Meg Kneafsey is a returned International Citizen Service (ICS) volunteer with Raleigh International, a trustee for the charity, and a campaigner. To mark ‘Veganuary’, she shares her five reasons to consider Veganism.
Over the past few years there has been a surge in veganism with a 360% increase in the past 10 years. This trend is particularly prevalent among young people, with half of all vegans aged 15-34.
Although many vegans face widespread criticism – particularly that the movement is just a health fad – there are valid, non-superficial reasons why people are restricting their diet in this way. The more I read about it, the more I am perplexed why this doesn’t have more support. So here are my 5 top reasons to consider veganism.
1. Cruelty to Animals
Firstly, it is strange how as a society we are disgusted at the idea of eating dogs and cats but not ‘farm animals’. But even if you do not think there is anything inherently wrong with eating meat, you are likely to agree that the meat industry is terrible. This intensive animal farming results in shocking animal cruelty.
However, it’s not only the animals meant for meat production. Mutilations, stress, infection and more are all found in the milk industry. Although it is a criminal offence to cause ‘unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress’ to any farmed animal, the problem lies with the interpretation of the word ‘unnecessary’ and a lack of enforcement.
One argument I hear from non-vegans is that the animals in the UK are looked after. Unfortunately, even so-called ‘high welfare’ products only mask the truth. You can see for yourself on this clip from ‘Cruel Britannia’. Living in ignorance is not an excuse, this is happening right now and the information is out there to be seen.
Another argument often perpetuated is ‘the animal is already dead’. Whilst that may be true, modern animal farming practices can only exist if we sustain them. By choosing to buy meat and animal by-products, you are choosing to pay to keep this practice alive.
2. Antibiotics Crisis
Factory farming has another result: contributing to our antibiotic crisis. As the animals live in close quarters, often in filthy conditions, factory farm administrators choose to overuse antibiotics in order to prevent infection that would reduce their livestock. Around 40% of antibiotics administered in the UK are given to farm animals and this has now been linked to causing antibiotic resistant superbugs in humans.
As the animals are becoming more resistant, we are more likely to eat infected meat that can make us ill or even have deadly effects.
Not only is the use of antibiotics a detriment to our health, the uncertainty of the link between human health and hormones given to animals is worrying. A connection between meat consumption and obesity has also been found. Furthermore, eating animal products has been conclusively linked to everything from heart disease to diabetes to cancer.
More recently, it has been found that vegans live longer than non-vegans due to the increase in their plant consumption. Economically, changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion annually by preventing health care costs and lost productivity from illness and death.
4. Climate Change
Livestock production is among the most destructive forces driving climate change. Raising animals to eat produces more greenhouse gasses than all of the carbon dioxide excreted by automobiles, boats, planes and trains in the world combined. We can’t really tackle climate change without addressing this issue and quitting meat can reduce your carbon footprint significantly more than quitting driving.
5. End World Hunger
Finally, our love of animal products is contributing to world hunger. It is estimated that a staggering 925 million humans around the world are suffering from the effects of hunger. Yet it has been proven that there is enough food on earth to feed everyone.
It’s not just the overconsumption of food by the West that is creating this inequality. Researchers determined that 36 percent of the calories in crops are being fed to farmed animals. When cattle are killed and turned into food, only 12 percent of those calories make their way into the human diet as meat. That’s a whopping two-thirds drop in the number of calories that would have been available to humans if the grains had been consumed directly by humans in the first place.
For those of you reading this, agreeing with my reasons but believe it is too difficult, I implore you to spend a short time educating yourself on the alternatives. I grew up believing a meal needed to have meat in it to be healthy and struggled knowing what else to put onto my plate. Fortunately, there is an entire community out there ready to welcome new vegans into the fold, sharing tips and experiences. More so, restaurants and shops are becoming more accommodating as the demand for vegan products increases.
Every January is ‘Veganuary’, a chance to go cold turkey. You can sign up online and receive offers, recipes, and tips, as well as dispelling some myths. I hope you consider joining this movement.