I grew up in the 1980’s, blissfully unaware of the connection between living animals and the meat on my plate. I only became aware of the connection between my diet, my health, the environment and animal suffering, at the age of 38.
However, I am one of many people, who, over the past few years, have become keenly aware of the environmental impact of animal agriculture, the impact on our own health and the horrific cruelty in factory farms and slaughter houses. I am now one of “those people”, the “vegans”. But I feel like I am simply making an informed decision today, whereas I was just doing what I learned from my childhood and my culture before – without questioning it.
On January 6th 2022, a book was written by an activist named Ed Winters (@EarthlingEd) called “This is Vegan Propaganda” and already there are articles and blogs defaming the book and making up a whole bunch of extra stuff “vegans will tell you”. The fact the book itself is being used to perpetuate more misinformation on this issue, is incredibly ironic.
The article begins by acknowledging the impacts of current global farming practices on the environment, the horrific conditions for animals and that a plant based diet “can be healthy”. For me, that’s the end of the story. That’s why I am vegan.
Then they frame veganism – a decision not to buy animal products, where practical – as a religion. I am a vegan who is also a baptised Catholic, with spiritual leanings – but no “altar of veganism” as the article suggests. Pope Francis himself has recently responded with the statement “Clearly the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures”. Veganism and religion are not mutually exclusive and veganism is not an ‘extreme’ religion substititute.
The article then goes on to bring up multiple issues, some of which I’d like to respond to.
They claim there is greater biodiversity in a field where cows graze, than in an empty field. I would like to agree obviously, but point out there are more options than that. I have two science degrees, but I don’t need them to understand that animal droppings increase biodiversity. What they’ve forgotten is the point David Attenborough brings up in his documentary “A Life on our Planet”, where he reccommends re-wilding our current farming lands, unnecessary to produce food, once we’re eating plant based. Wild animals could have habitats again and their droppings could be involved in the ecosystem in a sustainable way, rather than the unsustainable way farmed animals’ dropping are involved currently.
In New Zealand, the indigenous landowners are threatening to take land back by force and are currently taking charge of the waterways after the Dairy industry has completely polluted the waterways of the South island. This is the very definition of unsustainable, meaning it cannot go on indefinitely without destroying the resource and that resource is their country. A New Zealand documentary “milked” has also been made about the Dairy industry’s impact on the environment.
I live in Australia, a country that’s 770 Mha in size. Of that over half (422Mha) is used for grazing cattle, sheep, dairy and growing feed for animals. By comparison, only 29Mha is used to grow food for humans. Approximately 10% of our population is vegan. Making an overly conservative assumption the other 90% of the population currently eats no plants (not true), we’d still only use 290Mha of the 770MHa if everyone was vegan. My points here being it uses less land and water if people eat plants and there is no huge amount of animal waste to contaminate waterways.
The article then goes on to talk about the mass culling of animals that would occur if ‘vegans had their way’. Seriously? Surely the author must be aware these animals will all be slaughtered in the coming year or two anyhow, because that’s why they exist in the first place. That’s the point. What makes it far worse is that new animals will be bred into existence to be “mass culled” every year until we change our eating habits – if we ever do.
They then bring up fictional characters such as Shaun the Sheep and how the “mass culling” vegans ‘want’ is traumatic for children. This is absurd. My vegan child watches that show. Children are able to see all animals the way society sees cats and dogs – as deserving of their life and as individuals with the right to experience life on this planet. Even a prominent bunch of adult scientists, have signed the 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, where they proclaim animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are. They say the evidence is overwhelming.
We do not need to envision a world where no animals exist and call it a “vegan world”. Vegans are just asking humans to reconsider breeding trillions of animals into existence each year, feeding them, giving them water (using resources) only to kill them. This method of getting our protein is unnecessary and incredibly wasteful. Vegans are asking people to consider the science on the sentience of other animals, as who wants to harm others, if they feel as we do? If they are as aware as we are?
And as climate change becomes a more pressing issue, the elephant in the room (or cow, as it was called at the COP26 conference!) is what we eat. We do not have to eat animal products to be healthy. We are arguably healthier without it. We do not want to destroy our planet, and a staggering amount of environmental damage is because of animal agriculture. We do not want to be cruel and if even Pope Francis is calling for us to consider “Our ‘dominion’ over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.” surely this warrants some further attention.
This warrants our consideration, not simply dismissive justification of the status quo, because there is nothing more important than having a home in this universe, is there?
Bringing up how some soy beans are used for humans doesn’t negate the fact that the 36% of crops grown internationally are used to feed animals, most of whom we intend to kill this year. An article published in the Water Resources and Industry Journal found almost 30% of the global freshwater footprint, is attributable to animal agriculture. We can throw figures back and forth all day but no matter the muddying of the waters (pun intended), the picture is becoming very clear.
Things are changing rapidly in our world. We need solutions. The article states “We cannot eat our way out of climate change by going vegan”, which is true… but going vegan is certainly a part of any solution to climate, as it would drastically reduce emissions and effectively ‘buy us time’ to formulate the rest of our plan, if we are going to make one.
Eating a whole foods, plant based diet can even reverse heart disease and prevent cancers and diabetes. These are global epidemics right now, our top causes of mortality and the healthcare cost is astronomical. In a time when we do not want to get sick (cause…covid), avoiding lifestyle diseases with a plant based diet certainly appeals to me. These conditions are the dreaded ‘underlying health conditions’ underscoring a huge percentage of Covid deaths currently, and the majority of our population now has lifestyle diseases. And finally…. even though we have been given the green light to kill animals our whole lives, deep down, if we don’t have to, do we really want to?
Information is available if anyone wants to look into this further. Here is a list of documentaries if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a plant based diet, or “going vegan” for personal health, animal welfare, and our planet:
- The Game Changers – addresses protein and athletic performance on a plant based diet. Made by Arnold Scwarznegger and Jackie Chan.
- The Australian documentary “Dominion” about standard industry factory farming practices. This has graphic content, and it’s how we ‘farm’ animals right here in Australia.
- Forks over Knives – about how a whole foods plant based diet can prevent and reverse disease.
- Racing extinction – about how what we eat is impacting on our planet.
5. Cowspiracy – finds corporate interests behind why our health bodies and wildlife protection societies will not talk about diet.
6. Seaspiracy – looks at global fishing practices and who is benefitting from the emptying of our oceans.
7. What the Health – discusses the health impacts of the standard western diet.