Why Vegan? - Green and Growing

Hello, environmentalists! This is my first ever “Green Eats” post, so it is only fitting that it is an all-encompassing vegan fact post, as the…

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Hello, environmentalists! This is my first ever “Green Eats” post, so it is only fitting that it is an all-encompassing vegan fact post, as the bulk of my sustainable eating content will center around veganism! If you’re not yet vegan, I highly encourage you to give it a try; hopefully I’ll provide plenty of evidence and information for you to consider below. I am beyond happy to serve as a resource and mentor in your vegan journey (in fact, that is a huge goal of this blog!) so please reach out with questions, comments, or requests for content you’d find helpful!

Veganism is sustainable

This is not an exhaustive list! These are some not-so-fun facts that I found particularly striking, but animal agriculture harms the environment in many more ways than just the ones I have listed. For more information on food and sustainability, I’d recommend the documentary Cowspiracy (it’s on Netflix!) I’ll also be linking some articles at the very bottom of the post for further reading!

Climate change

  • – Estimates of the contribution of animal agriculture to global greenhouse gas emissions range from 18 to 51 percent. Either way, high.  Most of these emissions come from powering farm equipment, land use changes (animal agriculture requires deforestation, which both destroys carbon sinks and releases trapped gases in forest soil), cow farts (don’t laugh – a single cow can produce between 250-500 litres of methane per day. There are 92 million cows in the US at any given time. That’s a lot of methane), fertilizer use, and manure production.
  • – Animal agriculture emits more methane and nitrous oxide per year than any other industry, including natural gas. Methane has 28-36 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, while nitrous oxide claims an astounding 265-298 times the warming potential of CO2.
  • – While energy related greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 20% by 2040 (not great news), emissions from agriculture are projected to rise by 80% by 2040 (really, really bad news). There’s something we can do to prevent this emissions rise even while the world’s population grows: go vegan!
    • Land use

        • – Animal agriculture takes up between 30 and 45 percent of the Earth’s ice-free land.
        • – Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. This deforestation contributes to habitat and biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and release of organic material and greenhouse gases from forest soils.
      • – About 70 percent of cleared forest in the Amazon has been dedicated to grazing.
  • What you’ll save by going vegan
    • – Each and every day you will save
        • – 1,100 gallons of water
        • – 45 pounds of grain
        • – 30 square feet of forested land
        • – 20 pounds CO2 equivalent
      • – One animal’s life (which brings me to my next point…)

Veganism is kind

Veganism is a lifestyle that centers around the basic premise that violence is wrong. It is the way of living that seeks to minimize suffering wherever it occurs. Before I share some standard facts about the gruesome ways we use animals (like everything else in this post, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list, just some tidbits I find persuasive!) I’d like to bring up a few things to think about.

So imagine that you’re at a dinner party. There’s a meat stew, and you’ve already had several spoonfuls. Curious as to what it is, you ask the host. “Oh, that’s Golden Retriever,” she replies. You’d probably spit the meat right out. Ew, right? Just the thought is completely vile and evil. But how are dogs any different than the other animals we eat? They hold very different role in our culture. We certainly have more day-to-day interaction with them than other animals. But are they any different in their capacity to feel suffering? (Credit for this concept goes to Melanie Joy! Check out her website and books

A lot of people mistakenly use the concept of intelligence to defend violence against animals. First off, if we were to actually apply this logic everywhere and determine the worth of a being based on its intelligence, a lot of humans would be in trouble. Second, a lot of of farm animals are really really smart. Pigs for example are considered the fourth smartest creatures on earth, and are thought to be more intelligent than dogs, some primates, and even 3-year-old children. Cows are highly emotional and social creatures and have great memories. They even form close friendships and will keep lifelong friends (awww!) Cows also grieve like humans when they separate from loved ones, and a mother cow will cry for days when her calf is taken from her (an everyday practice on dairy farms). And while chickens are typically thought of as dumb birds, this is not at all true! Within two days of living, chickens demonstrate awareness of object permanence (when an object is hidden from view, they still understand that that object exists). Object permanence doesn’t even develop in human children until around six months (this is why “peek-a-boo” is so incredibly entertaining to babies). Chickens also have the ability to learn quickly, perform basic arithmetic (whoa!), and develop social bonds. The animals we eat have proven to be emotional, aware, and highly intelligent, just like your dog and cat. (Or maybe you think your dog and cat aren’t that smart. Either way, you don’t want to eat them, right?)

A lot of people may think that animals do not suffer, or do not suffer as acutely as humans do. As a matter of fact, the field of animal cognition was not respected until relatively recently, and the dogma of animal behavior science was that animals had no internal life at all. Just how so-called scientists could legitimately think that every non-human animal was just a little robot is still a total mystery to me, but regardless, we’re beyond that way of thinking. There’s a ton of animal cognition research out there and the field is growing every day, and there is even good reason to believe that not only do animals feel pain, they may feel it even more acutely than humans do.

For the disturbing details on exactly where all of our animal products come from, I’d recommend the film Earthlings (streams for free on the website!) The film goes through each way our society uses animals, from food and clothing to pets, entertainment, and research. Definitely a difficult watch but so worth it to know where your food, clothing, etc. comes from. Peter Singer once said that if he could make everyone in the world watch one film, he’d make them watch Earthlings and I 100% agree. For the purposes of this post, I have listed several ways that standard farming practices make animals suffer. Facts not sourced with a hyperlink are from Earthlings or this informative webpage, and a simple google search of animal farming conditions will provide plenty of confirmation and extra info to back up what I have here.  I encourage you to do your own research and truly know what you contribute to and where you choose to spend your money.

    • Dairy

        • – Cows produce milk for the same reason any mammal does – to feed their babies. Farmers force cows to continue producing milk by impregnating them using artificial insemination each year. Calves are typically forcibly torn from their mothers within a day of birth, causing great emotional distress for both the mother and calf. Males will either become veal or will be fattened up as beef cows, while females become dairy cows.
      • – The natural lifespan of a cow is 20-25 years. Most dairy cows live about 3-4 years and are forcibly impregnated and milked for the majority of those years until they physically collapse from exhaustion, at which point they are sent to slaughter and made into beef.
    • Meat

        • – 99% of the animals raised for food in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, where they are subjected to extremely cramped and harsh conditions. Many of these animals never even go outside and certainly do not get the opportunity to do what they normally do, be that rummaging around in the soil, drinking milk from their own mothers, or grazing around. They’re often given so little space that they cannot grow, turn around, or even lie down properly.
        • – Farms routinely give animals antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and dying before the slaughterhouses want them to in the terribly unsanitary conditions. These antibiotics alter the animals’ growth and bodily functions (don’t you always feel a little “off” after even a weeklong antibiotics course? Imagine being given antibiotics your entire. life.) This practice also supports the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and poses a risk to human health.
        • – Many farm animals have been genetically manipulated to produce the maximum amount of whatever they produce that meats market demand. For example, broiler chickens grow excessively large breasts while their skeletons and organs trail behind. This causes many problems for the animal including heart and organ failure, chronic breathing problems, and inability to move.
        • – Female breeding pigs (sows) are forcibly inseminated in gestation crates over and over again until they physically cannot reproduce anymore, and then they are sent to slaughter.
        • – Cattle are nearly always “branded,” which means they are given earmarks or some other bodily identification through a painful hot searing procedure (done without painkillers). They are also often dehorned, which is an extremely painful and traumatizing process.
        • – Veal calves (after being torn from their mothers within a day of living…see above) are raised in tiny crates where they cannot move around or have any contact with other cattle. This movement restriction makes their muscles soft and underdeveloped, making veal meat so tender.
        • – Turkeys and chicken raised for slaughter are both raised in overcrowded and cramped conditions (are you sensing a theme here yet?) and females are forcibly inseminated several times a year, which is exhausting and damaging to the birds’ bodies, which were only meant to breed once a year at most.
        • – Once they are fattened up enough to be killed for slaughter, animals are forced on to trucks where they are subjected to every kind of extreme weather and are not given food or water, often arriving at slaughterhouses overheated or frozen, starving, and dehydrated. (You’ve seen those trucks before. Have you ever thought about how sad, scared, and miserable the animals on them must be?)
      • – Standard slaughterhouse practices involve slitting an animal’s throat while he or she hangs on a mechanized hooks that carries and drops him/her into a pot of boiling water while he or she is still alive.
  • Eggs

    • – Egg-laying hens are typically raised in tight battery cages the sizes of file cabinets, that have up to 10 birds per cage. Factory farms will often burn or cut off the ends of each hen’s beak in order to prevent infighting (this process is done with no painkillers, of course). Hens will often die in the overcrowded conditions and because the animals are so densely packed and not at all cared for, a dead bird will often stay in its cage for days, further contributing to the unsanitary conditions.

At this point, you might be thinking “that is so horrible what they do to animals in factory farms! But I only eat local/grass-fed/humane/organic meat and dairy.” Think again. My first response to this mentality is that there is no humane way to kill a being that doesn’t want to be killed. It’s that simple. Just like we did above, let’s extend the logic that grass-fed/free-range etc. makes meat okay. You’ve had a pretty good life right? You’ve been pretty “free-range.” So it’s okay to kill you? Um… NO! I’ll repeat it again: there is no humane way to kill a being that does not want to be killed.

Furthermore, the 1% of farmed animals lucky enough to escape hellish factory farms are still subjected to many of the disgusting practices listed above. Small farms typically outsource their slaughter, sending their animals a great distance on smelly, overcrowded trucks (where the animals become hungry and dehydrated and often either overheat or freeze depending on the season) to the same slaughterhouses that factory farm animals meet their cruel fate in. “Humane meat” really isn’t all that humane.

Long (long, long, long) story short, the animals we use lead short, fearful, painful lives. I’ve barely touched on all the ways that farmed animals suffer, but I recommend that you do your own research and truly educate yourself. I get that it’s hard and unpleasant to research. Trust me, it was not easy gathering all these facts for this post. Right now my heart is racing just thinking about what I wrote about. But these animals, they actually live it. So this is the part where I beg you: please do not support this. Please put your money where your values are and do not support this violence. You know that it is wrong. It is plain to see that this is wrong. Please make the ethical choice here. Go vegan.

Veganism is healthy

In all honesty, even if veganism was not the most healthy diet, I would absolutely still follow it for all the reasons listed above. Even if I had to take supplements on supplements every day for the rest of my life, I would totally do it, because helping the planet and the animals is worth it (vegans only need to take one supplement btw, and it’s B12). As I hope I made pretty clear above, veganism is a philosophy of compassion that extends far beyond what you eat, but it just so happens to also be the healthiest diet on the planet! (Don’t you just love when the most ethical choice you can make also results in great personal gain? Sometimes the world just works like that.) I rounded up a few facts below that highlight the health benefits of a vegan diet. For more information I’d suggest checking out Forks Over Knives and What the Health (both are on Netflix!)  

    • Fish

        • – The fish we eat bioaccumulates a host of dangerous toxins, including mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, chlordane, DDT, other heavy metals, and organochlorine pesticides. Many of these pollutants are known carcinogens.
      • – This article does a really good job explaining many of the problems and gaps in research claiming that fish is a “heart-healthy” food

Extra sources

  • My favorite vegan influencers

      • – Caitlin Shoemaker – check out her blog and Youtube
    • – High Carb Hannah – check out her Youtube 

Have I convinced you?

Please feel free to comment/email/reach out to me on any platform; I would be so happy to provide support, answer questions, and help you start your vegan journey! There is plenty of vegan content to come on the blog to get you started and inspire you, and please reach out with any suggestions or requests! If you’re vegan, feel free to comment and let me know/provide support for others embarking on this wonderful journey! Also THANK YOU if you’ve read this far in such a long post, you’re the real MVP:)

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