Would you like to try out going vegan? There are now LOTS of groups who can help you:
Sign up for support becoming vegan: Veganuary website and emails, Vegan Society app, Animal Aid website and emails, Viva app, Plant based health professionals emails, The vegan approach website, Meat Free Mondays website, Eastleigh Council meat reduction email list.
Sign up for support to act on climate change, including eating a plant based diet: The Jump, Count Us In, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Trust for Sustainable Living, Drawdown Ecochallenge, Eden Project.
Vegan health resources: British Dietetic Association statement, Oxford University article 1, Oxford University article 2, Harvard, BBC history of plant milks , Cambridge University, the United Nations and ProVeg.
Environmental reasons to be vegan:
In my education and other work, I come across many accessible, well presented, and even sometimes uplifting resources . I collected some together here, including some nice plant based infographics.
The UNFCCC quote Oxford University’s Joseph Poore as saying: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
Eating a more vegetable based diet was listed by UCL as a top three action.
Eating a plant based diet is listed by Lund University as a 'high impact action', and as saving 102.2 GT CO2 by Project Drawdown. In the UK, food and drink is the largest part of our carbon footprint (staff from Lancaster University), so there is a lot of potential for emissions reduction. (See the graphs below.)
The IPCC report, an expert from the IPCC, and ones from: Oxford University, Leiden University, University of Western Ontario, Small Planet Institute, Stanford, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Chatham House, and the government's food policy advisor state the benefits too.
The following graphs infer how we should prioritise our personal climate action: plant based diets, buying green energy, and using public transport often come out top, as well as ethical banking, campaigning, and limiting how many children and pets we have.
REASONS TO BE VEGAN
Vegan for the animals, planet, and people
Reasons to be vegan, including: Animal liberation, disease prevention, mental health, physical health, worker's rights, societal change, redistribution of food, land and resources, regeneration of the environment and fish stocks.
A growing trend
Veganism is growing around the world, especially in the UK. Around 5% of the populations of Israel, Sweden, Italy, Germany, and up to 19% of people in India eat plant based diets. Nobel Prize winning economist Alvin Roth has even suggested we all might be vegan in 100 years.
Farmed animals are contained in a life which was not of their choosing, and then die young. Female cows only make milk when they have recently had babies. However, since humans want the milk it is not profitable to keep the calves. As such, 100,000 male calves are shot by the dairy industry annually. Similarly, 30 million surplus male chicks are gassed or shredded. The conditions on farms are such that many animals die on the way to be slaughtered. Law breaking is common in slaughterhouses.
Slaughterhouses are difficult places to work, with low (and decreasing) wages. The rate of non-fatal injury in the meat industry is two times higher than in all other manufacturing. Workers also experience high rates of: fatality, repetitive strain disorder, problems relating to fume inhalation, illnesses from contract with ill animals, somatization, anxiety, anger, hostility and psychoticism. Imagine the life of the poor person who kills your food.
Content warning- violence against women and children
Abattoir staff must desensitise themselves to violence in order to cope with the stress. In turn, this desensitisation towards non-human animals can translate into violence toward human animals. For example, it has been found that when slaughter houses are introduced to communities as a source of employment, domestic abuse and child abuse increase. The same effects are not observed when a different factory is introduced. Communities surrounding slaughter houses have shown a 166% higher rate of arrests for rape, when other factors are controlled for. Likewise, it has been argued that the period of history when humans first started to kill animals on mass coincided with the period we started institutions to kill one another. Meat free week might also be called nonviolence week.
See too: The Sexual Politics of Meat book
Reduced consumption of animal products has benefits for both global food security and the environment. Animal farms use more land than arable farms. This is because 80-96% of the protein an animal eats does not remain in their body to be eaten by humans. The outcome of this waste is high land requirements- globally animals are kept on 70% of agricultural land, and a further 33% of arable land is used to grow feed crops. On average, 6kg of plant protein could have been produced for every 1kg of animal flesh.
Land use for cattle ranching in the Amazon rainforest- the primary cause of deforestation.
It takes 100 times more water to produce 1kg of animal compared to 1kg of grain. To produce one calorie of beef requires on average 18 times more fuel calories than one calorie of grain. Non-organic feed crops are grown using fertilisers made from mined phosphate, a finite resource.
If UK citizens switched to vegetarian and vegan diets, then Greenhouse gas savings would be equivalent to taking half of the cars in the UK off the road. As well as climate change, atmospheric pollution resulting from animal farming can cause respiration problems, and acid rain. These are caused by emissions of the greenhouse gases methane, oxides of nitrogen, and not fully combusted carbon. Furthermore, run-off from agro-chemicals and excrement can unbalance aquatic ecosystems, and the farming of animals depletes soil more than farming crops, due to problems such as compaction and desertification.
Ninety percent of the world’s large fish have disappeared, and close to one third of the world’s commercial fisheries have collapsed. Additionally, fish farms have been sources of pollution and disease, which contaminate wild fish populations.
Personal Physical Health
There are a variety of health benefits to being vegan. For example, a couple of raw vegans in their 60s made the news by running a marathon every day for a year. Nowadays we consume almost twice as much meat as in the 1960s, and so the health consequences may not yet be fully understood. It has been found that eating processed red meat increases a person’s risk of mortality by 20%, and eating non-processed meat increases it by 13%.