We hear it all the time: “Why should I go vegan?” It’s a valid question. If you’re looking for reasons to switch to a plant-based diet, there are more than a few.
I remember asking myself the same question nearly a decade ago, and while going vegan was a gradual process for me, ultimately I’m thankful to live as a vegan animal rights activist today. From environmental justice and workers’ rights to healthy living and ending support of animal cruelty, there are so many reasons to go and stay vegan.
Over the past decade, veganism has seen consistent growth as millennials, the largest generation and the one with the most self-identified vegetarians, purchase their own food. But if you think millennials are vegan AF, you should know that Generation Z is even more into plant-based foods! As this generation grows older, we can expect to see a boom in vegan alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs.
The demand for vegan products worldwide is already skyrocketing. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of new vegan food products rose by an astonishing 92 percent in Australia. And the research firm GlobalData reports that there were six times as many vegans in America in 2017 as in 2014.
With all the amazing new vegan products launching every day, there has truly never been a better time to switch to a healthy, compassionate lifestyle!
If an abundance of incredible plant-based food isn’t a great reason to go vegan, here are a few more.
When it comes to environmental impact, the animal agriculture industry’s record is a climate catastrophe. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that we may have as few as 12 years to cut global emissions by 45 percent to prevent global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert a catastrophe. And one of the leading contributors to climate change? You guessed it: animal agriculture.
Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, CO2e emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprits.
Recent EPA records reveal that out of the 98 monitored, three-quarters of large U.S. slaughterhouses discharged toxic waste directly into nearby streams and rivers, violating pollution control permits. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones. Moreover, Tyson has dumped more toxic pollution into our waterways than ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical, and that doesn’t even include pollution from its factory farms.
Workers’ and Immigrants’ Rights
Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs; on average, 27 workers a day suffer work-related amputations or other injuries severe enough to require hospitalization. With high demands for how many animals are processed per day, bathroom breaks are rare, so some workers have resorted to wearing diapers. Additionally, slaughterhouse workers suffer from PTSD and illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
With an unknown percentage of undocumented immigrants working in the industry, factory farmers prey on vulnerable people. A 2017 report on immigrant labor shows that of those surveyed, a whopping 93 percent of New York dairy farm workers are undocumented immigrants, who are easily exploited. Many undocumented workers rarely go off the farm for fear of being caught and deported, a fear reinforced by their bosses’ “explicit reference to their ethnicity or citizenship status in a demeaning or intimidating manner.” Some remain at the farms for more than 11 days at a time.
The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals, stated in 2018 that “health-related costs directly attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat will be $285 billion in 2020.” But this high health cost should come as no surprise.
In 2015, the World Health Organization placed processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco and asbestos. The WHO estimates that diets high in processed meats cause 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide and notes that even unprocessed red meats, like beef, veal, lamb, and pork, are “probably carcinogenic.”
Health risks associated with eating red meat—both processed and unprocessed—are significant and include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, infections, lung disease, and cancer.
Older studies found that women who ate one and a half servings of red meat a day had a 22 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer. And while researchers at Loma Linda University discovered that vegetarians had a 53 percent reduced risk of diabetes, researchers at Harvard found that increased red meat consumption was directly related to increased risk of diabetes.
Factory farming is cruel. Mercy For Animals has conducted more than 60 undercover investigations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. Each time, we’ve revealed horrific yet routine animal abuse.
The frequent torture of animals at factory farms includes cows kicked, punched, and dragged by the neck; piglets’ tails cut off with dull blades; chickens stabbed and stomped to death; turkeys painfully dragged through electrified water before their throats are cut open—often while the animals are still conscious; and fish skinned and cut open while still conscious and able to feel pain. These animals often endure a lifetime of intensive confinement.
Other abuses include thumping, where piglets are killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors because they are too sick or aren’t growing fast enough; dehorning and disbudding, where farmers burn the horns off animals, often without anesthetics; tail docking, where cows and piglets have the ends of their tails painfully cut off; debeaking, where the egg and poultry industries cut off the tips of birds’ beaks, usually with a hot blade; and ripping out testicles, where male piglets are castrated, typically without pain relief—farmers use a blade or scalpel to slice open a piglet’s scrotum and then pull out the testicles with their fingers.
What’s more, not a single federal law protects animals during their lives at factory farms, and the law that’s supposed to protect animals at the slaughterhouse, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, doesn’t extend to birds, leaving them with virtually no protection from abuse.
Living near factory farms is a nightmare. These farms pollute the surrounding areas so much that residents suffer a host of illnesses from breathing in the many harmful gases these facilities emit. More often than not, factory farms are built near low-income communities and communities of color.
In 2016, the Environmental Working Group released a collection of maps and data revealing that the environmental cost of North Carolina’s 6,500 factory farms disproportionately affected vulnerable communities.
In 2018, North Carolina residents sued Smithfield for “unreasonable nuisances” they suffered from odors, flies, and rumbling trucks, reports the Associated Press. Those living near Smithfield’s factory farms, which hold thousands of pigs in cramped, filthy conditions, have had to deal with the facilities’ intense stench. According to a neighbor, the odor was comparable to that of rotting corpses he’d found during his career as a police officer and firefighter. Other neighbors had to flee their homes when the sickening smell became overwhelming.
Smithfield continues to use open-air pits as a low-cost method of handling waste, even though North Carolina banned this method for new factory farms in 1997. The facilities empty these large pits by spraying liquid excrement onto fields, but winds carry it to neighboring houses and communities.
According to an article by Civil Eats, North Carolina pig factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of feces and urine each year. That’s enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The National Resources Defense Council stated in February 2017:
People who live near or work at factory farms breathe in hundreds of gases, which are formed as manure decomposes. For instance, one gas released by the lagoons, hydrogen sulfide, is dangerous even at low levels. Its effects—which are irreversible—range from sore throat to seizures, comas and even death.
Heartbreaking and immoral.
The meat and dairy industries not only exploit our environmental resources but continually exploit female bodies in the reproduction of new animals to use and kill.
Cows in the dairy industry are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated to ensure a continuous supply of milk. Their newborns are ripped from their sides, with the daughters forced into the same generative cycle and the sons killed for someone’s dinner. And after short, cruel lives, cows at dairy farms are sent to slaughter. Their bodies are ground into hamburger meat.
If that isn’t enough to churn your stomach, consider this: Pregnant pigs are often kept in gestation crates, individual cages so small the animals cannot walk, turn around, or lie down comfortably. They are continually impregnated to produce more pigs for human consumption. Mother pigs spend their lives on concrete floors. They will never see grass or root through dirt, and they will never be allowed to bond with their piglets.
The suffering inflicted on mothers is immeasurable and indefensible.
According to a study from Lancaster University, we already grow enough edible crops to feed not only the current global population but the one projected for 2050. Similarly, an analysis published in the Los Angeles Times claims that the United States could feed all 327 million Americans plus 390 million more people. But this would require a dramatic lifestyle shift: going vegan.
A 2015 Reuters article reports that U.N. officials believe going plant-based could alleviate human starvation: “Today half the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock farming, … which is far less efficient for feeding people—and worse for the environment—than producing grain, fruit and vegetables for direct human consumption.”
A large-scale shift to a plant-based food system would help not only the billions of animals who are killed each year for food but the 821 million people who don’t have enough to eat. Simply put, if humans stopped using land and edible crops to feed animals bred and killed for meat and dairy, we could end world hunger.
So there you have it! Going vegan helps animals, safeguards your health, and protects the planet, workers, immigrants, and rural communities. Those are some great reasons to go vegan, don’t you think?
To learn how to switch to a vegan lifestyle, check out MFA’s FREE resource: ChooseVeg.com. The website offers a complimentary Vegetarian Starter Guide, tips and tricks, vegan recipes, product launch announcements, and even one-on-one advice from our vegetarian support specialists.
Looking for more recipes? Check out our Pinterest page for thousands of delectable vegan recipes!