If you went vegan now, you could save over 1,8000 animals by the time you are 80! That is based on analysis of the average South African in his or her 30s. And that is just for one person. Imagine if it were ten, 20 or even 100! Pretty awesome if you ask me.
Why am I bringing this up now?
Well 1 November was World Vegan Day, which marked the start of Vegan Month. The aim of this is to encourage the public to adopt a plant based lifestyle while promoting awareness and creating a platform for engaging conversations.
These are exciting times as there has been a definite increase in the number of people pursuing plant based diets. However, Vegan Month is not just for the converted. It is also for people who are toying with the idea or who are curious about finding out more. With that in mind, I have gathered some information to further encourage you
Saving the planet
Most of us are already concerned about the environment and doing what we can to save it. However, not many people are aware of how effective a vegan lifestyle is in lowering your carbon footprint!
According to the International Vegan Society, the production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment. While the world’s population has doubled since the 1960s, world meat production has quadrupled.
In certain areas, livestock production has increased massively; there are now 4 and a half times as many tonnes of pig produced in 2013 compared to 1961, while world chicken production has increased by nearly 13 times.
These harrowing numbers are growing. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations predicts that by 2050 world meat production will have almost doubled, as the Western taste for meat, eggs and dairy products continues to grow (along with our waistlines).
This trend will continue to contribute to global warming, widespread pollution, deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction. More animals mean more crops are needed to feed them: the planet cannot feed both increasing human and farmed animal populations, especially when there will be between 2-4 billion more human mouths to feed by 2050.
If we are trying to reduce our car use, limit the amount of water we waste, become more ‘energy-efficient’ and generally lessen our environmental impact, we must also examine the most important factor of our personal ecological footprint: what we eat.
For the animals
Avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere. The International Vegan Society reported that, when we look at the sheer numbers of other animals raised, caught and killed for food, and the types of suffering endured by them, we are right to prioritise the issue of farming other animals over other issues, and to focus on vegan food.
Roughly 60 billion land animals and over a trillion marine animals are used and killed as commodities per year, merely to satisfy human taste preferences. This is needless, as plant-based food and drink alternatives are available in many areas around the world.
Non-human animals are living beings seeking life and freedom, and avoiding harm and danger. In every ‘livestock system’, no matter how high the welfare standards are supposed to be, non-human animals will suffer. The Five Freedoms, frequently used to measure welfare, will never be met completely. They include the freedom:
- from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
- from pain, injury and disease;
- from discomfort;
- from fear and distress;
- to express natural behaviour.
Individual animal welfare is never optimal in any husbandry system. Free living other animals Other animals living in their natural habitat may also experience one or more of the issues above, however, they have developed coping mechanisms and adaptive behaviour to help them deal with challenges.
Non-human animals are usually less well equipped when coping in unnatural and restricted husbandry environments or situations imposed on them by humans. Mental and physical suffering can be severe in captivity. And we haven’t even discussed the many painful procedures routinely carried out, frequently without pain relief.
Killing is not justified
As stated by the Vegan Society, humans ultimately take away life. Other animals do not ‘give up their life’ as some people believe – they have not given consent to be slaughtered. In over 95% of cases they are killed prematurely:
Cows, for example, could live to well over 20 years of age, while on ‘dairy’ farms they are usually shot between 3-4 years of age when milk production is no longer considered ‘profitable’. Cows bred for ‘beef’ meat are killed sooner.
Broiler chicks are just 6 weeks old and grown too rapidly to sustain their own weight and heart when they are killed. Chickens could live to 10 years old.
Pigs are slaughtered when they have reached a certain weight, which will be later in organic systems than in intensive farms, but they are typically killed between 4-6 months of age, while they could reach 15 years.
Sheep can also live to 15 years but depending on whether they are slaughtered as lambs or later, they are shot and bled between 3-10 months of age.
Every week in the UK 3,000 male calves are killed shortly after birth, usually within days, and over 40 million day-old chicks are killed each year, including those from organic farms. Males do not secrete bodily fluids destined for offspring (cow’s milk), or lay eggs like hens do. Calves are either shot or exported alive to mainland European countries where they are kept in small pens to produce veal flesh – deprived of their mothers and their natural food (milk).
At the end of the day, there is so much more to this. Veganism is the answer to a compassionate life and I’d strongly recommend you read more here
For your health
A plant based lifestyle has been touted for it’s health benefits, with scientific evidence suggesting that it could very well be the way to go. The Vegan Society reports that a well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals.
The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Not sold? The Vegan Society reported on a recent study conducted by experts at the prestigious Oxford University’s Oxford Martin School that found that by 2050, widespread adoption of plant-based diets would avert 8.1 million premature human deaths every year. This was found to be the case due to factors including the reduction of red and processed meat, which the World Health Organisation has classified as carcinogenic due to the risk of colorectal cancer.
For me personally, switching to a plant based diet has been one of my best decisions. Animal welfare has always been close to my heart and I became a vegetarian at 16. A year working as an inspector at a local animal welfare organisation solidified my resolve. The next logical step was veganism.
Most people believe that this diet could lead to a multitude of deficiencies but coincidentally, making the change opened my mind to a healthier way of living. It was only when I became vegan that I started to pay attention to proper eating and sports nutrition. My performance has increased phenomenally due to the change, my health has improved and I am more aware of my impact to animal welfare and the environment.
I would encourage anyone to try it out. The only thing I would stress is ensuring that you follow a well balanced nutrition plan that includes loads of healthy foods. The good news is that you can obtain a wealth of information here
Also, locally the Frys brand have created an extensive range of animal friendly products that are super delicious and easy to prepare. Lacking inspiration? You can find amazing recipe ideas on their site