This is a continuation of my “Misconceptions about Veganism” series in which I address some of the most popular questions and skeptical remarks about veganism. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
What’s wrong with Eggs and Dairy? Obtaining these products doesn’t harm the animal.
These industries cause just as much pain and suffering as the meat industry, if not more. Cows are forcibly impregnated each year for their entire lives. Mother cows form an immediate and strong bond with their calves. But their babies are repeatedly stolen away from them so that humans can drink their milk. If the calf is female, she is destined to become a dairy cow like her mother. If he is male, he is locked in a small crate, fed a cheap formula made of slaughter byproducts, and is slaughtered for veal after a few miserable, lonely months of life. When the mother’s body becomes lame and exhausted from being constantly pregnant and producing 5 times as much milk as she naturally would, she is slaughtered for cheap, low-grade meat.
Hens suffer in the egg industry, too. They are stuffed so tightly into wire cages that they have no space to spread their wings. Their beaks are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from attacking each other due to the stress of this crowded environment. The skin on their feet grows into the wire cages they constantly stand upon. The environment is so unclean, that the birds’ waste falls onto the cages below. To add to this suffering, they are starved or left in the dark to begin a new laying cycle. Naturally, hens would produce 12 eggs per year. In factory farms, they produce over 300. This takes an enormous toll on their bodies. When their egg laying declines, they are sent to slaughter. In addition, male chicks are useless to the egg industry, as they cannot produce eggs or be raised for meat profitably. As a result, 6 million male chicks are ground up alive or suffocated annually.
As you can see, cows and hens are treated like slaves and are exploited for their reproductive systems. These animals’ jobs are not to produce milk and eggs for human consumption. They are individuals, not machines. The egg and milk industries are just as cruel as the meat industry.
What about Humane, Locally-Sourced, Free-Range, or Sustainable animal products?
There is no such thing as humane meat. Qualifying to be labeled as humane is not difficult. Free range chickens are crammed into dark, filthy chicken houses instead of battery cages. Outdoor access may be limited to a small, muddy pen. Even if the farmer opened a door and shut it before any chickens could leave, he could still sell his products as free range. And these animals are bred to grow so large so quickly, that they cannot carry their bodies for more than a few steps anyways. All farm animals are subjected to painful mutilations such as tail docking, ear notching, branding, de-horning, and castration. No matter where they were raised, all of these animals’ lives face the same gruesome end. They are violently packed into crates and trucks and driven for hours through weather extremes to die in the same cruel slaughterhouses.
This article from “The Onion” clearly illustrates the nonsense of humane meat.
As far as sustainability goes, no food is as detrimental to the environment as meat. Cows that graze upon grass instead of being fed corn release more methane than factory farmed cows. Since free range animals move more, they burn more calories and therefore require more food. All animals raised for food require copious amounts of water, while their waste simultaneously pollutes our clean water sources. Cattle farming is the leading cause of deforestation. There is not enough land on earth for all meat to be raised free-range. As our air becomes more and more polluted, we cannot afford to lose trees. There is no way to make meat nearly as environmentally friendly as plant-based alternatives.
But the bottom line is that using animals for food is exploitation, no matter how they are raised. Their bodies and lives are not yours to take. You should not obtain a meal at the expense of another’s life if you do not have to. And even if these animals lived the most comfortable lives, why should it be considered morally acceptable to end it midway through?
Plants are alive, too!
Right now, we see no reason to believe that plants feel pain. They do not possess the nervous system, brain, or pain-sensing chemicals present in animals. Evolutionarily speaking, there is no purpose for plants to evolve a sense of pain. They cannot move or run away if something begins to harm them.
Veganism isn’t about eliminating all suffering, though we try our best to do so. As long as there is life, there will be pain and suffering. Veganism is about reducing the suffering we are responsible for as much as we possibly can. So even if plants do experience pain, the best we can do right now is only eat plants. Less plants will be killed if we eat them directly rather than feeding them to animals and then eating the animals.
Resorting to the vegan cliche: Where would you rather take your kids, apple picking or to a slaughterhouse? Clearly, plants are the most compassionate food choice.
We have much more serious issues to resolve before animal rights. Vegans don’t care about people.
The vegan diet saves more than just animal lives. It saves the health of the people. The vegan diet is cholesterol free. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. It is estimated that if the nation switched to plant-based diets, health spending costs would be cut by 80%. So not only will the vegan diet improve people’s health, it will save them money.
Farming animals causes human disease. When human viruses or bacteria come in contact with strains from animals, they share genetic material to form a completely new strain that no one’s immune system recognizes. Many devastating epidemics, such as influenza and smallpox, come from farming animals in close proximity to humans.
Additionally, farm animals are fed antibiotics excessively, creating antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. These bacteria are present in the animals’ waste, and runoff from waste lagoons can contaminate water sources, transmitting these resistant bacteria to humans.
Growing plants to feed animals and then eating the animals is an inefficient use of resources. Without the animal industry, we could grow enough food to feed 2 billion additional people, eliminating hunger. Additionally, many starving nations farm grain, which farmers sell to American cattle farmers instead of their own people because the cattle farmers can pay more for it.
Issues of climate change are pressing these days. In the next hundred years, it is extrapolated that average temperature will rise by 11 degrees. The animal industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas release than the entire transportation industry combined. No other industry is more destructive to the environment. If you care about future generations inheriting a healthy, clean planet, you will go vegan.
Compassionate eating can promote a more peaceful world. If we were raised to believe that gaining our nourishment from another animals’ pain and suffering is wrong, we would be less likely to harm our fellow humans. When performing acts of violence against animals is commonplace, it becomes difficult to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable treatment of humans. A vegan world would be a much more compassionate and peaceful place. Clearly, the vegan diet is beneficial to more than just the animals you consume.
That’s all of the misconceptions I will be addressing today! Part 3 will be posted sometime next week.