People adopt a vegan diet for numerous reasons. Amongst the most common are a revulsion at the treatment of animals on farms and in slaughterhouses, a desire to follow a path of non-violence, the health advantages of a plant-based diet, a wish to use the earth’s resources more rationally (you can feed far more people on a vegan diet), and the destructive environmental impact of animal-based agriculture (its massive contribution towards water and environmental pollution, harmful greenhouse gases, desertification and water shortages). Below is just a small sample of the evidence in favour of a vegan diet. Find out more, or order a free copy of Your guide to going vegan.
All animal farming involves abuse and suffering. As our undercover work has graphically exposed, slaughterhouses are brutal and barbaric places, where even the inadequate existing animal protection laws are routinely broken. In 13 out of the 14 slaughterhouses in which we have placed undercover cameras since 2009, we filmed infringements of existing legislation. Find out more
The routine deprivation that factory farmed animals endure – lack of exercise, fresh air and meaningful social contact – has been widely documented, but other farmed animals also suffer in less obvious ways. In order to produce milk, cows must have young. Although they have a highly developed maternal instinct, their calves are normally taken away at a young age, so that the maximum amount of milk can be diverted to humans. It is a painful separation for both.
- Dairy cows are bred to produce unnaturally large yields of milk, commonly causing udder infections such as mastitis. Worn out by a combination of repeated pregnancies and intensive production, dairy cows are sent for slaughter at about 4-5 years. Their natural lifespan is roughly 25 years.
- Far more female calves are born than can be used by the dairy industry, and obviously males are of no use. Some are reared for beef, some go for veal and many are shot soon after birth.
- Welfare problems in the egg industry mirror those of dairy production. Hens are genetically bred to produce large quantities of eggs, and when levels fall, they are sent off to slaughter – even though they are still very young (18 months on average).
- Male chicks are useless to egg producers, and are considered the wrong (uneconomic) breed to be fattened for meat. Millions are gassed soon after birth.
In the most recent significant research (published in 2016) – confirming many previous studies – researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital followed more than 130,000 people for 36 years, monitoring diet, lifestyle, illness and mortality. They concluded that exchanging just a small amount of processed red meat for plant protein reduces the risk of early death by 34 per cent.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Ian Johnson, from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, stated:
‘This interesting and robust work seems to support the growing consensus that diets based largely on plant foods are better for long-term health than diets containing large quantities of meat and dairy products’.
This view was endorsed by Tim Key, director of Oxford University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit:
‘Overall, the study adds to the view that healthy diets should emphasise plant foods, including plant sources of protein, and that intakes of animal source foods – especially processed meat – should be low.’
STOP THOSE GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS!
A research team at the University of Oxford took data on the real diets of more than 50,000 people in the UK and calculated their diet-related carbon footprints (2016).
They found that the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet could be huge. If those eating more than 100 grams of meat a day – a fairly small rump steak – went vegan, their food-related carbon footprint would shrink by 60 per cent, saving the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Lead researcher Peter Scarborough stated that:
‘In general there is a clear and strong trend with reduced greenhouse gas emissions in diets that contain less meat’.
AND DON’T FORGET THE FANTASTIC FOOD!
Vegan food is varied and inspiring. There are alternatives to almost every non-vegan dish, with delicious recipes available from all over the world. With veganism rising in popularity so dramatically, there has also been a rapid rise in the range and quality of available foods, with creative cooks and food companies proving that animal-free foods offer exciting possibilities and endless variety.
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