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.