Why Are You Vegan?
I get this question a lot. Why are you Vegan? It's usually followed by... Is it because of animal rights....or the environment?" What I'm usually thinking is,..
"Why aren't you Vegan?"
Being Vegan is truly a joy. And it is one of the most profound and important decisions I have ever made in my life. To do something because you know it is the right thing to do is very powerful. Eating vegan is one of the most powerful ways to create change for animals, for people, and for the planet.
But since you asked...
FROM THE HUMANE LEAGUE
Battery cages are one of the worst tortures endured by any animal raised for food. These cages confine a laying hen, who produces eggs in an industrial factory farm, to an area no bigger than a piece of letter-sized paper—without space to even spread her wings as she’s born to do. An egg-laying hen is forced to spend her life standing and lying down on wire flooring which causes damage to her feet. The cages are so low that she can barely stretch her necks upwards, let alone run, hop, fly, or explore.
She is prevented from doing anything that comes naturally to her, besides eating. Even this comes with consequences, since she must stick her neck through the wire bars to access the feed trough. Doing so, rubs off her feathers and leaves her skin raw and in pain. Ventilation Shutdown Ventilation shutdown (VSD) is the process of cutting off ventilation so that temperatures inside a building naturally rise (getting hotter and hotter) or fall (getting colder and colder).
Ventilation shutdown plus (VSD+) is a specific method of depopulation that involves shutting off ventilation and pumping in heat or carbon dioxide. VSD+ has been used through the recent avian influenza outbreak to deliberately put millions of chickens and other birds to death en masse.shutdown plus (VSD+) is an incredibly inhumane method of killing lots of animals at once by shutting off air supply and driving up temperatures, leading to organ failure and suffocation.
For chickens, they endure hours of suffering, suffocate, and die in agony.
Dairy cows used to produce milk not only suffer physical tortures but psychological abuses as well. In order to lactate, a cow must first give birth to a calf, and this calf is taken away from her instantly after birth.
Breaking the mother-offspring bond is a violation of a sacred relationship. But on dairy farms, this practice is simply considered normal. In fact, it’s a lynchpin of the business model.
Selective breeding has also caused a mother cow to produce unnaturally high volumes of milk, resulting in physical problems that can give rise to chronic pain. Combined with feces-ridden conditions in which she is forced to live, it becomes clear why dairy is anything but harmless.
After an often terrifying, exhausting, and pain-ridden life on a factory farm, animals—chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cows—are rounded up for the final trip of their lives as they are sent to slaughter in a slaughterhouse.. This trip is far from comfortable. Whether chickens, pigs, turkeys, or cows, every animal is crammed onto trucks, with barely any space to move around. They can be exposed to extreme heat or cold on these journeys that can last many hours. Often, they are not even provided with adequate food or water.
By the time each animals arrive at their final destination, they can be so terrified and neglected that they sometimes soil themselves. Covered in feces, their spent bodies are then brutally slaughtered for human consumption. What is delicious about that?
After about a year on industrial egg production farms, the body of a layer hen begins to break down. Afterall, even though she is treated like a machine, she is not one. She is soon unable to produce the extremely high volumes of eggs that are demanded by the factory farm’s production schedules. And any drop in production means less profit for the corporations behind it all.
But in one final act of cruelty—before she is sent to slaughter—she will likely endure forced molting—a process designed to squeeze as many eggs from a hen’s body as possible. Hens naturally molt, or lose feathers, with the change of seasons as winter approaches. To mimic these natural conditions, the light in a factory farm is manipulated to turn on for shorter periods during the day.
Hens are also starved of food and water—sometimes for days at a time. After this starvation period, which can kill many hens, the birds are fed and given water, which kicks their bodies into one last spurt of egg production. Forced molting makes it abundantly clear that the only thing egg factories care about is eggs.
Gestation crates rank alongside battery cages as being among the most heartless ways to treat animals. A pregnant pig, known as sows, is forced into one of these cages for the duration of her nearly four-month-long pregnancies. In this tiny, coffin-like crate, all she can do is sit, stand, and eat. In fact, gestation crates are so small that she cannot walk at all, visit her neighbors as her social instincts would encourage, or even turn around. Imagine the mind-breaking boredom, and pain, of being forced to remain in exactly one spot for months on end—notably while pregnant. After she gives birth, she will be impregnated again, repeating the cycle until she is sent for slaughter when she’s no longer fit to bear babies—usually when she is between 1 ½ - 2 years old. No bacon is worth her tortured life.
Mutilations at Factory Farms
In the factory farming system, mutilations are a part of life for animals raised for food. And they often occur without any painkillers. A day-old chick destined for egg production is commonly debeaked, a deeply painful process in which the sensitive tip of her beak is sliced off without anesthesia. This procedure is thought to cause chronic as well as acute pain and is especially cruel when you consider that her beak is the primary way she senses and experiences the world. Castration is another common mutilation on factory farms, horribly endured by male pigs on hog farms and by cows raised for beef.
Selective breeding causes a host of issues for animals. Today’s dairy cow is selectively bred to produce huge amounts of milk, far more than her offspring would normally require. Her udders, notably if she is a breed such as a Holstein, can grow so large that it becomes distended and swollen. As a dairy cow, she is also subject to painful conditions like mastitis, the inflammation and infection of her udder area, that make it painful for her to lie down.
A typical chicken raised for meat has been selectively bred to the point in which they cannot bear the weight of their own body, growing faster and bigger than is natural, or healthy. This “rapid growth” can cause a host of painful and fatal conditions—from joint problems, to broken legs, to heart failure— that put intense strain on their body.
Tail docking involves removal of portions of an animals’ tail. For instance, young lambs are tail docked, as are hogs on factory farms and dairy cows in some cases. While these procedures are done for various reasons on a factory farm, the fact is, it is a direct result of industrial farming methods. And no matter the reason, tail docking always causes excruciating and lasting pain.
Reasons To Go Vegan For Health
As if going vegan for the animals wasn’t enough, there are plenty of health reasons to leave animals off your plate for your health!
There are many health risks associated with meat consumption—from carcinogens linked to cancer, to traces of chlorine found on chicken carcuses, in an attempt to kill bacteria like salmonella and listeria. Fish, in particular, can contain relatively risky levels of dangerous chemicals. Farmed salmon has been found to contain chemicals including dioxins and methylmercury. Both wild-caught and farmed fish can also contain persistent organic pollutants, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other compounds that can cause damage to the human body.
By removing these foods and other meat products from your diet, you can avoid these toxic risks and live a cleaner, plant-based lifestyle.
Eliminate Bad Cholesterol
Most animal-based products—including chicken, shrimp, dairy and eggs—are high in cholesterol, which is linked to a risk of coronary heart disease. Plant-based foods, on the other hand, don’t contain any cholesterol. Eating a vegan diet—free of meat, milk, and eggs—lowers our blood cholesterol and reduces our likelihood of suffering from heart disease. One study found plant-based diets effective at lowering cholesterol levels anywhere by as much as 30 percent. This is a big win, since heart disease is known as the #1 cause of death in the US.
Give Your Skin What It Needs to Glow
It’s an age old adage, and it’s true: your skin is your largest organ. So, just like the rest of your body, taking care of it from the inside-out is vital to keeping it healthy. Eating antioxidant-rich foods helps fight skin-damaging free radicals—helping your skin to healthfully regenerate, naturally balance it’s oil and moisture levels, and simply get glowing. Luckily, antioxidants are everywhere in plant-based foods—in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, but they are rarely found in animal products. These plant-based foods tend to be easier to digest, as well, putting less strain on your entire body, including your skin.
Boost Your Mood
Managing emotions can be a critical component of a happy, productive life, and studies have shown that a vegan diet can lead to an improved mood—meaning a greater sense of wellbeing. In one study, vegans reported less anxiety and stress than people who ate an omnivorous diet. Consuming plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, including flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and vegetables like collard greens and spinach can help elevate your mood.
Hormones are important in helping to regulate the body’s internal systems, and research is finding that a vegan diet can promote a healthy, balanced hormone system. Gastrointestinal hormones, that help regulate weight gain, blood sugar, and the feeling of being full after eating, were found to increase after people ate a vegan meal compared with a meal heavy in meat. Healthy hormones also can play a role in combating obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Improve Your Concentration
There are a variety of plant-based foods that can help improve your concentration thanks to their nutrient benefits, including:
With so many natural, vegan food options, lagging concentration can be a thing of the past.
15. Prevent Osteoporosis
A common misconception is that humans need cow's milk to provide sufficient calcium necessary for maintaining good bone health. However, recent studies show that vegan diets can provide just as much calcium as dairy products, and perhaps even more. Foods like broccoli, kale, and collard greens offer not only high levels of calcium, but this essential mineral also comes in a much more digestible form through these plant-based sources. Other nutrients required for preventing osteoporosis include vitamin D (found in grains, soy, bread), vitamin C (readily available in oranges, limes, tomatoes, and peppers), and potassium (naturally occurring in fruits, beans, and vegetables).
Reduce Potential for Food Poison
Food poisoning commonly occurs thanks to contamination from salmonella or E. coli bacteria, both of which are found in the feces of animals. While vegetables can also be contaminated with these toxins, research has shown that households that consume meat are more likely to suffer from food poisoning as opposed to vegan or vegetarian households. The culprit? Moist hand towels give bacteria ample places to grow. The easiest way to minimize this risk is to leave animals off your plate and out of your home.
Reasons to Go Vegan for the Environment
Beyond the health and wellbeing of your own health, and animals’, too, making plant-based, vegan food choices can also help the health of our environment. As has been seen with climate change, notable changes to our ecosystems can lead to catastrophic threats for both us, humans, and wild animals.
Driving through the farmlands ofAmerica, you may encounter an inescapable stench, and even find it hard to breathe at times. Factory farms are often hidden from public view, but the air pollution, while invisible, is impossible to mask. Hog and chicken factory farms are particularly devastating when it comes to air pollution, which is produced by—a direct bi-product of the thousands of animals confined in small spaces, each of whom generate waste that seeps into the soil, water, and air. Workers, and the communities that are adjacent to these facilities, are most impacted by air pollution, which can cause headaches and other chronic conditions, alongside the economic impacts of lower property values.
The fecal contamination of factory farms poisons more than the air. Water that runs near factory farms can become contaminated due to the improper treatment of animal waste. Since our waterways are connected, this pollution can also extend out to marine environments—as rivers and streams empty into the oceans. This has been linked to dead zones in ocean habitats, such as in the Gulf of Mexico, where some of the largest dead zones in the world have been observed.
Freshwater is among the most precious of resources, yet animal agriculture treats it as just another material to abuse. Globally, the industry has been estimated to consume close to 20% of all fresh drinking water supplies. Nearly 1,000 gallons of water are used to produce a single gallon of milk, 900 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of cheese, and a whopping 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce only one pound of beef.
Factory farming causes deforestation in two ways: by clearing forests to raise cattle on land, and to make room for the vast mono-crops like wheat, corn, and soy that feed animals confined within concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s). The World Bank found factory farming to be responsible for 91 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil—a critical habitat that plays a key role in maintaining the global climate.
Factory farming is responsible for emitting an enormous amount of greenhouse gasses, including potent gasses like methane, that play a pivotal role in global warming and climate catastrophe. Conservative estimates show that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions—more than planes, trains, and motor vehicles combined. Clearly, animal agriculture is among the most significant contributors to today’s climate change crisis—leading to, extreme temperature shifts, ravaging wildfires, deadly tsunamis, and more.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Due to deforestation, pollution, and climate changes brought on by factory farming, what little remains of uncultivated wild habitats is at risk. Increasingly, wild animals are having a difficult time surviving in their natural homes.. Tens of thousands of species are going extinct each year due to the voracious needs of animal agriculture. Today, diets rich in meat are the greatest threat to the diversity of our world’s flora and fauna and the ecosystems on which they depend.
Is It Really Worth It To Go Vegan?
It used to be that eating vegan in the US, UK, and other parts of the world, was a lonely endeavor. It was difficult to go to a restaurant and choose anything other than a small bed of iceberg lettuce or a side of fries. Unseasoned blocks of tofu were the norm, as were bland veggie burgers that fell apart in the bun.
Not anymore. The evolution of alternative proteins like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are so close to mimicking the flavor and texture of meat that they are essentially indistinguishable from the animal-based original. And vegan restaurants dedicated solely to dishing up plants in all forms are popping up in cities around the world, while vegan ice creams, yogurts, and milks are seeing a surge in popularity.
Eating vegan is finally becoming about what you can eat, not what you can’t. Whether you choose to give veganism a try for your health, the environment, or the animals, you’ll be creating an impact that stems far beyond yourself.