I am a vegan. A lot of people end up asking why when they eventually find out, enough that I now have a “standard” response. My five reasons make up this response:
- It is cheaper
- It is healthier
- it is easier (and fun)
- It is better for society at an international level
- Animals get a pretty raw deal when it comes to meat production
I will give an overview of these points here:
1. Per kilo, meat, eggs and dairy are some of the most expensive bulk ingredients (I am not counting specific herbs etc, like saffron, that would not make a meal). I think it is relatively clear that on average it would be cheaper to live as a vegan than as meat-eater, but I have a (not overly scientific) article here if you really want a separate opinion. Given that the main issue people seem to have is protein, then as red lentils have more protein, at about a quarter of the price per kilo, that seems to be something of a misnomer. Bean burgers are cheaper than beef burgers, lentils are cheaper than chicken and nut roast is cheaper than lamb, not to mention that you can substitute them with vegetables anyway.
2. This is probably a controversial point. It may well be the case that a completely vegan diet is not completely optimal. But what is certainly the case is that pretty much everyone who eats meat eats too much. According to the American Dietic Association it is at least as healthy, and is okay for “individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes“. The NHS also say this, and I am sure there are other organisations too.
One reason it is healthier is the generally large increase in fruit and veg that is consumed. This is obviously not exclusive to vegans; anyone eating meat could reasonably increase this too. Whilst I would maintain that it is a lot easier when you are vegan, as there is a constant reminder that you should. This may be the reason that the NHS say that “vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes“. However, I would respect and say it is quite right if someone ignores this argument as they say they will just eat more fruit and veg.
What is harder to ignore is the evidence that meat causes negative health effects. For example, red meat can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease (the former is contested, but seemingly only by the meat industry, who I am happy to say have enough of a vested interest to be disregarded). Meat is also difficult to digest, and factory farmed meat is especially bad for you, with all the chemicals and unhygienic conditions it will be made with.
On the subject of dairy, most people can’t digest it. Why would you eat (drink) something you can’t digest. It doesn’t make much sense to me. What is worse still is the absolute scandal that is the dairy industry selling milk as a good source of calcium, something people will invariably tell you if they find out you are a vegan. But this is wholly false. In fact, milk actually increases your chance of getting osteoporosis. Other issues listed in the link above include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pesticides and other chemicals. This is not an exhaustive list.
3. For me, it is easier and more enjoyable to be vegan. I have always cooked for myself “properly” since I left home. I do things from scratch as much as possible and don’t think I have ever had a microwave curry or anything like that. I also enjoy cooking a lot. Given this, being vegan means one of two things. If I can’t do a meal at all then it means I have less to choose from for dinner, so it is an easier choice. Alternatively, I can try different things and see how they work. And experimenting with food is always a bit of fun!
4. There are many, many social effects of eating animal products. I do not intend to mention them all here, or cover any one of them in the appropriate detail. But hopefully you will find something new in this brief overview.
The most obvious and humane issue is the fact that eating meat deprives people of food. If you eat a chicken, then for everyday of that chickens life it had to be fed food, presumably three times a day. Most commercial factory farmed chickens live 39 days till they are killed (quite shocking in itself). So that is about 120 portions of food. It is quite clear that you could make a lot more by growing food for people, e.g. lentils or rice, than by driving the food to the chicken (environmental effects coming next), then the chicken to the slaughterhouse, then to the shop and you buying an eating it. It is hardly a system made to maximise food. Not long ago rice prices took a sharp rise internationally, and with rice being the staple food for many of the worlds poorest this had an awful effect on them. And one of the contributing factors to this was the fact that less was being produced as the land was being used for animal production.
Another massive issue is that of global warming. Meat production contributes about 130% more to global warming than transportation. That was a 2006 stat, which estimated meat to contribute about 18%. That has since been revised to over 50%!!! There are lots of ways it does this; deforestation, overuse of water, extra transport of food, cattle farting of course and the fact that growing crops would help absorb CO2.
Antibiotics are used on factory farmed animals all the time, and this contributes heavily to lessening their effect. As long as we still have prescriptions for humans we shouldn’t be allowing this.
Lack of space – eating meat takes up ten times more land space.
5. The classic reason (not my original one) is the cruelty to animals. This is worse than you could imagine. The turn over for people working at factory farms is astronomically high, due to the mental anguish caused. Other than that I can not really say anything that you won’t know already, but I will include a video, which has disturbing scenes and I advise caution before watching.
If you have spent a lot of time researching where your meat is from and only getting stuff that is appropriate then I guess I would say that is a lot better, enough that I wouldn’t criticise, as if all meat was produced properly then a lot less would be consumed, just because of the price increase.
DISCLAIMER: If you wish to change diet, obviously consult the appropriate literature before hand, just to make sure. The NHS website has plenty of info on their website for example.