There are many ways to help this confused, suffering world, and I think going vegan is the best, or at least among the best. When you go vegan, you’re not only directly affecting yourself and others, but you’re taking a a stand on numerous issues. Here’s a non-exhaustive but still large list of issues that veganism directly impacts:
The most obvious one. Our slaughter houses (do I even have to explain with a name like that) are absolutely atrocious. Animals are beaten to death, have their throats slit, are electrocuted, ground alive… And those are just how they’re killed. The living conditions are disgusting, with many animals being confined to areas so small they can’t move around, and are forced to stand in their own waste material - just because they’re animals doesn’t mean they love standing in shit anymore than we do.
Estimates vary, from the (found to be incorrect) 18% figure initially given to the UN, to some estimates of more than half, but the amount of greenhouse gases directly attributable to livestock is staggering. Regardless of total emissions, livestock is the leading cause of methane emissions. Add to that the issue of topsoil loss caused by overgrazing and deforestation making way for factory cattle farms, when spills happen (sorry North Carolina) or when companies dump waste materials intentionally. Then there’s the issue of oil usage in transportation and processing. It takes 25 gallons of water to grow a pound of wheat, whereas a pound of beef (raising that cow from birth) requires 2,400 gallons (I’ve actually seen numerous figures for this, going up to 9,500) of the precious, diminishing resource.
Where did H1N1 come from? No one knows, but the first blame was pig farms (ironic for a nation that loves it’s meat enough to make anti-defamation laws to protect it’s name). Where did Mad Cow come from? No one knows, but it spread so rapidly due to factory farm cows being fed the remains of other factory farm cows. Where did the bad E. coli come from? Cow feces. (Costco doesn’t sell Tyson products because of Tyson’s refusal to submit their beef to E. coli testing.) Why are our farm animals so sick and making us so sick? From the way they’re treated (see section on Animal Rights) and the way they’re fed (all nutrition-light corn - something unnatural that a lot of animals can’t handle a lot of, making them susceptible to disease and weakness, which, when mixed with the hormones that cause them to grow twice as large twice as fast, doesn’t work out to well). The antibiotics these animals are pumped with get into our bodies when we eat meat, and weakens our own immune systems.
Animal flesh and byproducts are incredibly unhealthy. The leading cause of death in the United States: Heart Disease. Animal products are packed with an exponentially larger amount of fats and cholesterols than plant-based products, and contribute little more to fulfilling a human’s vast dietary needs than protein, which is still more common in plant-based products. Certain animal products, in particular casein, found heavily in dairy products, have been found to be more contributive to cancer than carcinogenic intake itself. After reading the China Study, I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll just refer you to the work of T. Colin Campbell, a leading nutritionist in the US.
The industries surrounding animal-based foods production consistently rate high on dangerous jobs lists (fishing, meat packing, ranching, etc). The meat packing industry was the cause of Upton Sinclair’s economic and social upheaving work “The Jungle.” Granted this was the turn of the twentieth century, but the Human Rights Watch still labels meat packing as the most dangerous factory job.
Meat packing companies are notorious for hiring illegal immigrants and are regularly raided by immigrations (Tyson claims not to but has had to close down manufacturing plants during immigrant rallies and has even had a member of their management commit suicide after being charged with hiring illegal immigrants). Meat packers that are injured or try to organize are typically fired (and no one cares if an immigrant gets fired, right).
Freedom of Speech
Did you expect to see this one here? Probably not, unless you’re in one of the many US states that have meat libel laws, intended to make it easier for meat producers to sue you for defamation of their products. Oprah was sued in Texas under these laws when she rallied against Mad Cow disease.
The position that the environment and animals are not here for us to use and abuse is closely related to the opposition of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism. No thing was created, nor creature born to be used.
As I said, this is not an exhaustive list. I would also like to add that I did not cite ANYTHING. For a reason: I’m not here to educate you, I’m here to incite interest, either in learning more or in proving me wrong (I welcome your responses). Even if you disagree with me, even if you find factual evidence disputing every single one of my claims (which you won’t), I want you to look for yourself and come up with an answer that is right for you, through thought and research not social indoctrination, even if it’s not the one I’ve found to be right for me.