Why would you adopt and continue a vegan diet? There are many reasons. The health benefits alone, are a great reason to go vegan!
Diet is the cause of many of the chronic diseases in the western world today. This has been a growing problem over the last 50 years due to the availability of food 24/7. Fast food is now the norm in the western world and is gaining in popularity as developing countries become more affluent. It is high in meat, sugar and fat, causing a rise in obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The World Health Organisation has classified red meat as a Class 2 carcinogen. Smoked and cured meats are also known to be carcinogenic. Reducing or avoiding them altogether is advisable for good health.
A vegan diet can reduce obesity and help prevent or improve some of these chronic diseases. Most people find they lose some weight by eating a wholefood plant based diet. Eating more fruit and vegetables will also give you a much higher level of nutrients. A well balanced plant based diet provides all essential nutrients for health in all age groups.
Meat is also quite unnecessary for good health when we can easily obtain all essential nutrients on a plant based diet. If you are eating meat, you are eating it because you like the taste, not because it is essential.
The meat and dairy industries are very powerful as lobby groups and will do just about anything to discredit the science in regard to what is healthy. They run ad campaigns promoting milk for strong bones or the successful campaign to “put pork on your fork”. They avoid any facts such as the numbers of people with milk intolerance or allergies, or that studies have shown milk doesn’t help prevent bone fractures. Humans are the only animal to continue to drink milk after weaning. It is not something we need to do!
To read more on this –
Antibiotic use in intensive farming has negative impacts on human health and future health care capabilities
The use of antibiotics in factory farming can have a detrimental effect on our health. Humans are already at risk of poorer health outcomes or death as sometimes no antibiotics are available for the new strains of bacteria due to antibiotic resistance. This will only get worse if antibiotic use is continued at the current rate or usage increases in the future.
More antibiotics are used in farming than for human use, as there is a great risk of infection due to close proximity of animals in limited spaces. In some countries there is no regulation on antibiotic use in animals and used improperly this will have a serious impact on the health of humans worldwide.
Poor animal welfare and suffering is common due to demand for cheap meat and dairy products
There is now a very high demand for cheap meat, eggs and dairy products. To ensure there is still profit, factory farms have systems in place to cut costs and increase production. This is always at the expense of animal welfare.
Meat is often high in fat due to the way the animals are fed and their lack of exercise. It is not healthy to eat. Animals- such as battery hens or pregnant sows – are so confined they cant even turn around. This causes distress and suffering. Living in close quarters and often with their excrement means animals are likely to spread diseases which then requires widespread antibiotic use.
Chickens are the most farmed land animal due to their popularity.
“Free range” chickens are usually not free range at all. Chickens are commonly raised in huge barns with little space and a poor quality of life.
The intensive system meets consumer demand but can be detrimental to the chickens. Beak trimming or debeaking is carried out to protect birds from hurting each other due to an unnatural commercial environment. It is one of the most common methods utilized by the poultry industry (mainly the egg and turkey industries) to control the impacts of severe feather pecking. This is a welfare problem where birds vigorously peck at and pull out the feathers of other birds. Feather pulling is seen in flocks in close confinement with lack of sufficient exercise. Part of the beak is either cut using a hot blade or lasered off.
Male chicks are not needed in the egg industry and are destroyed by gassing, or mulched alive.
The RSPCA approves maceration of live male chicks as it is a quicker method than using carbon dioxide gassing.
Buying RSPCA approved chickens and eggs doesn’t stop animal suffering. The welfare standards considered acceptable for farm animals are way below what we would accept for our domestic pets.
Warning: Maceration of male chicks may be highly distressing to watch… This is the ugly truth of egg production.
Click here to view: Debeaking and maceration of chicks – Farm Transparency
Click here to view: The reality of egg production: chick shredding – Animals Australia
The aim for intensively farmed meat chickens is to have the fastest growth possible. Because of this rapid growth many are unable to even stand up. Slaughter is usually at 6-8 weeks of age. ( A natural lifespan for a chicken is about 5-8 years on average.)
Going to slaughter can be excruciating.
Chickens are packed into crates at night for transport to the abattoir. It is done at night to make it easier for the workers to load them. Injuries such as fractured legs and wings are common. Chickens are packed tightly and often roughly handled. They can remain in these crates for more than 24 hours without food or water waiting to go to slaughter. The whole process is highly stressful and cruel.
But isn’t it ok to eat dairy? No animals die to produce milk do they?
The dairy industry is equally cruel. Many people who consume dairy products do so under the misconception that no animals need to die. This is a myth the industry is all too happy to perpetuate, so people will continue to consume their products and the profits keep rolling in. Cows are inseminated to ensure regular pregnancies and an ongoing milk supply. Cows don’t produce milk all the time as many people think! The male “bobby calves ” are usually taken away at birth. This causes great distress for both mother and baby. Male calves are “by-products” of milk production and are often treated inhumanely on the way to slaughter. Again it is not uncommon for them to have no food or water during this time. High volumes of milk are necessary for the industry to be viable. Cows are worked hard and slaughtered when they no longer produce enough milk.
Nobody thinks about fish when we consider intensive farming practices…
Intensive fish farms are also problematic. Fish fare no better in the intensive fish farming systems than land animals. Many sustain injuries or have infections or lice, due to huge numbers of fish kept in very confined areas. Fish are seldom considered in regard to welfare. Unfortunately, they suffer just as much as other animals in the intensive farming system.
Ag-gag laws are in place to stop people blowing the whistle on animal abuse.
This means anyone trying to film abuse or to draw attention to animal cruelty within the industry may face criminal charges. This should not be the case if the industry were truly concerned with the welfare of the animals providing our food.
Various Australian animal protection groups and advocates oppose the expansion of ag-gag laws in Australia.
The position is well-explained by lawyer and co-founder of the Australian Animal Defenders Office, Tara Ward:
There are many problematic aspects of ag-gag laws. They don’t tackle the real issues, such as legalised cruelty to animals in factory farming and slaughterhouses, and extremely low penalties for animal cruelty and neglect in animal welfare laws. Instead of punishing those responsible for animal suffering, they punish the whistle-blowers or ‘messengers’.
They stifle rather than encourage industry transparency and visibility, and make it more difficult to obtain evidence of sustained animal abuse carried out in animal enterprises over a period of time. They don’t protect the public interest in knowing how food animals are treated, and they stifle freedom of speech and assembly and the right to protest. In doing so, they prioritise industry profits above both animal welfare and the public interest in enforcing anti-cruelty laws.
A return to more traditional farming methods would improve the lives of animals, but is harder for the farmer to make it viable due to higher costs associated with better animal welfare. There would at least be some quality to their lives, having the ability to express their natural behaviours. Unfortunately, animals farmed more traditionally still have very short lives. Just like those in the factory farming system, they too face the slaughterhouse where animal abuse is common.
Farm animals are seen as “food” or “produce” and a way to make money. The industry hides the harsh facts of animal treatment from the public. Finding out the reality of animal food production may lead you to rethink the need to continue to eat animals.
Intensive farming of animals is a huge environmental issue.
In many countries there are “mega” farms where some have many thousands of animals in what look like industrial hangars. Huge quantities of water is used and there is so much waste it pollutes nearby river systems and ground water.
Factory farming is increasing worldwide. Animals kept confined require vast quantities of crops to feed them which translates into vast areas of deforestation. Forests and the ocean are major resources to reabsorb carbon released into the atmosphere. They are “carbon sinks”. Intensive animal agriculture is a massive contributor to global warming due to the damage they cause to the environment. Deforestation means we are losing these carbon sinks which are crucial to stabilizing or hopefully reversing global warming.
Intensive farming systems cause degradation of land and loss of topsoil. There is no crop rotation or rotation of animal grazing which would give the land the opportunity to regenerate. Not only are we using mega-farms for animal agriculture, there is also a mono-culture for crops, much of which goes into feeding animals instead of humans.
Due to the loss of the natural vegetation to make way for these intensive farms, and the associated crops, we are also losing many of our wild species which is a sad consequence of our obsession with eating and using animal products.
Fish Farming is just as damaging as other intensive farming systems
Intensive fish farming also causes pollution, due again to the huge amount of effluent. The effluent pollutes the water surrounding the farms. It is common for areas surrounding fish farms to be totally devoid of any sea life . Most intensive farms are owned by corporations and they will often ignore environmental requirements because it is much more economically viable to do so.
To read more on this subject, check out the book “Farmegeddon” by Phillip Lymbery
If I change to a vegan diet, will it make any difference?
Individuals may feel adopting a vegan diet wont change the amount of animal suffering or address the environmental issues, so might decide there is no point in making the changes. However, a person changing to a plant based diet will often feel better physically and emotionally due to their actions being in line with their ethics.
Although veganism is increasing in the western world, less people are going plant based than the number increasing their meat consumption. As developing countries become more affluent, meat and dairy consumption is rising.
There are signs that the movement towards a plant based diet or at least reduction of meat consumption is starting to gain some traction in developed countries which is a hopeful sign that this trend will continue and become more mainstream.
Whatever diet you are choosing, animal welfare and environmental protection have to be a part of the equation. We need more sustainable systems to continue to feed the growing human population and a predominately plant based diet is what will be sustainable in the future. The current processes will have no place. Hopefully that future is not too far away.
Without government intervention, it is unlikely major change will occur. Animals and the environment will continue to suffer. As an individual, you can help by lobbying the government to demand better environmental protections and improved conditions for animals.
So why would you adopt and continue a plant based diet? Maybe the better question would be why wouldn’t you?
Read more here: Information on transitioning to a vegan diet.