25 Aug Why Go Vegan: The Inconvenient Truth
Most of us love animals. Many of us own pets. We post cat memes on the internet. We talk about animals and we watch shows about them on TV.
But we also love the taste of animals; their meat, their milk, their eggs. We cage them, we exploit them, and then we turn them into products.
It is time we opened our eyes to the inconvenient truth: Not only is humanity’s dependency on animals a major ethical double standard, it is also a catastrophic environmental crisis.
1. Ignoring the Cruelty
Meat eating is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the everyday cruelty to which we subject animals, but that cruelty extends far further.
If you thought that all the cows, pigs and chickens that we farm live happy lives upon big open fields until the day they are quickly and painlessly killed — it’s time to wake up. Most of our animals are mass-produced. They are not recognised as living, breathing, feeling beings. They are merely bred to serve their purpose.
Take poultry farming. While male chicks are ground into chicken feed as hatchlings, females are painfully debeaked before being conditioned for incessant egg laying throughout their brief window of optimal fertility. Thereafter, they are slaughtered. There is no anaesthesia, no concern for their health, their living conditions, or even their primal instincts.
The lives of cows and pigs are no less brutal. Take the dairy industry: While male calves are quickly slaughtered for their beef, female calves are painfully dehorned before being kept perpetually pregnant to stimulate milk production. Following peak fertility they are disposed of in the most economically viable (i.e. the cheapest) way possible, typically either by being hung or having their throats slit — often enduring lengthy moments of excruciating, twitching agony, before finally dying.
The best exhibition of these and more of the horrific cruelties to which we subject animals every day can be observed in the award-winning documentary film Earthlings.
2. Unsustainability and the Environment
If you believed fossil fuels and fracking were the principle concern — there is something you should know. According to the source material referenced in the documentary film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, human agriculture is far and away the most significant contributor to global warming; as well as the resulting impact of climate change and the mass-extinction of species.
Agricultural farming, which involves cutting down CO2 absorbing trees to make way for armies of methane producing cows, contributes to 18% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. The global contribution of all transport costs — road, rail, air, and marine — stands at just 13% of emissions. Furthermore, the combined impact of livestock and their associative by-products amount to 32 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. That’s 51% of the total.
Raising livestock is also a monumental drain on our resources. According to Huffington Post it takes around 102 litres to produce a single gram of beef (factoring in the water required to sustain a cow and the food it needs over the course of its life). That means we use around 10, 000 litres of water to produce a single burger; roughly the same amount the average household gets through in a week.
With Earth’s human population already exceeding 7 billion people, we have long surpassed the level of long-term agricultural production we can plausibly sustain. With demand only growing, perhaps it is time we take responsibility for our lifestyle. Perhaps it is time we change the way we live.
To paraphrase an elegant utterance by Kip Anderson, the co-director of Cowspiracy, going vegan is a choice whereby you can save:
- 4,ooo litres of water
- 20 kg of grain
- 3 square meters of forest
- The equivalent of 9 kg of CO2
- One animal’s life
Every single day.