All around us today, the natural world upon which humans and animals depend is under attack. Animals in factory farms suffer terribly, and pollution, deforestation, global warming, and resource depletion are rapidly destroying the planet. But how can one person make any difference?
The answer is as close as your dinner plate. Thousands of people across the country are standing up for animals and the environment by adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Vegans take personal responsibility for making the world a better place by giving up meat, dairy products, eggs, and other animal-derived items.
That simple choice has powerful consequences. Veganism saves animals from the horrors of the slaughterhouse, reduces pollution from factory farms, and preserves soybeans and grain--which would otherwise be fed to animals being raised for food--for the millions of malnourished people in our hungry world.
Animal agriculture is directly or partially responsible for many of the world’s most serious environmental problems- global warming, water use and pollution, massive energy consumption, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and spices, as well as the deep impact of fishing on our oceans. Reducing or eliminating the consumption of animal products is one of the most powerful ways an individual reduce his or her carbon footprint.
Prevent Animal Cruelty
Vegans are motivated by compassion for animals' suffering and respect for life. Both modern science and simple common sense tell us that other animals besides humans feel pain and fear death. Vegans empathize with living creatures and understand that humans don’t need to eat meat, wear leather, or drink milk to survive.
Animals on a modern factory farm lead lives of unimaginable suffering and die cruel deaths in order to end up on the dinner table. Intense competition drives farmers to value profits and efficiency over the animals' natural desires or quality of life. Animals are squeezed into ever smaller living quarters, even as new biotechnology is used to make animals grow bigger and produce more meat, milk or eggs. Lowering the cost per unit is the overriding goal.
Pumped up with hormones and drugs, dairy cows spend years in a concrete stall or filthy feed lot before they dry up and are sent to slaughter. Most calves born to dairy cows are quickly separated from their mothers, confined in tiny pens, and then killed for veal after only a few months of life. Chickens raised for eggs are crammed together in tiny cages and have their beaks clipped to prevent them from hurting one another due to stress from confinement. Death is merciless and inevitable: a bolt gun or a knife ends a life spent in hell.
Vegans do not wear products derived from animals. Fur and leather are the result of suffering and exploitation. So is wool: lambs are castrated and have their tails cut off without anesthetic, and many sheep die of exposure due to premature shearing. Some cosmetics and personal care items contain animal by-products such as honey, lanolin and lard. Vegans use the widely available alternatives that are animal-free.
Experiments on animals are another source of suffering. Rabbits, dogs, rats and many other beings die to test soap and make-up or in medical research that many doctors have condemned as irrelevant to human health. The agony suffered by animals in research facilities is all the more outrageous because cruelty-free non-animal-based alternatives exist.
A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.
Preserve Your Health
Plant-based diets - including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes - offer an abundant, diverse selection of nutrient-rich foods to choose from, are high in fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, and have no saturated fat (with the exception of coconuts and palm oil). According to numerous studies, plant-based diets have been shown to lower the risk of many diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The American Dietetic Association states, “…appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, as well as for athletes.”
But going vegan won't just save your life and animals' lives. A plant-based diet is also an important step towards solving the terrible problem of world hunger. Animal agriculture is a grossly inefficient way of growing food: Experts estimate that at least seven pounds of grain or soybeans are needed to generate one pound of meat. Food that could be going directly to hungry people is instead being inefficiently funneled into producing steaks and hamburgers. Animal agriculture also wastes staggering amounts of water and energy. One thing is clear: if all the people of Earth are going to be fed, we must eat more wisely, responsibly, and compassionately.
Protect the Earth
How we eat also affects the air, the water, the forests and the oceans. The production of meat has a devastating impact on the subtle web of connections that sustains life on our planet. Rainforests are leveled to raise cattle, factory farms pollute rivers and lakes, over-grazing erodes fertile land into arid desert, and vast quantities of energy and water are wasted to raise animals for food. At sea, huge fishing drift nets turn acres of ocean into graveyards. All this damage to the earth can be stopped. Taking meat, dairy, and eggs off your plate will make a difference.
On Global Warming-
What we put into our bags at the grocery store actually has more environmental impact than whether we bring our reusable shopping bag or drive a hybrid to the store. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a study in 2006 revealing that animal agriculture causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s transportation combined.
“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” says U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Dr. Henning Steinfeld, senior author of the report.
Animal agriculture contributes to the global greenhouse effect from the methane produced by cows, deforestation of the rainforest to create land suitable for grazing and the enormous consumption of fossil fuel used to operate the factory farms and slaughterhouses. It takes 8 times as much fossil fuel to produce animal protein as it does to produce plant protein.
Better Than Local-
When we think of eating green, we often think of locally produced food as being the most ecological choice. However, a 2008 study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that shifting just two meals a week from meat and dairy products to a vegetarian diet reduces more greenhouse gasses than buying all locally-sourced food.
Over half the total amount of fresh water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land to grow feed for livestock. It takes less water to produce one year's worth of food for a completely plant-based diet, than to produce one month’s worth of food for a diet with animal products. Additionally, the millions of tons of waste produced by these massive farm animal populations pollutes our lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
Animal agriculture destroys thousands of acres of forests that help purify the air, reduce carbon dioxide, and are home to many species of insects, animals, birds, and plants. It is estimated that one acre of trees is preserved each year by every individual who switches to a completely plant-based diet.
As you are making your compassionate transition, IDA is here to help and support you. From easy, delicious recipes to a vegan starter kit, IDA offers a variety of free materials to help you start enjoying a plant-based diet. By going vegan you join hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who have decided that they can and will improve the world by simply altering what they eat.
Veganism is about celebrating life by taking care of your heath and the health of our planet, and protecting of the animals that share our world.
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