Why Vegan?

 

Veganism is the practice of not consuming any animal products. By choosing a vegan diet, you eat food that is 100% plant-based. However, food consumption is just one of many aspects in your life that contribute to your vegan lifestyle. Others range from the clothes you wear (think: leather, wool, silk) to the upholstery you sit on (hello leather sofas) to the cosmetics lathered on your face (remember the Tested on Animals label?). There are a number of arguments for adopting a vegan lifestyle. Below, you will find them categorized into 3 sections:

  • People: that’s you!
  • Animals: they’re being used
  • Earth: it’s facing the negative consequences

Heads up: When I use “meat” or “the meat industry” from here on out, I’m talking not only about eating meat, but also dairy and eggs, and the consumption of animal products more generally, including, say, wool or leather.

People

In today’s world, who doesn’t want to look like the next Kardashian? I’ve had friends going on the keto diet, vowing to jog a half-marathon every morning, even doing guilt-crunches while snacking on Oreos. Nope, not kidding, although I wish I could say I was making that last one up! If only they’d consider giving up meat and dairy..

Whether you’re looking to slim down or just stay healthy, eating meat is probably not the most effective way to do it. In fact, it’s actually going to harm you. While there is much debate on what kind of diet the human body was designed for, you’ll find little on how the body was meant to consume industrialized, processed food. For better or worse, meat in the way we consume it today is toxic for our body. There are different stages at which toxins enter the meat we eventually consume, so here’s a quick breakdown for you.

Stages at which meat can become harmful:

  • Feed fed to animals is of low quality and often has pesticides, which deprives the animals of nutrients.
  • Hormones injected into the animals are absorbed by and stay in the meat.
  • Animal hormones are often found in meat. Dairy, for instance, is high on estrogen since it is produced by a cow during lactation.
  • In fact, when an animal is slaughtered, the flight-or-fight hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine) released by the animal stay in the meat.
  • The proteins contained in meat are high in saturated fats and cholesterol (unlike plant-based proteins).
  • Meat also contains carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
  • Heme iron, found in meat, is potentially carcinogenic.
  • Meat has little to no fiber.
  • The World Health Organization labeled processed meat carcinogenic.
  • During the processing of meat, fecal contamination is not uncommon.
  • Compounds used to preserve meat – nitrates, nitrites, sugar and other chemicals – are unhealthy at best and toxic at worst.
  • Transporting meat over large distances, from farms to stores to individual kitchens leads to the freezing and refreezing of meat, leading to spoilage and bacterial growth.
  • The cooking of meat, especially at a high temperature, releases carcinogenic compounds including HCAs and PAHs.
  • Meat found in restaurants is often fried, overcooked and unaccompanied by vegetables.

When you consume meat, your body fights these toxins to protect you. But by continuing to consume meat frequently, you’re not making it easier for your body. Sooner or later, it’s going to get too tired, incapable of holding off the negative consequences of meat. In fact, the consumption of has been linked to numerous diseases – physical, cognitive and psychological.

Negative health consequences of meat:

But even as you debate giving up meat, you’ll start to wonder how you’ll meet your nutritional requirements, right? Let’s look at one such example – protein. After all, meat is the primary source of protein in our diet today. But did you know there’s actually an epidemic on the verge – we’re are consuming too much protein! A toxic substance in excess, the protein isn’t being digested by our bodies and instead, it’s leading to nutritional deficiencies. The cure? Increasing our fibre intake through fruits and vegetables. Convinced yet?

Animals

You’ve probably heard the arguments against animal cruelty:

Animals are living, breathing, conscious beings. Are you comfortable committing murder just to satisfy your tastebuds?

But I promise, I’m not here to shame you. If you like meat, by all means, go ahead. My only goal here is to make sure you’re fully informed in the decisions you make. The gruesome details surrounding animal cruelty can be repulsive and rarely does one want to hear about the torture and guts-and-gore. But that ignorance often leads to a discrepancy between behavior and values system. So I urge you to stay with me through this section, even if you want to turn away, close your browser window, and never think of veganism again. In fact, something you might find helpful is to close your eyes and take a deep breath each time you want to stop. Then, try again.

Given the current global political climate, even if you hadn’t before, you’ve probably heard of the term racism by now. Yes, that’s the idea where skin color determines the worth of an individual. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that racism was really questioned. Today, society has moved to a direction whereby one’s race and skin color doesn’t, and shouldn’t, impact the importance or inherent value of an individual.  And that’s what’s happening today with an analogous concept: speciesism. Speciesism is the idea that the lives of certain animals, say dogs, are worth preserving, while those of other animals, say lambs, are not. Recently however, this idea of speciesism is coming under scrutiny and people are rising up, arguing that all animals are equal. After all, if you won’t eat your dog, why would you eat a lamb?

This problem is amplified by the meat industry, which doesn’t just use and kill animals, but actually tortures them. Animals live in cramped spaces, either stuffed in enclosures with others like them or in cages far smaller than what they need. They are artificially impregnated repeatedly to ensure continuous supply of meat from the newborn. When the animal’s body gives way, the animal is transported to slaughterhouses. This journey to slaughterhouses is brutal for the animals. If traffic accidents don’t kill them, then the lack of food and rest does. In summers, the heat causes dehydration; in winters, the cold is so extreme that they arrive frozen. Those who don’t die arrived injured, if lucky. Eventually, they are slaughtered for their flesh.

Let’s take a closer look at four specific animals: hens, cows, pigs and sheep.

Hens

  • The sheer number of chickens to be accommodated in a given space is so unfavorable that their living quarters are far too small for them.
  • They live in such close quarters that they cannot even spread their wings.
  • In fact, they are debeaked and declawed just so that they don’t hurt each other out of frustration.
  • A free-range certification simply means that the chickens can spend an hour or two in the open. Out of 24.
  • If they are killed in a factory-farm, they are hung upside-down by their feet and go along a machine which snaps their neck.
  • If they are killed in small-scale slaughterhouses  or independent kitchens, they are de-feathered and then boiled alive.

Cows

  • A calf is separated from it’s mother early at birth.
    • A male calf is slaughtered for meat within 3 months of it’s birth.
    • A female calf is reared on dairy farms.
  • This separation is so traumatic for the mother cow that she stops lactating.
  • To reduce her stress, one of the calves born is killed and his/her head is stuffed. It is then hung up, so the mother cow can see a baby and continues to lactate.
  • In factories, cows are placed on a circulating platform, provided with fodder, placed in the middle of the platform, and attached to tubes which pump them 24*7.
  • On farms, cows are branded, dehorned and castrated.
  • In a slaughterhouse, the cow is shot in the head using a captive bolt. She is then hung up from one foot, her throat is cut and finally, she is skinned and gutted. But that’s not even the horrific part. Often, the cow is conscious during the entire process, so she is killed piece-by-piece.

Pigs

  • Pigs are injected with hormones to make them bigger, thereby increasing the amount of flesh on each individual pig.
    • They grow so fat that their feet can no longer support the weight of their bodies.
  • At the same time, their cages are kept small so that a farm can accommodate the greatest number of pigs possible.
    • In fact, they are so small that the pigs have no space to turn around within the cage, let alone walk or lie comfortably.
  • The combination of small cages, large bodies and little movement is so extreme that often, their flesh begins to grow around the iron bars in the cage.
  • In slaughterhouses, the stunning mechanism for pigs is so ineffective that they are often boiled alive.

Sheep / Lamb

  • Sheep are sheared for their wool before being killed for their meat.
  • Workers are compensated by the volume of wool sheared rather than the time spent, so work very quickly. In the process, they end of cutting off parts of the sheep and lamb, including strips of skin, teats, tails and even ears.
  • Because the sheep are in pain, they protest. To prevent this, they are anesthetized. How? They are beaten and physically abused until they pass out.
  • To further increase their volume of wool, they are bred to have wrinkly skin. However, the increase of wool increases their body temperature so dramatically that they actually die.
  • The wrinkled skin is also a prime spot for flies, bugs and maggots, all of which eat the sheep alive.
  • To prevent this phenomenon, farmers artificially reduce the amount of wrinkly skin by carving out portions of it, especially around their bottom. This process is called mulesing.
  • On farms, their ears are punched with holes, their tails are chopped, and they are castrated.

Earth

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working hard at making life mulitplanetary. Till that happens, however, we have one Earth. Just the one. You and I and over 7 billion others have to share it. And like it or not, we’re not doing a great job 🙁 Our activities are releasing toxins and pollutants into our environment, bringing about global warming and climate change. One such activity is consumption of meat.

Unfortunately, research on the impact of the meat industry is few and far between. What exists, often contradicts one-another statistically. However, all research agrees on the negative impact of the meat industry on our Earth. I’m going to break the facts into three broad categories – what’s going into the meat industry, what’s coming out of the meat industry and the mere existence of the meat industry.

What’s going into the meat industry

Land and Water

The meat industry’s profits depend upon maximizing the amount of meat it can produce. The two ways to increase the meat is to increase the flesh on each animal while simultaneously increasing the total number of animals.

This process has resulted in there being too many animals for the earth to sustain.

When it comes to land usage, feeding animals is ever-so-problematic. If you favor factory-farms, a ridiculously large number of the world’s ice-free surface is used to produce feed for animals within the industry. On the other hand, natural grazing leads to soil erosion. Water is as worrisome. Leaving aside the large quantities of water that animals drink, producing their feed uses irrigated ground and surface water. This usage, in turn, depletes the underground water, which is now dangerously low.

What’s coming out of the meat industry

Waste and Pollution

Here’s the thing about an industry: it produces waste.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the clothing industry or fashion industry or the toy industry, manufacturing generates waste. While we can certainly go down the rabbit hole of discussing how all industries are terrible and mere civilization is the root of all evil, let’s instead focus on those industries which generate more wastes than others. What’s frightening is the amount of wastes generated by the meat industry alone (this article actually ranks food in the top four most wasteful industries!  and how rapidly its accelerating climate change. Waste is produced by the meat industry at each stage of production. In the farms, the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow animal feed, along with the hormones injected into animals, are disposed into the environment. They run-off into the water, air and soil, generating nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide. At the next stage, the slaughterhouses dump toxic pollutants into the water and land around them, impacting the natural wildlife that may exist. Finally, during distribution and consumption, a large proportion of the meat itself is thrown out, which effectively wastes all the resources used to produce it.

The industry is considered one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

Now whether this is 51% as claimed by PETA or 18% as claimed by FAO (Pg: 112) is really beside the point. The industry consumes fossil fuels at shocking rates. Let’s begin by thinking about the feed given to animals. Growing this feed utilizes pesticides and fertilizers, the production and transportation of which consumes fossil fuels. Speaking of transportation, getting this feed to the animals, the animals from farms to slaughterhouses, and meat from slaughterhouses to the consumer, all require fuel. And even when the meat gets to the consumer, it is frozen, stored and cooked, each step of which expends fossil fuels. All this, of course, is above the massive amounts of energy that is required to run a farm. While fossil fuels are the “expected” source of greenhouse gases, what causes just as much emission is the animal itself. Animals, especially cows, digest their food using a process known as enteric fermentation, which releases methane and nitrous dioxide, two rather harmful greenhouse gases. All animals also produce manure, polluting the air and water. All this is just to say that cow’s burps and poop are toxic for the environment.

Existence of the meat industry

Loss of Biodiversity

When I first read about the food cycle in middle school, it seemed like an obvious conclusion that I was evolutionarily supposed to eat lamb (my then go-to meat preference). After all, don’t all predators eat their prey? If only I had paused to picture myself hunting in the savannah, I’d know that even a chicken was more likely to eat me than I a lamb. What I was unaware of at that age was the difference between natural hunting for survival and the mass scale at which factory farms produce meat for today’s meat industry. Because that’s exactly what our source of meat is – an industry. Its goal is to maximize efficiency, increasing yield at the lowest cost, without much thought to what the earth can or cannot sustain. While this approach certainly favors short-term affordability of meat, it doesn’t account for long-term availability of it.

Did you know, there is a mass extinction currently in progress? The sixth, in fact, in about 540 million years. The sole cause? Human beings. The leading contributor? Meat consumption.

We have wiped out entire species of animals in each of the six continents we inhabit. In 1992, scientists from around the world came together to warn humanity of the detrimental environmental impact our lifestyles were having. 25 years later, they were forced to give out a second notice. Their Warning to Humanity reemphasized the need to “transition to sustainability”, including “promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods”.

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Veganoholics are either already vegans or have chanced upon the concept and want to know more, whether or not they are considering the lifestyle themselves. This website is designed to cater to their various needs, be it understanding the vegan lifestyle, or implementing it. If you have absolutely any questions, comments or concerns, please don't hesitate in reaching out!

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