When I first went vegan, it's because I was struggling with my moral compass. We are living in a dying world and have the ability to make positive change. Industrial animal agriculture is devastating for so many reasons.
Whether it be the slaughter of animals born solely for human consumptions, or the negative impact it has on climate change, it is clear that a meat derived diet is not sustainable for any of us.
Being vegan is a lifestyle choice, and a good one at that. It comes with so many benefits to the environment, and the animals that live in it. There are also an abundance of health benefits to veganism too, the gift that keeps on giving.
What is a Vegan Diet?
If you're not quite sure what a vegan diet is, it contains absolutely no animal products, at all. This means you would not eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. However, it doesn't stop with food. An ethical vegan will follow a plant-based diet, as well as avoiding any other products that are derived from or cause harm to animals, such as leather and animal tested beauty products.
If you're interested in becoming vegan or having a hard time making the transition, read some of our tips to going vegan here.
Now let's have a look at what a vegan diet can do for our planet.
1. The Environment
Production of meat causes double the amount of pollution than the production of plant-based foods.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), "the total emissions from global livestock is 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emission.".
This means that eating meat is more harmful to the environment than all modes of transportation combined. Cows, used for their meat and their dairy, have the most negative impact. This is because they create the most emissions, representing around 65% of all livestock's emissions worldwide. Around 44% of livestock emissions are methane, a colorlus, odorless and highly flammable gas.
There is also plenty of negative emissions that come from feed, feed production, feeding techniques, manure storage, land maintenance and transportation.
There are multiple ways that a meat derived diet causes pollution. One of the biggest issues is animal waste, humans are easily outnumbered by farm animals and there is a large amount of animal waste that needs to be disposed of. Some waste is used to fertilize plants, but most is stored in tanks that are not always secure.
When this waste gets into waterways, it has a detrimental effect. It can kill aquatic species, reduce the suitability of water for human consumption by creating algal blooms and hypoxia, which is a reduced level of oxygen that prevents all forms of life from surviving.
As well as this, the fumes that come from manure are extremely dangerous for people living within close proximity. They have been linked to increased rates of lung disease, asthma and and bronchitis.
Deforestation is the large-scale clearing of land, usually for agriculture, industry, or transportation. In this instance, we're looking at the impact of agriculture.
Despite millions of people choosing to live a vegan lifestyle, the demand for meat continues to rise. This has resulted in millions of acres of land being destroyed year after year to make room for farm animals to graze and farmers to grow feed crops. Cows are one of the biggest issues here, but land is destroyed for other animals such as pigs, chickens and sheep.
Animals require a large amount of calories when they are being raised, a much greater amount than the calories they produce for humans to consume. The cost outweighs the benefit and we need to start realising this.
2. The Animals
There are lots of different industries that come from humans consumption of animals; the top three are Dairy, Meat & Eggs. In these industries animals are bred solely for human consumption and often don't get to live out any part of their life in a happy and safe environment. They are over-fed, used and discarded of if they are no longer of use.
The global dairy market was valued at 718.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and was projected to grow to 1032.7 billion U.S. dollars by 2024.
Like us humans, cows make milk for their young, and do not produce it if they do not need to. The dairy industry will repeatedly artificially inseminate one female cow, meaning that they are almost always pregnant and always producing milk.
A cow has the life span of around 20 years, but when living on a dairy farm, will usually be culled around six years old. They do not get sent to a field of green to live happily ever after. They are simply turned into cheaper cuts of meat, due to their exhausted and low quality body.
The young that these cows produce all have different, uncertain fates. In nature, a calf would stay with their mother for up to a year, to be nurtured, loved and protected. Cows are sociable animals and build bonds with their family members, but within the dairy industry most calves are taken away within the first few hours.
Some of the calves will be put back into the dairy farm, continuing the vicious cycle and male calves may be sold for beef production. If there is no way to make any money from the calves, they are seen as a nuisance and will be shot in the head, which many would consider one of the kinder lives they could have been given.
You probably already know that the meat industry treats animals pretty badly, but just how bad is it?
Now, not all farms are the same, and organic farmers will treat their animals with love and respect, allowing them to live a more fulfilled life. But at the end of it all, their fate remains the same.
In the worst instances, a farmer will use females, breed them as much as possible and dispose of her when she becomes useless. Babies are taken from their mothers within the first few hours of being born and the living conditions are disgusting and overcrowded.
The end of their journey, being culled for meat, might be the least horrible thing about it.
Chickens lives can be hell from the second they hatch and enter the world. They live in overcrowded conditions, they cannot move, and do not have access to daylight. What's worse? They live in a swamp of their own faeces and are bred to grow at an alarming rate. They often grow to be too heavy to support their own weight, become unable to move and die of starvation.
A meat industry chicken will live for 42 days.
Cows that are raised for beef consumption can be kept permanently indoors, in tight and crowded spaces. They may never get the luxury of wandering around a field, grazing at their own leisure. They are over-fed and left around substantial piles of manure, which can lead to respiratory problems.
There have been instances in the past where incompetent workers have failed to shoot the cow with the electric bolt gun correctly, and these cows have then been slaughtered whilst still conscious.
Meat industry cows will live for up to two years old.
Pigs are extremely smart animals, but in the meat industry they are not given the love and respect they deserve. Contrary to popular belief, they are naturally clean animals who love to play, socialize and explore.
Pigs raised in the meat factory are forced to live out their days in small, jam packed pens. The lack of space and entertainment often drives them to aggressive acts, such as attacking other pigs or harming themselves. Farmers attempt to combat this issue by filing down their teeth.
Female pigs are often bred repeatedly and left in crates so small they are unable to move, their new piglets separated from them using metal bars, soon to be removed from their mother after a matter of weeks.
The slaughter of a pig is barbaric and deeply disturbing.
Meat industry pigs will live for six months to three years. Domestic pigs can live up to 20 years old.
Sheep farming is usually done for their wool, but sheep are often sold for their meet too. While some sheep live for up to six years old before being culled, lamb is considered to be a higher quality meat, and male lambs can be slaughtered as early as 10 weeks old.
Sheep are often neglected - suffering from various diseases, malnutrition, castrations, painful injections, lameness and parasites at the hands of the farmers who are there to care for them.
Meat industry sheep will live for between ten weeks and six years. Domestic sheep can live up to 20 years old. They are culled once they are no longer creating quality wool and offspring.
In 2020, the international egg market was worth $213.13 billion.
Female birds are raised and looked after, solely to produce eggs. Their living conditions are often small and dirty wired cages, and this torture continues for around 2 years.
Once the chicks hatch, the females are taken to have a large portion of their beaks cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. However, this process is done without anaesthetic and causes the birds long-lasting pain.
Once these chicks are old enough, they are then placed into the same small cages, where they will live their lives in a space so small they are unable to spread their wings. The cages smell of the waste the birds produce, as it gets all over them and the birds around them. These cages are often riddles with disease and the corpse of the ones who didn't make it.
In an organic setting, the hens wouldn't lay so many eggs. This requires a lot of calcium and often the birds are left with broken and brittle bones.
Male chicks do not produce eggs, making them worthless to the egg industry. Every day male chicks are put into the "macerator", a high speed grinder, whilst they are alive.
The hens egg production will begin to drop from around 18 months. This is when they are sent to the slaughterhouse. They are unhealthy, emaciated and exhausted, meaning their meat is often used in household pet food, as it isn't deemed good enough for humans.
So, why Veganism?
As you can see from the topics we've covered, the common denominator here is animal consumption.
The vegan diet eradicates the need for animal-derived products, vastly decreasing the negative impacts it has on the world.
Every day we are presented with new, innovative meat alternatives. and California Performance Co has used science and plants to create whey protein, with absolutely no cows involved. With advancements as good as this we really don't see the need or desire to continue on this destructive path.