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Veganism Offers Sustainable Choice

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I haven’t always been a vegan, but I have always loved animals. Even before I was aware that veganism existed, consuming animals for my own pleasure never made ethical sense to me. It wasn’t until around fifth grade that I was introduced to the concept of veganism and realized that there are no good reasons to not be vegan. The only thing holding me back from following through was myself. Thus began my journey of self-education about the impacts we have as consumers of animal products.

According to the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, for every minute you spend reading this article, seven million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for human consumption in the United States alone. For every second in that minute, 116,000 pounds of waste are created by all the livestock in the U.S. That’s a little over half a million pounds in the time it took you to read that last fact. Within that wasteful second, one to two acres of rainforest have also been cleared to create more space for mass animal agriculture.

According to Dr. Richard Oppenlander, environmental researcher and author of Comfortably Aware, Earth’s projected limit of 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide will be surpassed by 2030 just from the carbon dioxide emitted by livestock if we continue on this path of destruction. I don’t know about you, but that does not sit well with me.

Since I was a child, one of my life goals has been to live past 100. With the way our environment is collapsing right now, it’s hard to imagine that dream ever coming true — perhaps because of the cloud of cow farts that is blocking my view. Not only are those who mass-consume animals and their byproducts hurting themselves — and obviously the animals they’re gorging on — but they also negatively affect the environment and people they care about.

I have yet to hear a solid argument against veganism that is completely defensible. As previously mentioned, there’s cause to go vegan to help the environment — a vegan requires about one-sixth of an acre to be fed for a year while a meat-eater uses 18 times as much land. Another common argument is that vegans cannot consume a sufficient amount of protein. The recommended daily protein intake for men over 15 years of age is around 56 grams of protein; as an 18-year-old woman, I have personally eaten at least 75 grams of plant-based protein in just two meals.

If you don’t go vegan for your own health, then do it for the wellbeing of your loved ones or for the innocent lives of the animals you are consuming. Do it for clean water and oceans and for the starving families in developing nations that we have enough food to feed — if only it didn’t go to feeding livestock instead. Do it for the animals that aren’t even being killed for human consumption but become endangered as a result of deforestation for animal agriculture. Make a change because you care.

So go, be selfish. But be selfish in a way that helps build a healthier future for everyone. Be selfish by educating yourself — by practicing mindfulness for the sake of the animals we say we love one minute but eat the next. Be selfish in these ways so that, as the world faces serious challenges in the coming years, we can say that we did not contribute to that mess, but rather tried to prevent it. Break the pattern of boring, destructive, conventional mass consumption of animals. Because, according to Dr. Richard Oppenlander, for every hour we crawl closer to self-extinction, another six million animals are killed for the pleasure of our taste buds.

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One Response to “Veganism Offers Sustainable Choice”

  1. stewart lands on October 4th, 2017 9:34 PM

    Less meat and more veggies may indeed improve one’s health, but one cannot therefore conclude that no meat and all vegetables must be even better. In fact, issues of poor health related to over and under-consumption of meat may both be addressed by simple moderation. A diet that includes some meat–especially fish–and lots of unprocessed vegetables avoids the problems associated with either extreme.

    Vegan activists assert that the plant-based diet is “cruelty free,” yet this completely ignores the destruction of wild lands and loss of wild animal lives necessary to establish the very fields upon which crops are grown, and is therefore a very dangerous omission of fact. The honest vegan will concede that there is no such thing as a cruelty-free existence, and that the actual goal of veganism is not to improve human or environmental health, but to reduce, to the extent possible, the human exploitation of animals. In fact, vegan mantra insists on this priority, even at the expense of human and environmental health, but this fact is rarely acknowledged.

    If veganism were truly about human health, then there would be little argument for avoiding meat altogether. If veganism were truly about environmental health, then vegans would be more selective about the plant products they consumed, considering that many are as damaging to the environment as is the meat so roundly criticize for its impact. Almonds, for example, are very thirsty crops, requiring even more water to grow and produce than does chicken. Asparagus, artichokes and avocado are very inefficient in terms of the amount of land required (animal habitat and lives sacrificed) to grow them, while mango, banana, and papaya (in fact, any out-of-season fruits or vegetables) are transported across entire oceans and continents to the your local grocery store with greenhouse gases spewed for thousands of miles along the way. There are many fruits and vegetables that are highly destructive, yet popular veganism withholds from these any criticism, despite the fact that they are anything but “cruelty reduced” when one considers the loss of life required to produce them.

    If veganism were about environmental health, there would be no criticism leveled against the well-regulated and sustainable consumption of wild fish and game, both of which may be taken from undisturbed wild lands with minimal loss of life compared to that inflicted when the land is cleared of all native life forms in preparation for planting crops. With hunting and fishing, after all, the animals consumed are immediately replaced by the next generation with no harm to habitat. With agriculture, on the other hand, every individual, of every major species, is destroyed directly or by slow starvation after having been deprived of the habitat required for its survival. Yet, in the mind of the vegan, the greater environmental damage of agriculture is justified as “accidental,” despite the fact that it is entirely predictable and unavoidable. In fact, the first step taken by any farmer is to plow under all native species–plant and animal–that might compete with his crops for sunlight, water and mineral resources, or which might feed upon them. Though regrettable, the removal of such wild plants and animals is no “accident.”

    In summary, veganism is entirely about elevating the status of non-human species to equal the status of humans. It is not about health or environmentalism, although these certainly may coincide by accident. Unfortunately, where they do not, veganism is quick to throw both human health and environmentalism under the bus. The fact is, our best approach toward improving health and reducing animal harm and environmental degradation will require greater nuance than the simple mantra “eat no meat”.

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