There are a few different diets out there that people follow. Note, when I say “diet” I don’t mean a quick fix fad diet, I mean a sustained lifestyle change. Today I want to explore the vegan diet.
I just attended Vans Warped Tour outside of Chicago last weekend. There were people running informative booths who were passionate about animal cruelty and it really got me thinking. Currently, I try not to eat meat unless it is local, organic and cruelty free. If it comes from a happy farm where it lived a normal life, I will eat it. If I am in a situation where I am eating out in a ‘typical’ restaurant that doesn’t have local options, I try to avoid meat. So far I am happy with my meat eating and balance it with plenty of vegetables.
There was a group at Warped called ‘10 billion lives’ that had a van set up where you could watch a four minute video. We got to the van too late; however, I looked them up online when we were back in town (http://www.10billiontour.org). If you click on the ‘Watch the video now’ link on the right and enter a name and email address, you can view it. WARNING- this video is extremely disturbing! This group supports going vegan due to the way animals are exploited and tortured in the food industry. I always thought my organic animal choices were happy, healthy animals who lived wonderful lives – now I’m starting to question this.
Why do people choose to go vegan?
As depicted in the video, animal cruelty is a reason for many.
Animals are living, breathing creatures with personalities. Studies have been conducting showing cattle interact in ways similar to humans, pigs and chickens will choose to turn on and off heat in a barn when given the choice, chickens will complete a complicated maze to lay eggs in a nest instead of the barn floor, and sheep can recognize faces of sheep and humans in pictures! Animals (mammals, birds, AND fish) feel pain!
Animals raised for the food industry have painful procedures done without pain killers or anesthesia. Dairy cows are continuously impregnated to produce milk and their babies are ripped away from them too early and entered into the veal industry. So even if I am drinking organic milk, I am supporting the veal industry. This cycle wears dairy cows out at an early age and they are then slaughtered way before their normal life span would be over.
Chickens that are no longer profitable at laying eggs are slaughtered – even cage-free and organic chickens. I have learned that “free-range” means that animals are given the opportunity to access the outdoors – which could simply be a small exit in an overcrowded shed, Not exactly my idea of ranging free! They do not always have natural conditions, and can be confined to wire-floored enclosures that cut their feet. Free-range and cage-free hens are typically still debeaked – a painful process leaving beaks deformed and hens sometimes not able to eat or drink. Organic hens are not exempt from force molting – where their food and water are removed for up to two weeks to force their bodies into another egg-laying cycle. Hatcheries that supply replacement hens kill male chicks since they can’t lay eggs and are not the right strain to be raised for meat. Live baby hens are mailed in the postal service to egg farms. Millions of chicks die along the way due to rough handling, dehydration and starvation.
California and Michigan have passed laws requiring hens to have enough room to turn around and spread their wings. These laws have not yet gone into effect and do not ban cages – farmers can simply use larger cages.
Animals are slaughtered inhumanely. They can be thrown into boiling water, deskinned, dismembered, and have their throats slit – all while still being conscious. US slaughter lines move 3-6 times quicker than European lines so to keep up with this pace, inhumane practices are used.
Another big reason to become vegan is for your health. Vegetables have fiber and vitamins. Animal products are associated with heart disease and cancer. Vegans tend to weigh less, have more energy, and need less sleep than their meat-eating counterparts. It is a myth that you won’t be able to get enough protein on a vegan diet. Eating a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables provides all of the essential amino acids our bodies require. Forks over Knives is a great documentary that discusses health benefits of vegetarians.
A big misconception is that being vegan is ‘choosing’ animal rights over human rights. In fact, being vegan helps people tremendously. Raising animals for food contributes to pollution, displaces people through deforestation in order to create pastures for animals, uses grain and water to feed animals instead of starving people, contributes to disease and obesity, and supports abuse of slaughterhouse workers. During famines in countries such as Somalia, soy was being exported to feed animals instead of being used to feed people. Slaughterhouses hire illegal workers who can’t defend their rights for the worst jobs and there is a high injury rate.
Going vegan is great for the environment. Transporting feed to animals and animals to slaughterhouses contributes to pollution; as does the manure animals produce. Water is used to irrigate crops for feed and as drinking water for animals. Water is polluted by animal excrement. Commercial fishing is destroying sensitive aquatic ecosystems.
After educating myself and watching these videos, I am horrified about the way our animals – even organic and free-range – are treated. There are still good organic farms out there and people who raise their own true free-range, pasture-fed chickens, but the risk of buying something “free-range” that really wasn’t treated humanely is too big for me now. Maybe I will decide to still eat local egg, dairy, and meat products that truly come from farms where animals are happy and humane practices are used – but I can’t feel confident buying these products from big supermarkets. I have decided today, to give vegan a try! Now it won’t be easy, but I am going to make a commitment to continue avoiding dairy and stop eating meat and eggs. I think I will have to quit cold turkey because I can’t bear the thought of putting meat into my mouth right now – will just have to figure out what to do with our eggs and meat in the house. The average American who switches to a vegan diet, will be saving 100 animals a year from abuse and slaughter.
Check out www.afa-online.org/starterpack.html for a vegan starter pack if you are interested in giving it a try.
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” —Albert Einstein