I became vegetarian 11 years ago and began the vegan ‘journey’ about 2 years ago.
Why? As a vegetarian I occasionally met vegans and found myself repeatedly saying the same thing to them and myself- ‘I couldn’t do that’;. The truth was I never really gave a thought as to WHY I should convert.
My reasons for being a vegetarian were simple:
1. I do not agree with the mass production of meat because of the way in which animals are treated in this process
* I really want to insert a relevant photo here but I don’t think you would read on so here is a better one…
2. Would I eat meat if I could guarantee that the animals were treated with respect and dignity? No, because I cannot justify to myself any animal having to give a life in order to provide me with one meal when there is an ABUNDANCE of delicious nutritional non-meat dishes. My meal is not more important than the life of an animal. For me this is enough of a reason to convert but I have attempted to explore some other arguments and reasons to go vegan after being asked so many questions about this topic over the last few years.
When I turned vegetarian at 18 I was met with a LOT of questions and resistance to my decision. As a passionate animal-lover with a strong sense that eating meat was wrong, I struggled to communicate my reasons effectively and non-judgmentally. When I was met with questions such as ‘if we didn’t farm animals they wouldn’t exit…would you rather these animals didn’t have a life????’ or ‘it is natural to eat meat and we can’t survive without it’ …or ‘it’s only an animal…they don’t have feelings like humans’..I didn’t know how to respond. For me it was enough that it simply felt wrong to eat the flesh of another creature, especially when we had animals (as pets) at home. I didn’t have the statistics or facts to successfully educate anyone or defend my decision fully. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see what I could see and this upset me. These discussions often became heated and eventually I gave up. I shied away from discussing it .. until I finally found an answer that no-one could argue with…..
‘So why don’t you eat meat?’ ‘Oh…well….erm…. I have just never felt right eating meat…I don’t have a problem with people who do eat meat though… I just can’t eat meat without imagining animals running around in my head’.
This was true but didn’t go a fraction of the way towards explaining my full reasons. I have begun to see that sometimes when people challenge me so much it is because they feel some sub-conscious guilt. They would also like to be vegetarian but it isn’t the right time for them now and that they are trying to justify their own behaviour by challenging mine. I found the above statement sounded so similar to ‘Oh I have just never felt right being with someone of the opposite sex ..that’s when I knew I was gay’…which is now recognised as politically incorrect to argue with, that it simply stopped people in their tracks. They didn’t feel guilt or the need to defend themselves, which made my life a LOT easier.
Over time I met more people who have similar opinions to me on a lot of topics, but are meat-eaters. Or people that are on the fence. And I wanted to educate myself with some good facts and figures so that I could answer ANY challenge to veganism. I also enjoy debating a lot more and don’t fear social rejection because of it. If someone disagrees, that’s ok and most people accept this. So this article and my subsequent articles on this topic is to give meat-eaters and vegetarians a little more information in order to make a more INFORMED decision on what they put on their plates.
Progression from vegetarian to vegan – why is this so important?
The older I got the more I found out about the nature of not just the meat industry but the dairy industry. I began the vegan journey, initially eating vegan at home and trying where possible to eat vegan at restaurants. and at friends’ houses too. At the moment I am in South East Asia (where, btw it is easy-peasy to practise veganism) so I can safely say I am 99.9% vegan (I’m sure I’ve accidentally eaten fish sauce on the odd occasion (‘Fish isn’t an animal is it Miss?’)
So back to the dairy industry; there are plenty of films/videos you can watch if you would like to see the full extent. Personally I cannot bear to watch these videos, hence why I am vegan but I have read a LOT about the industry and here are some really important statistics that ANY meat or dairy-eater should know before eating another piece of cheese. This blog isn’t meant to scare away any vegetarians. If you are happy after reading this then please go ahead, you are still doing a LOT of good for animals, but also keep in mind that if you are vegetarian, you are already 80% vegan (90% if it’s really only cheese keeping you hanging on as it did me for so many years!)
Reasons to go vegan
Could the vegan industry actually be worse than the meat industry?
Vegan stats- the birds and the bees
– 75% of the milk and cheese production begins with a bull being made to ejaculate using an implement called an electro-ejaculator and then force-impregnating female cows using constraining equipment referred to in the industry a ‘rape rack’ . This process can lead to injury, infection and disease.
– This insemination leads to lactation but also the unfortunate by-product of a calf. The milk from a cow in a farm is intended for humans and not the calf (the opposite of what nature intended) and so the calf is take away from its mother as soon as 2 hours after birth and fed powdered milk. Calves suffer such great separation anxiety that they been known to try to bond by suckling from the farmer sending them off for slaughter. Female calves become dairy producers but if the calf is male it is of no use so in the UK it is often shot at birth (CIWF) or used for veal.
– Veal. The calf is kept in a 2ft square container on a lead so that he cannot move or lie down comfortably (the EU has since insisted on improved standards for European meat but this is still occurring in other countries around the world including the US). The calf is fed an overly-high or solely non-solid diet containing mostly of powdered milk so unhealthy that their digestive systems cannot work and many develop anemia (2) in order to keep the flesh pale. It is then slaughtered for meat. Hence the dairy industry is the foundation for the veal industry. 99,000 calves every year are shot and 1,000,000 exported from the UK to the continent for meat where they suffer hugely from anxiety stresses of long journeys. Cows of this age are unable to regulate their body temperature from the varying temperatures experienced and many become ill or die shortly after arriving. Standards in the EU compared to the UK are lower. Slatted floors are generally used with no bedding which causes foot injury and lameness and the EU minimum recommended nutritional diet is too low for full health.
– As with humans; mother cows bond tightly with their calves and when the calves are taken away cows have been reported to bellow for days (up to 6 weeks) after the incident. Further, the more calves a cow has, the more attached to each one she becomes. A female dairy cow can produce 7-10 calves over a lifetime.
SO…you may not eat veal but unfortunately the purchase of dairy products is leading to the veal industry.
– Once a cow can no longer produce milk (often due to disease or exhaustion) it is also of no use. The thanks a cow gets for producing 350,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime and a whole lot of profit to the farmer, supplier and retailer is to be fattened up and sold for meat too.
-Did you know? Most cheese isn’t vegetarian. It contains rennet which come from the inside of a calf’s stomach
A more natural approach to `making sure we get enough calcium’?
Poultry/ egg farming
Chickens produced for meat are often housed in huge, windowless sheds where artificial lighting is manipulated to make the birds eat as often as possible. They are fed growth-promoting drugs which cause skeletal and respiratory problems in order to have meatier thighs and breasts.
About 360 million hens are raised for eggs in the U.S. every year, and 95% spend their lives in battery cages, 5-6 birds per cage, stacked tier upon tier in huge warehouses so they cannot stretch their wings. The wire mesh of the cages rubs off their feathers, chafes their skin, and causes their feet to become crippled. In these conditions, hens will peck one another from stress, causing injury and even death. The answer to this is to cut off their beaks. The beaks contain many nerve endings and many chicks die from shock from this process alone. Their life expectancy is shortened from 10 to 2 years because they stop producing enough eggs after this age and become useless. Millions of day-old male chicks are killed (usually in a high-speed grinder called a “macerator”) or suffocated to death every year because they are worthless to the egg industry.
Once the above chickens are ready to slaughter, they are grabbed by whatever means the workers are able to get hold of them and shoved into crates. The number of freshly broken bones found in live birds prior to slaughter and the number of old healed breaks found at slaughter have been found to be ‘unacceptably high’ (13). At the slaughterhouse, the birds are dumped from their crates and hung upside down in shackles, further injuring their legs, which are already tender and often broken. Their throats are cut open by machines, and they are immersed in scalding-hot water for feather removal. They are often conscious throughout the entire process. Because hens’ bones are so brittle from egg production that the electric current would cause them to shatter, hens often are not even stunned before their throats are cut.
What about free range/organic hens?
The recognition of the appalling condition of chickens in the EU and the ban of tiny ‘barren’ battery farms in 2012 was a huge step forward for animal welfare. However ‘enriched’ battery cages are still being used which gives chickens a little more space and a nesting area . The requirements are 600cm sq / chicken (less than an A4 piece of paper). Free-range requirements have legislated that the chickens must be given access to outside areas and more space in general. They still kill male chicks and many still have their beaks cut off. Organic chickens are also often still killed in the same slaughter houses as other chickens. Unless you can physically see the farm where the chickens are kept, how can you really be sure? Suffice to say that the labeling of ‘happy chickens’ cannot always be trusted (do we need to be reminded of the horse-meat scandal?)
Is going vegan better for our planet?
Animal agriculture is responsible for:
1-2 acres of rainforest cleared every minute
91 % of Amazon destruction
51% of greenhouse gas emissions (all air land and sea transport is responsible for 13%)
45% of the total land
For every 1kg of fish caught to eat there is 5kg caught and discarded as by-kill
1 hamburger = 660 gallons of water (equivalent of showering for 2 months)
A vegan diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%
Did you know: The UN has recommended that a shift to a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate.
Please see more information here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet
Are animals intelligent? Do they understand what’s going on?
Newborn chicks are more intelligent, alert, and aware of their environment than human toddlers, according to recent scientific studies.
From when they are inside their egg, chicks can communicate with their mother and know the sound of their mother by the time they are born. When a mother hen sends out a food call, her chicks begin pecking at the ground. Unfortunately as mentioned above most chicks do not ever even meet their mother. Chickens can remember people, places, and things, even after months apart. They are capable of solving complex problems, counting, and using geometry and can use the sun as a compass.
Cows remember things for a long time. Animal behaviorists have found that cows interact in socially complex ways, developing friendships over time and sometimes holding grudges against other cows who treat them badly. They mourn the deaths of and even separation from those they love, even shedding tears over their loss. The mother-calf bond is particularly strong, and as mentioned above there are countless reports of mother cows who continue to frantically call and search for their babies after the calves have been taken away and sold to veal or beef farms.
Researchers have found that not only can cows solve problems, they also, like humans, enjoy the intellectual challenge and get excited when they find a solution.
A sheep’s strong flocking instinct has meant they are branded stupid. This not being true. Sheep can distinguish between different expressions in humans and can detect changes in the faces of anxious sheep. It has also been discovered that sheep recognize the faces of at least 50 other sheep and can remember 50 different images for up to two years. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that sheep have the brainpower equal rodents, monkeys and, in some tests, even humans.
The results suggest that sheep have relatively advanced learning capabilities, are adaptable, can map out their surroundings mentally and may even be able to plan ahead.
The best until last… Pigs
This is all the cool stuff they can do:
• they are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of objects
• they can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects
• they love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals
• they live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another
• they cooperate with one another
• they can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees
• they can use a mirror to find hidden food
• they exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual
You are being fooled by advertising
This is a fantastic youtube video to demonstrate the reality of advertising in the animal farming industry:
It documents the secrets of food marketing:
Secret no.1: Everyone believes what’s on the label. E.g. ‘Farm fresh’ ‘100% natural’ ‘Butchers choice’. In reality it means nothing but it gives us confidence. ‘Concentrated animal feeding operation’ is not going to look good on a label.
Secret no.2: Focus on progress, how standards are ‘seemingly’ improving when in reality animals are crammed together on uncomfortable floors in discomfort.
Secret no.3: YOU. Willful public ignorance. There is systemised cruelty on a massive scale and marketers and the meat industry only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way.
Image provoked: cows actually enjoy giving us milk
Reality: cows being used as machines
This is a really quick overview on veganism, there is so much to say about every single topic above and I look forward to writing and exploring more in the near future.
To me it doesn’t make sense to eat animals and really the question ‘why are you vegan?’ should be turned on its head. ‘Why do you eat meat?’ sounds like a better question. Without influence from your parents and society, would you personally have chosen to eat meat? I would challenge anyone who does something just because everyone else is doing it.
Yes we CAN farm animals, kill and eat them, yes we have done so for a long time, but SHOULD we？ If we do something for long enough does this make it morally right?
Here is a list of things that were once accepted in the same way:
– discrimination based on gender, colour and sexual orientation
– fox hunting
– battery farms in the UK
– women wearing trousers
– women having an education or being entitled to vote
– child sacrifice
We seem to have become a society of consuming, taking, wasting and not-thinking. Most of us do not consciously take meat with gratitude, appreciating the sacrifice the animal has made for our meal and eating with consciousness. Instead we pick meat from a shelf in our easily-accessible supermarket, often not even making the connection between the piece of food covered in plastic and the fact that this is a real body part of a previously living animal. If we pick out a piece of meat from the fridge which is out of date, we throw it in the bin as if it were any other entity. But in reality we are throwing away a piece of a creature which has not only died for our meal but has now unnecessarily died. We are so far removed from the above process and I think for many of us, this disassociation is necessary in order to be able to eat animal products. Do you want to be someone who puts their hands in their ears 3 times a day when eating? Or do you want to educate yourself and know what you are putting in your mouths?
The average person eats 7,000 animals during their lifetime: 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 30 sheep and 4,500 fish.
(The Vegetarian Calculator http://vegetariancalculator.com/)
Think about your pet at home now. Would you eat him/her? If not why not? Can you extend you compassion to animals from your pets to every other animal too?
Help sustain our planet and heighten your compassion for all living beings.
Join the movement
3. Author Oliver Sacks, MD
4. John Avizienius, a senior scientific officer at the Farm Animal Department at the RSPCA
5. Levy, F., K. M. Kendrick, J. A. Goode, R. Guevara-Guzman and E. B. Keverne. 1995. Oxytocin and vasopressin release in the olfactory bulb of parturient ewes: Changes with maternal experience and effects on acetylcholine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate and noradrenaline release. Brain Res. 669(2):197-206.
6 Cindy Skrzycki, “Old Rules on Poultry Categories May Fly the Coop,” The Washington Post, 7 Oct. 2003.
7 “As Demand Grows, So Do Chickens,” Associated Press, 2002.
8United States Department of Agriculture, “Chicken and Eggs,” National Agricultural and Statistics Service, Jan. 2015.
9 Mench and Siegel.
10 “Group: Chicks Ground Up Alive at Hatchery,” Associated Press, 9 Sept. 2009.
11 “Small and Backyard Flocks: Frequently Asked Questions,” University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Poultry Extension. Accessed 2/11/2014 from: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/FAQ.html
12. “Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks, 2010 Edition,” United Egg Producers. Accessed 7/21/2014 – See more at: http://freefromharm.org/eggfacts/#sthash.OGFyT0Ga.dpuf
13 7 Knowles and Wilkins.
14 Mench and Siegel.
15 Cowspiracy documentary
17 Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10129124/Chickens-cleverer-than-toddlers.html – See more at: http://freefromharm.org/eggfacts/#sthash.OGFyT0Ga.dpuf
21 Marino and co-author Christina Colvin, also from Emory