By Jimmy Pierce
Veganism is growing at its fastest ever rate. Numbers in the UK have roughly doubled in recent years as more people seek out compassionate choices that are better for their health, the environment and, of course, animals.
The arguments for going vegan have never been stronger. For World Vegan Day, 1 November 2015, here are five…
Processed meat causes cancer
A report by the World Health Organisation last week put the cancer risk of eating processed meat on a par with tobacco, and also condemned red meat.
The report found that only 50g of processed meat per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Some responded by suggesting we merely cut down our meat consumption. We would not recommend smoking a few less cigarettes, however, so why would we only reduce our meat intake and not give it up altogether?
A balanced vegan diet contains all the essential nutrients we need for optimal health. Many other studies have shown that vegans, on average, are less likely than meat eaters to suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis and type 2 diabetes and with lower rates of obesity than any other dietary group.
Compassion for animals
In every animal farming system, animals are denied their basic needs. This year brought to our attention more examples than ever of the ways in which animals are used and treated in reality, most notably the CCTV footage of the Yorkshire halal slaughterhouse back in February.
That we choose to share our homes with some animals but eat others continues to make little sense. All animals are sentient beings and feel pain and suffering. They share the same emotions and individual personalities as us, and are entitled to the same treatment regardless of species.
This year, there was widespread revulsion at the killing of Cecil the lion and events at the Yulin dog meat festival, yet many of those offended continue to contribute to the pain and suffering of farmed animals by buying animal products.
Destruction caused by animal agriculture
According to the UN, the farming of animals is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport in the world combined. “A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products,” they said in 2010; a message that still applies today.
Animal agriculture is also widely acknowledged as the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption, species extinction, habitat loss, ocean “dead zones” and pollution. Yet its impact is persistently ignored by policy makers, wilfully neglected in favour of comparatively trivial initiatives which pay little more than lip service to notions of environmental preservation.
We are asked to turn off lights, recycle, use energy-saving light bulbs, and cycle instead of drive. These are of course positive steps, but their impact pales into insignificance when compared with dietary changes. The best thing any individual can do for the planet is to go vegan.
The reality of the dairy industry
Calves are generally taken away from their mothers within a day of birth; males are killed shortly after or end up as veal, while females follow the fate of their mothers, continually milked throughout their lives. Cows are made pregnant, typically though artificial insemination, so they continually produce milk for human consumption. Their calves are given grain to eat instead.
Udder infections and lameness are also common, and life expectancy is less than a quarter of their natural lifespan. They are killed as soon as they stop producing milk. There is no such thing as cruelty-free dairy milk. The structural composition of cow’s milk is perfect designed for a growing calf, not a human. Humans are the only species to drink the milk of a different species.
Our agricultural system is the model of inefficiency. Roughly 40% of the world’s grain harvest goes to feed farmed animals, while millions of people go hungry every year.
We use enormous quantities of land, water and other resources to grow grains and other plants to feed animals who are then used for food, instead of more efficiently feeding humans directly with plants. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make just 1 pound of chicken meat.
With the world’s population set to grow from 7 million to 9 million by 2050, change is urgently needed. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the only way to produce enough food for everyone is “to cut back sharply on meat consumption, because conversion of grazing land to food crops will increase the amount of food produced.”
It’s never been easier to go vegan. There are vegan alternatives for almost everything and mainstream supermarkets are stocking products previously only found in specialist shops.
You can try going vegan with our 30 Day Vegan Pledge supported by daily emails of advice, info and delicious recipes.
Writer bio: Jimmy Pierce is a writer and spokesperson for The Vegan Society, the oldest vegan organisation in the world. A former sports journalist for The Daily Telegraph, Jimmy has also written for The Independent on vegan-related issues.