Today, in America, approximately 2,739,726 animals will be slaughtered to make someone’s dinner. This comes to about ten billion animals per year. Underneath all the corporate ideas that meat and dairy are some of the most important things that people can consume, is the fact that dinner comes from a factory farm—a calorie factory. That dinner is in no way the healthiest thing for people to eat, and it’s certainly not Earth friendly. Factory farms have gradually put local (more humane) slaughterhouses out of business, because they are unable to keep up with the rising number of meat products that factory farms can produce. What most people have grown up believing is not all true. It is time to break free from the social norm of eating animals and animal products, and realize the truth behind the face on the plate: this diet is not humane, healthy, or good for our planet. Veganism is an ethical alternative.
Ethics is one reason people should go vegan. Slaughterhouses maintain that they use humane killing methods, but this is a missed attempt. Cows are one example of the unethical treatment of animals. Calves raised for beef will be branded, dehorned, and castrated without anesthesia. They will live in a feed lot for about six months, and fed unnatural feed which agitates the pH of their digestive system. So, corn then loaded with antibiotics to combat that bacteria. Before the Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 was set in place, steers simply had their throats slit. The author of Generation V, Claire Askew, illustrates that they are now killed with a captive bolt pistol, which shoots and retracts a steel rod between the cow’s eyes, with the goal of inducing a coma so that the steer is unconscious while butchered. However, captive bolt pistols rarely ever do just that, and with the speed of the killing line, it is impossible to make sure that each steer is dead. Often the cow will be fully awake, and in pain. Most of the time live cattle make it all the way to the disemboweling machine. Not only is this inhumane, it is dangerous for the workers to have to do their jobs while live, kicking, and horrified animals move down the killing lines. Slowing the line to give the workers proper time to do their jobs and operate machinery would result in the factory producing fewer products, and making less money. Everything that sounds cruel and unethical is all done so that these brutal farms can make more money.
People like to believe that dairy cows live happy lives, grazing freely in big green pastures. The reality though, is shockingly far from this. Dairy cows raised in factory farms live in two different kinds of facilities: a fenced outdoor lot, which consists of crowded pens and their own manure, or a metal shed, where cows are chained in incredibly small individual stalls and fed by a conveyor belt. Dairy cows are artificially impregnated nine months out of the year to make unnatural milk. This brutal cycle can make cows lame, and gives them diseases and other health issues. Cows will continue to be impregnated until they are unable to give birth anymore (which means they are also unable to produce milk), and then are killed. Once female calves are old enough, they will start the grueling process of being used solely to produce more milk. Male calves will become veal.
Male calves used for veal live terribly rough, short lives. They do not get to fully mature in size or age before being sold. They are raised to be anemic. This treatment is terrible for the calves and the mothers alike. The mothers of the calves will bellow for days when missing her calf. People buy veal for its soft flesh, but do not understand what the calf suffered just to make one meal. Askew’s book states that it’s a common vegan saying that every glass of milk contains a small hunk of veal. While this is not literally true, every glass of milk comes from the mother of a veal calf. Thus, if you support the dairy industry, you support the veal industry. Taking a baby away from its mother is unethical, no matter what species you are dealing with.
Veganism offers a healthy alternative lifestyle to the traditional diet eaten by many Americans. Many people feel that a vegan diet is not well balanced, and is unhealthy. However, this assumption is not correct. Americans eat more meat and dairy than any other nation. To suggest that a vegan diet is unhealthy is an uneducated assumption. Osteoporosis is virtually unknown to the Bantu women of Africa, who live day to day with a near vegan diet. People argue different points on the health benefits of meat produced in factory farms, but Gail Eisnitz, author of Slaughterhouse, poses a very important question:
“Are you brave enough to admit that the one natural reservoir of E.coli 0157:H7 has proven to be from the intestinal tract of cattle? That the avenue of the infected is feces splattered on our meat? That the disease which was extremely rare only a decade ago has now become the leading cause of kidney failure in U.S. children?”
There are several ways to ingest protein, considering the average person only needs a mere six ounces of protein a day. Food items such as beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, soy, and many other products give enough protein, and can actually reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Protein is one of the easiest substances to find outside of meat.
Contrary to popular belief, dairy is not as healthy as it is said to be. Former Chairman of Department of Pediatrics at John Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Oski, states that the consumption of whole bovine milk is the leading cause of iron deficiency in infants today. Oski reports that after the first year of life, milk should be discouraged. It is linked to disorders such as atherosclerosis, recurrent abdominal pain, cataracts, and milk borne infections. Cow milk is made for calves, not humans. Drinking cow’s milk agitates the acidity level of blood, leaving less calcium than initially started with. Askew advances the fact that animal protein (which is obviously present in a glass of milk) tends to make the blood more acidic, so to compensate, the body pulls calcium out of the bones and into the blood. This neutralizes the acid and encourages its passage into the urine, along with the calcium. Does the fact that corporate America has lied to the country with ideals and catchphrases like, “Got Milk” for decades not infuriate people? Soy, almond, and rice milks provide more nutrients that our human bodies can absorb correctly, and have more calcium per calorie than dairy.
A second misconception is that veganism is horrible for a person’s body. When cooking right, and looking for required nutrients, veganism has a great effect on one’s physical appearance. Veganism does wonderful things for a person’s complexion and weight. Vegans do not lose weight from lack of food. If there is a loss of weight at all, it is from dropping fatty meats and oils such as red meat and butter. Dairy contains alarming levels of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides, which are not good for a healthy body. Anita Marto states that veganism helps boost energy, promotes healthier skin, better digestion, weight loss, and reduces risk of heart and other diseases. Marto also states that veganism has been cited as controlling or curing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Why not try it, if it is healthier and better for your body?
By killing animals to eat, we are killing our planet. Raising animals for food is responsible for over 18 percent of global warming. That is more carbon output than all of the world’s transportation put together. Greenhouse gases are being put into our air during every step of the meat producing process, including the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Vegan Action’s website discusses how the production of animals for meat and dairy cause environmental issues including: water contaminated by manure, the transportation of animals, deforestation for grazing land, all of the pesticides and fertilizers, acid rain from ammonia emissions, gases from the slaughterhouse, and depletion of aquifers for irrigation. If you include all of these environmental issues, meat production is actually causing 80 percent of global warming. These statistics are already alarming, and continually growing.
Animal agriculture is also responsible for driving the topsoil erosion problem, forcing the assimilation of crops and grazing space in forests. This process kills the world’s natural animal environments, and kills more animals than the original factory farm. Not to mention, the Earth’s forests are being defaced and replaced for something so unnecessary. In a personal interview with Claire Askew, she stated, “My favorite part of being vegan is simply knowing that I am living my life in the most peaceful, just, healthy, and kind way possible—for me, for the environment, for other living beings.” The fastest and easiest way to make a difference is to stop eating animals. Vegan Action reasserts that farming animals is an inefficient means of food, seeing as feed for farm animals requires land, water, fertilizers, and other resources that could otherwise have been used directly for producing human food. We can’t rely on others to save the planet. It comes down to each individual person. Earth is deteriorating as we speak. We need a change.
A vegan diet is not only a healthier and more environmentally conscious alternative, it is an ethical alternative. Martin Luther King once said:
“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?
Expediency asks the question – is it politic?
Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
But conscience asks the question – is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
That is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
But one must take it because it is right.”
Go vegan—save the animals, save yourself, and save the world while there is still time.