Veganism has come a long way since its humble roots in 1944, when the Vegan Society had its first 25 newsletter subscribers.
It is a powerful way to take a stance in animal rights, environmental conservation, enhance your health and live a life free of moral compromises.
Many folks mistakenly think that a vegan lifestyle is merely a diet that excludes all animal products and by-products.
Sure, the diet is a significant part of going vegan. However, veganism is also the exclusion of animal products in daily use. You can find animal by-products in everyday household items like cleaning products, plastic bags, sugar, crayons, even beer!
In addition, everyday animal products used in clothing include wool, silk, leather, feathers, and fur. Less obvious animal products used in clothing include:
- Animal-derived glue and dyes
- Buttons and jewelry made from bone or horn
- Leather tags on jeans
Of course, people who identify as vegan also avoid supporting forms of entertainment based on animal exploitation, such as zoos, marine parks, or circuses.
Vegan Diet For Health
The benefits of plant-based eating are fast rising in popularity and adopted by millions worldwide. Celebrities, politicians, and other well-known public figures have openly pitched the plant-based diet in the place of a meat-heavy one.
Removing meat, dairy, and eggs from the diet have been proven numerous times to have healthful benefits like lowering the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol levels and increasing the intake of low caloric foods with high fiber and carbohydrate content.
Often, meat and dairy are replaced by plant-based alternatives like beans, nuts, and other legumes. Furthermore, vegetarians have stronger predictors of health and biomarkers than meat-eaters, according to UK experts.
Excessive consumption of red meat has long been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.
In addition, researchers also found that milk has an adverse impact on bone health. Milk-drinking women have been found to have a greater chance of osteoporosis, bone fractures, heart disease, and cancer.
According to Canadian researchers, people who consume the most eggs have a 19% increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
In addition, fish and other seafood often have high levels of mercury, microplastics, and other contaminants that have no place in our bellies.
With severe diseases like cancer and heart disease on the rise, we have moved from whole foods and fresh produce of the older generations a few decades ago to processed meat, artificial flavorings, and other potentially harmful chemicals.
Cancer is among the leading causes of death, with 18 million new cases in 2018. This figure is projected to rise to 29.5 million by 2040.
A disturbing 2015 study of cancer trends among young adults showed a 30% increase in cancer diagnoses in individuals from 15 to 39 years compared to 1973. Many incidences of diagnosed cancer have been linked to lifestyle and dietary choices.
Vegan Diet For Animals
The animal agriculture industry is a dismal one. Several controversial videos and documentaries like Earthlings have been released in recent decades highlighting the plight in which the farmed animals are kept, the inhumane husbandry practices, and finally, how they are slaughtered.
The five principles of animal welfare include:
Nutrition - The availability of adequate, balanced, diverse, and clean food and water for the animal is one of these variables.
Environment - Temperature, substrate, room, air, smell, sound, and predictability are all variables that contribute to comfort.
Health - Variables promote excellent health by preventing illness, injury, and disability while maintaining a high fitness level.
Behavior - Sensory inputs, exploration, feeding, socializing, playing, withdrawing, and other variables that offer diverse, new, and intriguing ecological problems.
Mental State - The animal’s state of mind should gain from mainly positive feelings, such as enjoyment, warmth, or vitality, while decreasing adverse conditions, such as anxiety, anger, starvation, discomfort, or boredom, by providing favorable circumstances preceding four functional domains.
While factory-farmed animals in the US are somewhat protected by the Humane Slaughter Act and various animal rights groups, most farms are in developing countries with no such laws.
China, one of the world’s top-producing beef nations, has no national animal protection laws.
In India, where cows are supposedly revered as “holy animals”, the slaughter of cows is prohibited in several states. The cows are then marched across the border and over long distances, often collapsing from heatstroke, exhaustion, or stress.
Two controversial practices of rubbing chili powder into the eyes or breaking their tails to get them up and walking again have surfaced, sparking outcry from animal rights groups.
Often, animals are housed in cramped, squalid conditions with no room to move or exhibit natural behaviors.
Factory workers are often overworked and underpaid, constantly prioritizing efficiency over the welfare of the animals.
Pigs, long acknowledged as sentient beings with complex emotions, feelings, and social structures, are housed in cramped conditions where they cannot explore, forage or carry out natural behaviors.
Pregnant sows are kept in farrowing crates in which they cannot turn around, preventing them from normal maternal behaviors like nest building.
These intelligent animals often become bored, frustrated, and extremely stressed, resulting in abnormal tail biting and fighting behaviors.
The poultry industry is a sad one.
Broiler chickens are kept in cramped cages their whole lives without adequate exercise or sunlight while being fed a diet for optimal growth.
Often growing at unhealthy rates to maximize profit, farmed chickens often have bone deformities and many health problems.
In addition, female laying hens for the egg industry are caged in overcrowded conditions their whole lives. These cages, known as battery cages, have been banned in several US states and several EU countries but continue to be used worldwide.
Male chicks that are useless to the egg industry are culled at birth by either maceration or asphyxiation.
Maceration involves dropping the male chicks into high-powered grinders, shredding, or mincing them.
In addition, asphyxiation or “gassing” is the controlled killing of animals with carbon dioxide to induce unconsciousness then death.
Animal lovers often pledge to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet to save the suffering of about ten billion farmed animals a year.
It is estimated that the average meat-eating American will have eaten 7,000 animals in his life, made up of 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 30 sheep, and 4,500 fish. Holy cow!
Vegan Diet For The Environment
Animal agriculture accounts for more than 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the vehicles in the world combined.
Livestock and its byproducts emit 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide in addition to 65% of all nitrous oxide emissions.
Both nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases contributing to the increased surface temperature that is causing global warming and, essentially, climate change.
Although less nitrous oxide is present in the air, it traps heat almost 300 times better than carbon dioxide and lasts in our atmosphere for 150 years.
The greenhouse effect is when greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other industrial gases collect in the Earth’s atmosphere and keep the planet warm.
Without the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the surface would be -18 degrees Celcius, making the world uninhabitable for some species.
However, in recent years, rapid increase in consumption of natural resources like fossil fuels, deforestation, and rise in animal agriculture has thrown the balance out of whack.
Now we have rising temperatures, melting ice shelves and peaks, and rising sea levels threatening the existence of many life forms, including heat-sensitive marine ecosystems that don’t take kindly to any increases in temperature.
Australia lost about half the corals in the Great Barrier Reef in two separate heat waves while fish populations worldwide are declining.
Fish populations have been on the decline for years. Overfishing and using destructive practices like bottom trawling have caused a noticeable drop in the health and biodiversity of our coral reefs and deep seas.
The consequences of climate change are dramatic. Each year, the wildfires seem to worsen while floods, droughts, and hurricanes increase in intensity.
Ice shelves are melting, and oceans are getting warmer, elevating sea levels and threatening to displace millions in the next few decades.
Vegan Diet For Human Rights
An incredible amount of food goes into grain production for livestock. It is estimated that 25% of all our grain worldwide goes to feeding animals to be our food, while meat production is one of the world’s most water-intensive and polluting industries.
Animal agriculture takes up about a third of the global freshwater supply, while an estimated 800 million people have little to no access to safe drinking water.
In addition, 760 million tons of grain go into growing our meat, while about 690 people worldwide suffer from starvation and malnutrition.
If we diverted the resources we are pumping into animal agriculture into feeding humans, we would have enough to feed not only our current population but billions more.
With our population set to explode into almost ten billion in 2050, lowering our meat consumption and redirecting our resources to feed developing countries and struggling economies might be vital in eradicating world hunger.
In addition, the pollution from factory farming is extensive and harmful. Workers are often exposed to hazardous gases from cleaning agents, pathogens, excrement, animal dander, and other microscopic poisons.
These toxins spread into waterways and the soil, polluting the environment and making poor rural communities unsafe to live in. Unfortunately, these communities seldom have the means to pack up and go.
Other Ways To Adopt A Vegan Lifestyle
In addition to the diet, there are plenty of other ways to choose veganism without making any significant changes to your diet.
Vegan products are on the rise. While the number of vegan foods offered in Australia rose 92% in 2016, the worldwide non-dairy milk industry was worth $12 billion in 2019.
The global vegan food market is valued at $17 billion in 2020 and continuing to rise.
Vegan clothing simply means avoiding the use of all animals in the manufacturing process.
Common materials made from animals include leather, wool, silk, and fur. While the fur industry gets a fair bit of bad press and some pretty heartbreaking videos depicting life on a fur farm, the silk, leather, and wool industry is less demonized.
For example, did you know that silkworms were boiled alive in their cocoons to provide silk? It takes 6,600 silkworms to make a single kilogram of silk.
Or lambs are often subject to a procedure called mulesing to minimize the parasitic infections they are prone to on their rumps. Often painful and bloody, this procedure has been banned in New Zealand but continues to be practiced in Australia.
In addition, while cows contribute about 65% of the world’s leather, other animals like pigs, goats, sheep, crocodiles, cats, and dogs are also used to make leather.
PETA released a controversial behind-the-scenes video that showed workers bludgeoning dogs, cutting their dogs, and skinning hundreds a day. The leather produced from that farm was intended for the US market. Be warned; the video is not for the faint-hearted.
While these are apparent products from animals, more subtle use of animals for clothes are in:
- Horn that consists of keratin comes from hooves and beaks. Horn is mainly used in the production of jewelry, combs, and buttons.
- Fur-lined hoodies, jackets, and gloves could contain real fur. Only products certified vegan will contain no trace amounts of animal products.
- Down is found in the soft layers of feathers from ducks and geese. Although down is traditionally harvested after slaughter for meat, live-plucking is still practiced in many countries. Live-plucking is a process where feathers are pulled from live birds, causing bleeding, tearing the skin, pain, and extreme stress.
- Some adhesives used contain animal products from horses and hooves. Today, animal-based glue is more commonly from cattle, pigs, and fish.
How Do I Find Vegan Products?
Retailers and manufacturers are recognizing the exploding demand for vegan products and services and jumping on the bandwagon.
Supermarket chains often have vegan sections, while large retailers are moving off conventional products and increasing their range of offerings to kinder, more animal-friendly alternatives.