February 19, 2011

The Benefits to Humanity of Vegan Living

A flesh-eating woman on a Facebook thread claimed “I care about people – not some animals.” She was very unresponsive to the pleas of vegans. This is my point of view for the many people who think like her. First of all, when non-vegans say that ‘human problems come first’ I ask what it is that they are doing for human beings that requires them to continue funding the callous exploitation of other animals?

As it happens, veganism; the ethic of non-participation in the exploitation of animals - benefits people; almost more than anything else I can think of. For starters, in our choosing vegan (plant-based) foods, the land used to farm animals would feed more people if it were used to grow plant protein; which yields far more protein per acre than animal flesh. Each year in the U.S., 157 million metric tons of cereal, legumes, and vetetables that are suitable for humans to eat - are fed to farmed animals to produce 28 million metric tons of animal protein for human consumption. About one-third of all grain is used to feed farmed animals for their flesh to feed relatively rich people, while each year approximately 6 million children die of starvation. Over a billion people in the world are considered malnourished or suffering from hunger. Cornell University scientists have advised that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain that farmed animals eat. There is more than enough grain produced each year to eradicate world hunger, therefore the solution is to stop breeding and feeding the grain to farmed animals, and then it can be fed instead to starving humans.

We are using much more land to produce animal flesh, which is far less healthy than the plant products we could have produced. Vegans commonly report that asthma, allergies, high blood pressure (and all the meds that went with them), low energy levels, excess weight and obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart ailments, flus and colds, acid reflux, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sinus infections, anemia, acne and other skin conditions, throat and chest infections, arthritis and joint pain, indigestion, gas and bloating, constipation, hemorrhoids, bad breath, and even multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer have disappeared since becoming vegan.

Not eating animals and their bodily secretions certainly helps human health. The number one cause of death in the U.S. accounting for a million heart attacks and 500,000 deaths a year - is heart disease. Many studies have verified that vegans have 60% reduced risk of death from heart disease. The U.S., Switzerland, Australia, U.K. and other countries that consume the most dairy products have some of the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Where dairy products are rarely consumed, such as in Asia and Africa, there is the lowest rate of osteoporosis. Individuals who eat large amounts of animal protein and dairy products are at risk of depleting their calcium stores, regardless of their calcium intake. Also, studies by The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have documented up to 73 contaminants found in any one sample of milk. It is now known that cow’s milk causes asthma, food allergies, and constipation, particularly in children. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that cow’s milk be given to infants under one year of age.

In addition, we are producing pandemics such as Swine Flue, etc. The reason behind this particular epidemic is factory farming of massive amounts of pigs in filthy and confined conditions that promote the development of viruses that can cause infectious diseases in humans. By not eating flesh, dairy, fish or any animal products, we are not aiding and abetting the creation of human epidemics. The animal products consumed by people have a high propensity for distribution of pathogens (such as E. Coli and Salmonella.)

If someone really cares about other people – they would eat a plant-based diet (a part of vegan living). Those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings should stop supporting animal husbandry to help preserve our planet which is home to a whopping 7 billion people. By doing so, they would help to reduce pollution, save water and energy, cease contributing to the clearing of forests, cease contributing to the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions that is largely responsible for creating climate change, and as well as ammonia emissions; that are significantly contributing to acid rain.

Animal husbandry is a significant player in our increasing water use. It is perhaps the largest source of water pollution, contributing to “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, etc. According to a report by the Wordwatch Institute in 2007, it actually requires over five thousand gallons of water to produce one pound of animal flesh! In order to live, a cow drinks 30 gallons of water a day and a pig needs up to 21 gallons. And this is just their drinking water! In the U.S., recent Environmental Protection Agency studies have shown that 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states, as well as groundwater in 17 states has been permanently contaminated by industrial farm waste.

Animal husbandry is a leading cause in the reduction of biodiversity because it is a major motive for deforestation. The World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species reports that most of the world’s endangered or threatened species are suffering habitat loss due to livestock. Seventy percent of our rainforests have been slashed and burned in order to farm animals. Rainforests are the lungs of the planet, producing over 20% of the earth’s oxygen. Over 70% of Amazon rainforest has been destroyed and lost forever due to “cattle ranching”. Nearly all of Brazils’ Atlantic coast rainforest has been slashed and burned, the vast majority of it to farm cows. Approximately 34 million acres of rainforest on earth are lost each year. If you care about humans, stop creating the demand for animal products that has caused, for example, about 500 million Africans to be affected by desertification, with farming animals being the primary cause.

Farming animals is causing land degradation, pollution, and is wiping out the fish in our oceans. It is the largest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions and ammonia emissions, which cause acid rain and acidification of our ecosystems. Producing “meat” creates the production of methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia – whereas producing food from plants creates none. The way our society is breeding animals for food is a disastrous threat to our planet. If people care about other people, they will have ‘reducing their carbon footprint’ firmly planted in their awareness. Research indicates that the best strategy for reducing our carbon footprint is to eat vegan and locally grown food.

The woman on the Facebook thread (who speaks for many people) cares about people and not other animals because she has been brought up in a humancentric society. It’s her indoctrination that is making her say this. It would benefit her own spirit to expand her compassion to all sentient beings. The fact that most humans are presently unable to care about the other species that share this planet with us - is not something to boast about. It really shows an enormous lack of empathy and is similar to egotism – only caring about one self and not others. Caring about non-human animals is a way of getting out of our selves – a tool for our own growth.

Many vegan-abolitionists speak out against the injustices inflicted on humans as well as other animals – their advocacy includes all sentient animals that are oppressed, enslaved, and treated unjustly based on their species, race, sex, or sexual preference. Vegan-abolitionists speak out against racism, sexism, homophobia, and slavery imposed on humans and/or nonhumans, because the color of our skin, the gender we were born, the species we were born into, and our sexual preference are irrelevant characteristics to the basic right of bodily respect that all conscious beings are owed, morally speaking.

Non-humans are the most oppressed and enslaved victims of human barbarity and uncivilized behavior. They are helpless. They have done nothing to deserve their treatment. Many of them were purpose-bred into existence just to be used by humans. They desperately need humans to be their voice.

Finally, eating vegan has an effect on human temperament and would greatly benefit human society. We could create a more peaceful world if everyone adopted the vegan way of life. Albert Einstein became vegetarian late in life. He ate meat with a guilty conscience, so it is reported in some of his letters. In a letter to Vegetarian Watch-Tower in 1930, he wrote “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” From three decades of observing other vegans, I have personally seen people (and canines) grow calmer in nature after eating a vegan diet for a period of time. It makes sense - if you eat products derived from imposing suffering on those who can suffer, that it will have a negative impact on you. If everyone adopted the vegan way of life, there is the potential to end all wars, as vegans don’t kill animals, and humans are animals. How many vegans are in jail for rape or murder? Probably none.

The vegan ethic is based on the protest of our use of other animals for human purposes. It just so happens though, that it has far reaching benefits to humanity and far reaching ramifications for a healthy planet. So if you care about humans, but don’t care about nonhumans, try to live vegan, anyway…and stay tuned as your heart opens up to caring for other animals too!


The Vegan Version said...

That is beautifully written. I agree, caring and compassion must expand beyond your own species. I have chosen compassion over killing and it is my hope that through educational mediums such as yours others will too. When I went vegan I was taken by surprise with the spiritual journey that I had embarked on. For me, separating myself from animal consumption made me realize in a very real way where the food on my plate actually comes from.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post!

Though you might want to mention you're paraphrasing Peter Singer in your first paragraph, lest it appear you're plagiarizing. Singer's quote:
""When nonvegetarians say that 'human problems come first' I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals."

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

Anonymous - I have seen that quote before and it probably influenced me. I don't like to quote Peter Singer as I disagree with some of his ethics, but it would be fine to say that I paraphrased and I will leave his quote up here.

anna said...

great post! i would add that caring about humans' suffering is not mutually exclusive with being vegan. one can work every waking minute to further human rights, while fueling up on plant foods instead of animal foods.

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

Many of the statitistics from this article came from a book called Comfortably Unaware by Dr. Richard Oppenlander...should give credit where credit is due.

Una Rose said...

I agree. Veganism benefits humanity as well as animals. The health benefits, freedom from the stress, expense and guilt of a non vegan diet make a big difference in a person's life. A non vegan diet makes this a dog eat dog world and that all humans generally do. We work live to eat and eat meat.
True inner peace, fulfillment, happiness, compassion, life comes with knowing your diet has contributed to no animal or human suffering and that is truly heaven on earth.

Vanilla Rose said...

I get a tiny bit sarcastic when people come up with stuff like that. Hence this picture.

Anonymous said...

I just found this from Facebook and I have a question. what do you think would happen to the cows, chickens and pigs if people stop consuming them? I get that question alot and I need a good answer. sorry for anon but I don't have google or open id.

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

Hi Anon,

I think our realization of the end of animal husbandry will happen gradually, not all at once. The first thing we need to do is stop breeding these animals. They are purposely bred into existence to be "food" animals. Stop breeding.

When I want to keep a female dog in heat from getting pregnant - I don't allow her in that state to be off the leash or with male company. We would have to keep these animals separated so they could not continue to breed themselves, too. Let them live their lives on the pastures in sanctuary.

The first step is to get everyone to go vegan. If the world's people adopted the vegan way of living...everything would work out for the better FOR ALL, I have no doubt.

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

To further explain, if we all went vegan, we would no longer be demanding these animals being bred to feed humans. Supply and demand. We have to stop demanding animal use.

Unknown said...

I love this. Beautifully Written.