Are All Your Friends Going Vegan? Here's Why
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
If you’re still eating animals and/or products that come from animals, I urge you to read what I have to say. I do my very best to approach this topic from a compassionate, understanding, and non-judgemental place. If you think I can improve in any regard, let me know! I’m always eager to receive constructive feedback.
There are many reasons I promote a vegan lifestyle. First and foremost, I do it for the animals.
We all logically know that no animal wants to die. They don’t lay down and offer up their lives for our consumption. They put up a fight. They kick and scream till their very last breath. We can all agree we wouldn’t want to live on this planet as an animal bred, raised, and violently slaughtered for food. Science has proven time and time again that animals are conscious beings who feel pain, experience fear, and have a strong will to live. They have personalities, form friendships, and even have a sense of humor! But, assuming you’ve ever interacted with a cat or dog, you already knew that.
We’re so quick to judge Asian countries for the dog meat trade, but how is that any different from what we do to cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and fish? To put it in perspective: Most people are enraged by the idea of dogs being killed for food. Why is this? Perhaps it's because dogs are deemed intelligent, or maybe it's because they make such amazing companion animals. Either way, both of those statements hold true for farm animals as well. (Don't believe me? Esther The Wonder Pig will change your mind).
Think back to that time you accidentally stepped on an animal's paw/tail and the yelp they let out. (It's okay- we've all done it). In that moment, your instinct was to step back immediately and check to make sure the animal was okay. Surely, you even blurted out an empathetic "I'm sorry!" as you were flooded with feelings of guilt. This is because we as human beings are inherently programmed to avoid inflicting pain and suffering upon other living beings.
With that being said, do you think you could find it in yourself to slit another animal's throat? Very few people could. If we each had to kill every animal we individually consumed, most of humanity would already be vegetarian. If you couldn’t kill these innocent animals yourself, it is unethical to ask someone else to commit these violent acts for you... which brings me to my next point.
Another aspect of veganism- which I feel is not discussed often enough- is how agribusiness spurs human oppression; specifically for people of color. The fight for animal rights is closely intertwined with human rights; as every industry that exploits animals also exploits humans. Because slaughtering animals is such a gruesome job, nobody wants to do it. This is why the majority of slaughterhouse workers are undocumented immigrants. The meat, dairy, and egg industries know that no American citizen with working papers wants to murder and rape animals every day, so they prey on those seeking asylum in the U.S.
Nobody dreams of working in a slaughterhouse. Most individuals employed by these industries have no other way to make money. Because they came here illegally, they can't find work elsewhere and have no alternate method of providing for their families. This allows for companies to further exploit their workers by paying them below minimum wage, forcing them to work in unsafe conditions, and making them commit horrible, inhumane acts of violence against animals... all to increase the bottom line. These workers don’t have a voice. They can’t call the authorities and whistleblow; they would be deported. As a result, many factory farm workers suffer with severe mental health disorders including PTSD and eventually commit suicide.
In 2006, a pig slaughterer by the name of Ed Van Winkle was quoted in the minutes of Tyson Foods' Annual Shareholder Meeting describing his job at the Morrell slaughterhouse in Sioux City, Iowa. "The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll," Winkle said. "Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later, I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe."
While it’s easy to demonize those doing the killing, it's important to remember that they’re only supplying what consumers are demanding. With no consumer demand, these exploitative industries could not survive. We vote with our dollar, folks. Consume mindfully.
Even if you don’t care about animals, consider your fellow humans. There are 815 million starving people on this planet. The sad part is: we have the food necessary to feed them, but instead, we are feeding it to animals so privileged Westerners can eat their flesh instead.
There are 7.5 billion people on Earth, however, we produce enough food to feed 10 billion people. Not only could we feed every hungry mouth, but we could have a surplus of food... IF everyone was vegan. This surplus would make it possible to nourish the 70 million stray cats and dogs living in the United States and STILL have extra.
Over 75% of global soybean crops, 70% of grain grown in the U.S., and 36% of corn grown in the U.S. is fed to “livestock”, which yields a tiny percent of the amount of food comparably. (This number can be as low as 1% and as high as 22% depending on the animal being consumed). Regardless, 1/3 of global calories and 1/2 of global protein are inefficiently allocated to feed animals.
Another reason many people are going vegan is to reduce climate change and mitigate the environmental crisis. Animal agriculture is catastrophic to this planet. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “around 50 percent of the world’s habitable land has been converted to farming land.” This is especially common in the Amazon, where close to 17% of the forest has been erased in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.
In fact, the Amazon Rainforest has been burning to the ground for three weeks now.
These fires are set intentionally to create more space to house the estimated 60-70 billion farm animals we breed into existence simply to kill every year. Lighting forest fires is a common method of quickly and effectively eradicating trees for farm land. "These are not wildfires, but rather fires set by people seeking to create cattle ranches, intentionally ignited during the dry season each year. They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry, and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilize the soil", says Ane Alencar, the scientific director of Brazilian Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia.
Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reported a record 72,843 fires THIS YEAR. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon deforestation. The effects of this mass-deforestation are devastating, as the Amazon Rainforest alone is home to more than 2,000 known species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and houses more than 40,000 known plant species. The Amazonia also produces an estimated 20% of the Oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. There is no question that animal agriculture poses the largest threat to biodiversity and habitat destruction.
In terms of resources, it requires 2,500 gallons of water, 12-16 pounds of grain, and 55 square feet of rainforest to produce ONE pound of edible cow flesh. We are selfishly depleting our precious, scarce resources to consume foods that simultaneously promote disease and cruelty to humans and animals.
Why are we doing all of this if it damages our well-being and the well-being of future generations? Don’t we want our children to live happy, healthy lives?
Eating animal-derived products is terribly detrimental to human health. Adopting a plant based diet can help prevent fourteen out of fifteen of the most common human diseases including heart disease, cancer, liver disease, and diabetes. A plant-based diet is also fantastic at promoting weight loss, reducing inflammation, eliminating acne, regulating hormones, increasing life expectancy, and helping to maintain a healthy gut biome. In the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted- The China Study- a whole-foods plant-based diet was proven to reverse diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. Be sure to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix to learn more about The China Study and plant-based nutrition.
I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Robert Ostfeld, M.D., MSc., Cardiologist and Founder/Director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center while attending Main Street Vegan Academy. His medical program is aimed at preventing and reversing disease with a plant-based diet. During his presentation, I learned that 65% of 12-14 year olds in the U.S. have early signs of cholesterol disease in blood vessels that feed the heart with blood. Because dietary cholesterol only exists in animal-based foods, this is a diet related issue. Consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat leads to plaque buildup in arteries which is what causes heart disease, the #1 cause of death in both males and females in the United States. Every minute, two Americans suffer a heart attack, which means part of their heart muscle dies because of restricted blood flow due to cholesterol (plaque) buildup. It is normal to die of heart disease in the U.S. Every year, Americans spend $316 billion in cardiac care. These numbers are staggering.
Dr. Ostfeld also cites the ground-breaking Adventist Health Studies which found that people who ate meat just ONCE per week versus zero times per week had a 74% chance higher risk of developing diabetes. Furthermore, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)- also correlated with consumption of animal-products- is the most common reason for liver transplants now. NAFLD is also the most common form of long-term liver disease in children. A study published in 2016 states that it affects between 10-20% of pediatric patients and 50-80% of children with obesity.
T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study, found that animal protein promotes the growth of cancer cells. He discovered that you could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk. Not only that, but the United Nations' World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a class 1 carcinogen, the same classification group as smoking cigarettes, exposure to solar radiation, and drinking alcohol.
The bottom line: we need to stop consuming animal products. Whatever your reason is, take the plunge. You'll be better for it. Anyone can make the switch at any time. I'm living proof of it! I did not grow up a vegetarian or vegan nor is anyone in my family vegetarian or vegan. I was raised on the standard American diet. Like many of you, going vegetarian was something I briefly thought about in my early teen years, but quickly dismissed because “everyone eats meat”, “I don’t want to give up my favorite foods”, and "I don't know where I would get my protein". Luckily, there were two vegetarians in my high school class who showed me it was not only possible, but enjoyable! It took me till my sophomore year in college to get the hang of it, but by my junior year in college, I had fully committed to a vegan lifestyle. Coming up on three years vegan now, I can confidently say I'm never looking back.
Change starts with you. Change starts with me. If we're not willing to change, why should anyone else? It is our responsibility to protect this beautiful planet we inhabit and find it in our hearts to share it with others...before it's too late. Non-humans deserve to be here just as much as we do.