20 Reasons to Go Vegan

why vegan?Are you are thinking of going vegan? But you're not quite sure why you should? Well I hope that the following short list of reasons will help you to make up your mind. There are of course many other reasons related to why it's important to follow a vegan diet, so many in fact that it would be difficult to list them all here. Generally though, the issues which motivate people to change to a vegan diet can be divided into the following categories: animal rights, environmental concerns, health reasons, use of the world's resources and spiritual reasons. So here goes then. Twenty reasons to get you started on the vegan path!

  1. First of all spare a thought for the farm animals. Today many farm animals are reared in overcrowded and often inhumane conditions. Chickens probably suffer the most inhumane conditions of any farm animal (a typical cage for five battery hens measures just 18" x 20" and has a wire floor which can cause severe damage to the hen's feet and claws). But of course other farm animals suffer too. For example, many factory farmed pigs live in close confinement, often being kept in squalid and overcrowded sheds with concrete or slatted floors. And despite the fact that close confinement in stalls was banned in the UK in January 1999 for all but strictly limited circumstances, Animal Aid has recently filmed pigs still being kept inside such stalls. You can find out more about this sorry state of affairs in the Summer 2000 issue ofOutrage. And if you want to find out more about the general conditions that farm animals in the UK have to endure, then you should read Today's Farm Animals: The Inside Story. This interesting booklet covers the dairy cow, sheep, pigs, battery and broiler chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail and ostriches and is available from Hillside Animal Sanctuary (see further reading list).
  2. When you think of Easter do you think of fluffy yellow chicks cheeping happily away? This is certainly the image of chicks, often presented on the Easter card. Yet for many newly born chicks the reality they experience is completely different. Each year large numbers of unwanted male 'layer' chicks are killed, many of them suffering a slow and distressing death in the gas-filled 'rubbish bins' into which they are tossed. Female chicks are allowed to survive of course. But many are debeaked in order to prevent them from tearing each other apart when they are kept in overcrowded and stressful conditions. This debeaking process can cause considerable pain and some chicks will starve to death afterwards because they are no longer able to eat. So, it's worth sparing a thought for those cute, fluffy chicks too, when you next crack open a cholesterol-ridden egg.
  3. Much has been written about the often inadequate ways in which animals are slaughtered and the fear that animals suffer as they wait to die. A new report on how animals suffer in the slaughter process was published by Compassion in World Farming Trust (CIWF Trust) on the 15th June. Peter Stevenson, Political & Legal Director of CIWF and author of the report, says: 'People like to trust in the term 'humane slaughter', believing that farm animals are gently and caringly put to sleep. CIWF Trust's new report reveals that in reality animals are hustled through modern abattoirs at such great speed that many are not being properly stunned and some actually recover consciousness from the stun as they are dying.' Yet it has been calculated that eight billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. alone each year - just so that people can eat animal products. What makes this shocking figure even worse is the fact that all of these deaths are completely unnecessary. There is absolutely no need to eat animal products at all - they are not essential for human health. In fact there's mounting evidence that vegan foods are far healthier.
  4. Long standing weight problems often disappear on a vegan diet. Many overweight people consume a lot of animal foods which tend to be high in calories and saturated fat and low in fibre. Obesity is of course best avoided because it can lead to serious health problems. Obese people for example suffer higher than average rates of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancer. From my own personal experience, I know that it is very difficult to get fat on a vegan diet!
  5. It has also been shown that low-fat, plant-based diets keep blood cholesterol levels low. People following a plant-based diet have a much lower risk of dying from heart disease than the general population. U.S. studies have shown that vegans have cholesterol levels 35% lower than average! The vegan diet also contains little saturated fat which is even more of a health hazard than dietary cholesterol. The only sources of saturated fat in the vegan diet are tropical oils, hydrogenated fat and coconuts. The first two of these sources should definitely be avoided.
  6. Most cases of food poisoning are caused by eating meat. Studies have shown that 53% of bovine carcasses and 83% of pig carcasses are contaminated with E.coli and that raw chicken can be contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter. Eggs can of course be contaminated with salmonella and eating shellfish can also lead to poisoning.
  7. Vegans have a much lower risk of developing certain types of cancer. It has been estimated that a vegetarian has a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer than a meat eater.
  8. If you follow a plant-based diet you are also less likely to suffer a stroke.
  9. Vegans usually have low blood pressure. And people with high blood pressure often experience a downward progression of their high blood pressure when they follow a vegan diet.
  10. Antibiotics are routinely given to intensively-reared farm animals to stave off infection. British farmers are one of the heaviest users of antibiotics in Europe. These drugs and the residues of hormones fed to animals are still present in meat when it is eaten. Antibiotic resistant bugs have developed mainly because of the use of antibiotic growth promoters in farm animals.
  11. Drink up your milk and you'll grow big and strong! But is milk really so good for us? Milk has been shown to contain more than 25 proteins that can lead to allergies. In fact milk allergies are the most common of all allergies. In addition, many people have trouble digesting milk after childhood due to a shortage of the enzyme lactase which is needed to break down the milk sugar - lactose - present in the milk. A shortage of this enzyme can lead to diarrhea, bloating and cramps. Milk also contains varying amounts of the antibiotics and growth hormones used on dairy herds. And there is also some evidence that milk protein may trigger the onset of insulin-dependent diabetes in children, probably by causing them to produce antibodies which then destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. There may also be a connection between dairy products and leukemia in children. Leukemia is common in dairy herds, being caused by the bovine leukemia virus which passes into the milk. Denmark has the highest rate of leukemia in its cattle and in its children. Is this just a coincidence, or not? Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1) is also found in milk and high levels of IGF-1 are thought to be a risk factor for both breast and prostrate cancer. (See article in Daily Mail May 22, 2000 for more information.) Milk does of course contain a fair bit of calcium and its consumption is still recommended by some for strong bones and teeth. So why then does the U.S. have such a very high rate of osteoporosis, despite being one of the highest dairy consumers in the world? The explanation for this anomaly is probably that milk is also very high in protein. New evidence suggests that a high-protein diet can actually cause calcium loss. I'd avoid milk. It's far safer to obtain your daily supply of calcium from plant-based souces such as kale, broccoli, turnip greens, collards, fortified soya milk or calcium-processed tofu.
  12. Cattle produce methane in the process of gut fermentation. This is released into the environment when they belch and fart, thus contributing to the greenhouse effect. A typical animal emits 48 kilograms of methane per year according to the Vegan Society. And this figure does not include the methane produced in the animal's manure.
  13. Half the rainforests in the world have been destroyed in order to clear ground for cattle grazing in order to produce beefburgers. Twenty-five percent of the world's land is now used to graze cattle - 1.25 billion of them altogether! These cattle eat more and produce more waste than humans. According to Robin Hur and Dr David Fields in: Are High Fat Diets Killing Our Forests? 'Every person who changes to a pure vegetarian diet saves one acre of trees!'
  14. Burning down forests to produce grazing land also releases vasts amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, another potent greenhouse gas.
  15. Livestock production has been shown to be the most harmful type of land use in history. Over-grazing can lead to soil erosion, desertification, loss of wildflowers and wildlife. Dr Michael Klaper in his book Vegan Nutrition Pure and Simple points out that most of the six billion tons of priceless topsoil that erodes off American farmlands yearly comes from grazing lands and that the animal-based diet is responsible for most topsoil erosion.
  16. Animal manures are often spread onto the land as fertilisers. Farm slurry (containing manure and urine) and silage (a liquid produced when crops are preserved for fodder) can enter and pollute nearby streams, removing oxygen from the water and sometimes killing fish. Streams are also fouled by cows wallowing in them.
  17. To feed a vegan requires 1/8 of the land needed to feed a meat eater. (Vegan Society)
  18. To produce a day's food for a meat eater requires 15,000 litres of water compared with 5,000 for a vegetarian and 1,500 for a vegan. (Vegan Society) Meat production requires enormous amounts of water. For example, water is needed to grow grain for feed and also to quench the thirst of the cattle and slaughterhouse operations require millions of gallons of water per minute.
  19. Every six seconds someone in the world starves to death because people in the West are eating meat. Just think how many of those lives could be saved if the grain which is now being used to feed cattle and other farm animals was fed directly to these hungry people instead?
  20. Producing animal flesh for human consumption wastes a lot of energy. According to Dr Michael Klaper in Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple, sixty calories of petroleum energy must be ploughed into the soil in order to harvest one food calorie from animal flesh. Yet growing grains and legumes to feed directly to people will yield 20 calories of food energy for each calorie of fuel energy invested. In addition, farm animals are very inefficient converters of grain energy into edible flesh. It takes 16 pounds of corn and soy beans to produce just one pound of beef flesh! And much additional energy is also needed to keep animal carcasses refrigerated in order to prevent them from decomposing.

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