The Positive Effects of Veganism: Give Vegans A Chance!

Words: Jess Spiro

Veganism. It’s not a subject that people are comfortably able to speak about and it’s a subject that people are very quick to become defensive about. A big argument that meat-eaters use is that humans were never meant to be vegan, that we have meat-tearing canines for a reason, that it goes against nature. And while these may (or may not) be true, the overwhelming fact of the matter is that vegans do save the lives of countless animals and their food choices have a huge positive impact on the environment.

The Positive Effects of Veganism: Give Vegans A Chance!

The Sacrifice of Veganism

Vegans are unfairly judged for a whole host of reasons – because they’re weird, different or difficult. But what a lot of people don’t  seem to realise is the huge sacrifice that these vegans make every single day, all for the greater good and because they believe in something bigger than themselves. This article is not here to preach or convert you to veganism, it’s simply an observation about the incredible act of being vegan and, hopefully, to make you think about your own meat-eating situation.

Some Scary Statistics

Firstly, it’s worth starting this article off with some hard facts and figures. Disclaimer: these facts we’re relaying here specifically relate to the meat produced in the factory farm industry. The average South African consumes 58.6kg of meat per year, which roughly works out to 202 animals a year. Chickens are the biggest contributor to this number, due to the fact that their egg by-products are so widely used and the run-off from the industry results in thousands of male chicks being killed simply because they add no value to the procuring of eggs.

By choosing not to eat animal products, vegans choose not to subject animals to a life of hell in a factory farm. These factories, which is what they are – don’t let anyone try and convince you this form of animal slavery is anything remotely close to a farm – force thousands of animals to be crammed together into one building, with no space to turn around or even lie down in many cases, with no access to fresh air or sunshine.

Female pigs, or sows, are often restrained in a cage-like contraption that forces her to lie down so that piglets can suckle without her resisting. Once those piglets are removed, she’s impregnated again, while still restrained and the process continues. None of this is fun to read, we know, but unfortunately, there is such a disconnect between animals and where meat comes from for the average meat-eater, that very few people realise that this is the gruesome process behind meat production.
The Positive Effects of Veganism: Give Vegans A Chance!

Positive Environmental Effects of Veganism

So, now that’s out the way, we can get on to a (slightly) lighter note. How vegans save more than animals,  namely the environment. The high numbers of greenhouse emissions is enough to make a person choke, literally. A meat-based diet causes seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan diet. It is reported that 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.

To put that into more recognisable terms, if a person were to switch their regular car for a hybrid they would reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 1 ton per year.If a person were to give up meat and become vegan, they would reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons per year (source: culinaryschools.org).

Livestock are the biggest contributors to methane gas, which is the gas that contributes to the most heat being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the digestive processes of animals used for food and the management of manure together account for more than a third of total methane emissions (specifically in the US). The nitrous oxide from the meat, eggs and dairy industry is also of an unbelievable level and accounts for 65% of the worldwide nitrous oxide emissions. These three gases are responsible for global warming which essentially means that a hamburger is doing more damage to the earth than a car.

And that’s just the effect on the earth’s atmosphere. Wasting water is always a big issue in a water-scarce country such as South Africa. Well instead of stressing about turning the tap off while you brush your teeth (although you should keep doing that), you could look at the food on your plate. At least 75% of South Africa’s cattle spend their lives in a feedlot, being fattened up unnaturally due to their grain-based diet (as opposed to a natural grass-fed diet). These feedlots require ridiculous amounts of water to operate. It takes roughly 65 times more water to raise feedlot beef than it does pasture-reared beef, which means that 500g steak used 860 litres of water to get to you (source: awsassets.wwf.org.za).

A meat-eater’s diet requires about 15,000 litres of water per day whereas a vegan’s requires roughly 1,100 litres. Basically you would save more water not eating that 500g of meat than you would if you didn’t shower for 6 months.

The Positive Effects of Veganism: Give Vegans A Chance!

Do we NEED to eat meat?

There is a serious argument that humans don’t necessarily need to eat meat and we are made to believe that meat contains all the protein that our bodies need to survive. While, yes, meat does contain protein, it is not the only form of protein that exists, but it is the only form of protein that comes laden with saturated fat and cholesterol. Pulses and grains such as lentils, beans and chickpeas contain it in high numbers, and seeds such as hemp and pumpkin are packed with protein, and veggies such as peas, broccoli, spinach and even artichokes are full of it too.

So the notion that we need meat for solely for protein is not true, as there are numerous other sources of protein.

And if building muscle is a concern, some of the world’s best athletes are completely vegan, Serena and Venus Williams, Mike Tyson and the champion UFC fighter Nate Diaz to name a few, are all completely plant-based and super fit. Point is, it’s one thing to tuck into a hamburger now and then, but we don’t actually need the beef or chicken for its protein qualities.

Think before you consume

We’re not trying to preach about veganism, all we’re trying to do is make a point about how people look at meat. The world’s greed for meat is killing the planet and there simply aren’t enough hybrid cars to counteract that. The intention of this article is simply to make you think. There are many schools of thought on the subject of meat-eating and several believe the human body’s physiological makeup means that we aren’t meant to eat meat.

Some of these studies showed that our stomachs don’t produce the same type of acid that is found in the digestive systems of carnivores that allows meat to be broken down effectively. Or that carnivores have a much shorter intestinal tract than humans and herbivores to allow the quicker passage of meat. The fact is, humans eat meat because they enjoy it, not because it does them that much good.
Give Vegans A Chance

Commit to making better decisions

So, think about this the next time you encounter a vegan, instead of interrogating and victimising them, applaud them for trying to make the world a greener and more humane place. And think too about the changes you can make in your own life to be greener. If you aren’t ready to go vegetarian or vegan, that’s ok, but pledge to eat less meat and to choose better quality meat. Opting only to eat free-range meat is a good way of doing this, and yes, it can be slightly more expensive but tastes just so much better and even that change will make a difference to the environment.

If you replace even just one serving of chicken per week in your diet, you’ll save the same amount of carbon emissions as taking 500 000 cars off the road.

Think about where your milk and eggs are coming from, are they from a factory farm-type establishment? Buy only organic milk and eggs from free-range cows and chickens. Read the labels of the food items you buy and ensure that you’re buying as ethically as you can. These products are all better for you and your family, so make sure you’re choosing wisely.

Veganism is not just about what you eat

Lastly, think of the cosmetics you use, would you like to know that the perfect shade of red lipstick or even your toothpaste was tested on a beagle, or a monkey or a cat? Peta’s Cruelty-Free cosmetics list is handy for this, so is Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa. It’s very easy to think of the being that has sacrificed its life to give you that plate of food, so treat it with the respect it deserves.

Thinking about making veganism your lifestyle choice? See these easy vegan substitutes to help you get started.

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