and more. It is even said that the antibiotics given to farm animals people eat are contributing to the prevalence of antibiotic resistant infections.
Think you can’t meet your fitness goals without meat or dairy? There are some really amazingly successful athletes that are vegan. Here is a link to the most comprehensive list of vegan athletes I could find so far on the web in one place. Personally, I was able to lose over 50 pounds by eating in a healthy vegan way, which led me to take on more challenging fitness goals, like running a half marathon. I see that as icing on the cake though, along with all the other amazing things going vegan can do. Like this delicious raspberry lime cupcake, with the most amazing frosting I’ve ever tasted on top:
Speaking of cake, outsiders often suggest vegans are deprived by their food choices. But vegans can still indulge in treats! There are tasty substitutions for almost every dish you could think up. I personally think vegan cupcakes taste better than their dairy-based counterparts. There are vegan marshmallows (I put a container of Sweet and Sara marshmallows out at a party once, and everyone told me they taste better than regular marshmallows!), pizza, pastries, chocolate bars, donuts, waffles, sausage, cheeses, burgers, etc. If you can think of it, someone has probably veganized it, and if not, you should get on that!
For the Earth
The fact is that animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to global warming and pollution at about 18%. It contributes 9% to carbon dioxide emissions, 37% in methane gas, and 65% in nitrous oxide emissions (LEAD 2006). The water used in farming is by far greater than that the everyday use of humans living in residential areas. It takes about “1,799 gallons of water to create one pound of beef, 576 gallons for one pound of pork, 468 gallons for one pound of chicken, and 216 gallons for one pound of soybeans” (Henning 2011). In addition to using a large amount of water, it also pollutes water through runoff full of animal waste and pesticides from the crops that are grown to feed the animals. In a time where fresh, clean water is becoming scarce, we cannot afford to further mess with our water supply. The demand for more meat and space to grow the feed for the animals is also resulting in deforestation and land degradation around the world. If the land used for animal agriculture was used for growing food that directly feeds the human population (ie: plants that can be fed to humans instead of being fed to animals that people eat), this could lead to some major improvements for both the environment and potentially for world hunger. If you care about the environment, becoming a vegan is one of the most logical steps you can take to reduce your negative impact.
LEAD. The Livestock, Environmental, and Development Initiative. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. Rome: FAO. Retrieved from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e.pdf
Henning, B. (2011). Standing in Livestock’s ”Long Shadow”: The Ethics of Eating Meat on a Small Planet. Ethics & The Environment, 16(2), 63. doi:10.2979/ethicsenviro.16.2.63