Updated: May 18, 2020
"As long as animals are deemed nothing more than property to be bought, sold, bred, and killed at our whim, they will continue to face abuse. It is only when we recognize that animals are our fellow inhabitants of the earth, with innate needs, personalities, and a fundamental right to freedom, that true animal liberation will occur." (Mercy For Animals, Nathan Runkle with Gene Stone)
For most of my adult life, I have been a practicing vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and other titles that describe my repulsion of the voluntary mass murder of Earth's fellow beings. Recently, I have committed myself to living a 100% vegan life. I've made this choice for three main reasons:
Determination to stop violence against animals
Agricultural and tangential industries that profit billions of dollars each year off the heads of farm animals help to make us forget or not see in the first place the destruction factory farming in America has on all three of these factors.
When we walk down our grocery store aisles we are greeted in the deli by utopian photographs of happy cows roaming luscious fields on the package of ground beef, of a chicken peacefully laying an egg with acres of space around them on egg cartons, and pigs smiling next to happy farmers on the bacon. This is intentional, and in most cases, couldn't be a further-from-the-truth depiction. The multi-million and billion dollar corporations "farming" these products have passed legislation, created physical and psychological barriers to keep us from seeing what these practices actually look like. It has only been from undercover investigations, such as those done by the incredible non-profit Mercy For Animals, that have allowed the public to see inside. What we find when the curtain is pulled back is animal abuse plain and simple; the animal's confinement to cages not even big enough for them to turn around or stretch their limbs, systemic procedures such as tail docking in which animal's tails are cut (often fully conscious, without any form of pain reducing or blocking aides), and all-too-often cases of animals being stabbed, kicked, thrown, punched, and even tased. In my opinion, this is not why animals are put on this planet, and it is on the opposite end of the spectrum as to how we should be treating our fellow inhabitants. Regardless of the scientific evidence that farm animals are as intelligent, feeling, and aware beings as those in our houses, it can be so easy for us to recognize this abuse toward "domesticated" animals as repulsive, yet based on conditioning, we often don't judge these situations for farm animals with the same amount of empathy and compassion.
"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women for men." (Alice Walker's preface to Marjorie Spiegel's The Dreaded Comparison)
I am not a health professional, yet the overwhelming evidence from doctors, nutritionists, and scientists supports the claim that eating vegan can lower your chances of heart disease or failure, can offer all necessary nutrients needed to live a healthy life, has been linked to lower chances of cancer, makes you less susceptible to food-borne illness, any myriad other benefits. Some anthropologists claim that based on the structure and build of our teeth, we are meant to be plant-based eaters. And from personal experience, I can share that I feel worlds better when I eat plant-based; from higher energy levels to more restorative sleep to better overall moods. Additionally, there are so many areas for concern when eating most factory farmed animal products. The agricultural industry today overwhelmingly uses antibiotics to raise their livestock, which is passed through to the consumer of the animal, and has led scientists to share concern that our society is quickly outgrowing the ability of antibiotic treatments to epidemics, leaving fear of a lack of ability to react to an arguably inevitable pandemic. Behind the locked doors of some factory farms, as documented by the undercover footage mentioned above, hens die regularly in crates while their cage-mates are forced to step over and live on their rotting carcasses in the too-small spaces. Feces lines the floors of huge warehouse-looking farms. The conditions of the majority of our country's meat production facilities are far below sanitary requirements that any of us would want our food produced, let alone raised, in. If humans are at the top of the food chain, when we ingest these animals, we are getting all of the abuse, hormones, viruses and unsanitary conditions that came before.
Lastly, we must save our planet, and our country's current system of mass animal production is taking a devastating toll. The emissions that the agricultural system in America emits each year are greater than all emissions from all forms of transportation (cars, planes, boats, trains, etc.)... in the world. That is astounding. Also, in times of water crisis threatening to cripple communities in the states to some of the biggest cities abroad (recently and notably, Cape Town, South Africa), the amount of water used in animal agriculture production towers over other food manufacturing. The burgeoning Impossible Burger, a plant-based alternative to a beef burger that tastes and looks almost identical, uses 96% less land, 87% less water, and produces 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to meat from animals, claims Impossible Foods. It's easy to see in the data that plant-based eating can have a tremendous impact on our environment.
"Every year more than 9 billion land animals are slaughtered for food in the United States. Of these, approximately 26 million are ducks, 30 million are cattle, 106 million are pigs, and 236 million are turkeys. The remaining 8.6 billion animals slaughtered every single year are chickens- that's nearly 300 per second." (Mercy For Animals, Nathan Runkle with Gene Stone)
As we go into one of the biggest animal-product consuming days and seasons of the year, let us stand in compassion, love, empathy, and data to champion a better world, one plate at a time. I know how insignificant one side of chicken or one milk shake can seem, yet we must remember to be the change we wish to see in the world, and that our actions do speak volumes. Individually we must stand for our values, and together we can make a change.
Have you chosen to eat vegan? Is there something standing in your way? Let me know by commenting below, and start a conversation!
This post is not medical or dietary advice, and you should consult your doctor before making any shift in diet.
Four For Further Fun:
(At the end of each blog post, I will include four things that have had a strong impact for me in the area of the post's discussion)
A Book- Mercy For Animals | I recently picked up a copy of Nathan Runkle and Gene Stone's book, named after the non-profit fighting for animal liberation, and could. not. put. it. down. It is filled to the brim with riveting stories, detailed information and facts, and a whole lot of inspiration to make the compassionate choice. I highly recommend.
A Documentary- Sustainable | Currently on Netflix, this 2016 documentary follows farmers in their leadership of the sustainable food movement.
A Documentary- The Game Changers | Currently on Netflix, this 2018 film documents visionary scientists and some of the world's top athletes in an effort to find the optimal diet for human performance and health. (Hint: there are a lot of plants involved.)
Videos- Mercy For Animals' Undercover Investigations |Mentioned in the main blog post, MFA has gotten behind many of the agricultural industry's locked doors and has documented animal abuse, unsanitary conditions, and vividly depicts these uncensored images in their clips. (Trigger Warning: these videos are very graphic and often depict cruel animal abuse. I think it is important to watch to understand what is happening, and please take care of yourself if you do choose to view.)
*I have not been compensated to promote any of these resources. They are all things that I recommend based on their impact in my own experience, and hope that you may find use in them as well. Enjoy!*