by Carlotta Bul
I am a vegan. In my opinion, veganism is a lifestyle based on eating whole plant based foods in their most natural state to get the best energetic beauty that nature could offer me. Society generally prefers to create misleading conceptions and stereotypes about vegans and veganism.
In this 2 part blog series, I have been exploring some common stereotypes and misconceptions about what we eat. In part 1 my focus was on what I eat. In part 2, I will explore some of the facts about what non-vegans eat; especially about the production processes on the basis of animal products underlining the importance to be conscious about the origins of our foods. You can read part 1 here.
The way we live today removes us so severely from the origin of our food and has impacted us at a social, existential and environmental level. We usually walk into a grocery store and grab something, without even thinking about where the food came from, whom it came from, and at what cost. However with an ever-increasing globalized world, we must acknowledge, or at least begin to consider, what the simple consumer-driven actions to buy animal products entails and understand what a single act causes at a global level.
I now explore some of the perceptions of non-vegans and compare their diet to mine.
Oh such a diet is extreme!
If there’s one reaction to a vegan diet that I find most interesting, it’s the assertion that veganism is extreme. I’d like to take a moment to look at what dietary practices really are extreme. Let’s consider what many people would eat for breakfast in a standard English diet: glass of milk, eggs, and bacon.
What all does it take to produce that glass of milk? First we have to artificially impregnate a cow, wait for her to come full-term and birth her child, and then take the child away immediately where it will be tied down, barely able to move, and then slaughtered when he or she is a couple days old for the veal industry. Meanwhile we’re going to hook up some machines to the mother and steal the milk that she had made for her child; this process will be repeated over and over until this mother cow, who has a life expectancy of 25 years, is completely spent by her fourth or fifth year of life, unable to move or hold herself up, and is then ground for pet food and cheap meats. Besides, in order for her to produce all of this milk and stave off the infections caused by the frequent milking, they’ve got to pump her full of antibiotics and growth hormones, plus all of the quantities of food and the water that we have to give her to sustain her life while we’re taking her milk. So what’s more extreme, promoting this horrible torture or giving a bite to an apple?
Now considering the bacon. We need to firstly acknowledge all the resources used in order to genetically design these pigs, breed them, raise them, feed them, water them, and finally consider also all their excrement around them. There are literally troughs of feces surrounding pig farms; so much that they have a common practice of shooting it directly up into the air. This causes respiratory problems for people who live around the pig farm, as well as it leaches into the groundwater.
Talking about eggs, it is useful to remember that chickens only have one hole out of which feces, vaginal secretions, urine, and your breakfast emerge; and besides this, an egg is literally a chicken period. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think you can get a whole lot more extreme than eating the menstruation of another animal.
If all this is not enough, you might be pleased to know that there are tons of pretty ‘extreme’ substances into different processed foods. For example, any sort of pink, red, or purple processed foods might contain carmine, which is ground up carcasses of pregnant beetles, whose fetuses are colored with the desired hue. Starbucks strawberry Frappuccino and Dannon strawberry yogurt both get their color from carmine. Besides that, there is castoreum, the basis of artificial raspberry, vanilla, or strawberry flavours. Castoreum is an extract made from dried ground up sacks, located by the anal glands of beavers.
I would rather prefer ‘free-range human slaughter’ than stop eating meat….
The rise of ‘free-range’ meats, ‘cage-free’ eggs or ‘cruelty-free’ products has led many people to believe that we can consume animals in a humane and acceptable way. However, in reality, there is absolutely NO humane way to breed, kill and consume another living creature or its byproducts – especially on an industrial level. J Laveck and J Stein, authors of the website HumaneMyth.org say ‘such labels create a false and misleading impression in the minds of the public, who would be both horrified and disgusted knowing everything that happens to the animals whose lives are exploited and cut short in order to create these products’.
In the USA, for example, CFE (Common Farming Exemptions) make any method of raising farm animals legal as long as it’s commonly practiced within the industry. So, if the industry adopts a practice like hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers for example, it automatically becomes legal. All forms of dairy farming, whether organic or human or free-range, involve a person inserting his arm into the cow’s rectum in order to position her uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina. The restraining apparatus used is usually called a “rape rack”. As I mentioned in my last blog that after 4 to 6 years, dairy cows are generally considered spent and slaughtered for pet food and fertilizer. Free from this exploitation, cows might live 25 years or more.
What about “cage-free” eggs? Well, laying hens are killed when their production declines, typically within two years- if allowed to live free of exploitation and slaughter, chickens can live 10 years or more. Hens used for egg production come from hatcheries where male chicks are killed immediately after hatching. Each year, hundreds of millions are suffocated or ground-up alive to produce fertilizer or feed; even small poultry farms rely on industrial hatcheries.
If we’re buying these products because we think that the animals are well treated, we are greatly mistaken. No matter how free range, organic, and grass fed, cattle have their horns cut off, and their testicles cut out of their scrotums; besides many are branded with sizzling hot iron. Pigs on organic farms often have their tails chopped off and their ears notched. Chickens on organic farms usually have part of their sensitive beaks cut off, causing acute pain and often death. None of these animals are given any painkillers. Animals who don’t die on the farm are shipped to the same slaughterhouse used by the factory farms: they are hung upside down and their throats are cut, often while they are still conscious, and struggling to escape. Some are still conscious when they are forced into scalding hot water, or when their bodies are hacked apart.
Harold Brown, a former beef farmer declared ‘there is no such a thing as humane animal products, humane farming practices, humane transport or humane slaughter’. In practice, if I was going to tell you “I’m going to artificially breed you and bring you into this world with the sole purpose of killing you while you are a child, and then profiting from your death – but that I’m going to kill you humanely using ‘cruelty-free’ methods’’ would you feel comforted and happy to live such an existence? The absurdity of this paradox is evident!
How could you not enjoy the sight of a juicy piece of steak?!
Do you really know the kind of production process behind that steak on your table? Or any other animal product? Let’s analyze the various detrimental impacts meat production has on the earth and its populations. Considering the environmental impact, in order to make one pound of beef, we have to use two thousand five hundred gallons of water, fifty-five square feet of rainforest, sixteen pounds of grain and eighty kilograms of carbon dioxide.
The livestock industry is one of the heaviest users of our scarce water supply, and contributes to pollute our waters with their waste, antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used to spray the feed crops they consume. You can save more water by not eating one pound of beef than you can for not showering for an entire six months!
Then there is the land that we use – the equivalent of seven football fields is bulldozed every minute worldwide in order to make more room for farmed animals and consequently one third of all arable land is used in producing food for these animals.
Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all the transportation in the world combined. It is actually the number one cause of climate change. Apart from carbon dioxide, livestock also generates other toxic gases like nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential) and ammonia (which contributes to acid rain and ecosystem acidification). It takes more than eleven times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from vegetarian protein.
At a global level, only 35% of the world’s people can be fed on a meat-based diet, while a plant-based diet could feed everyone; how is that possible? Resource-wise, the vast majority of our water and food go to feed and produce our food. It takes nearly fifty times more water to produce a calorie from beef as it does from potatoes; the amount of vegetable protein fed to the US beef herd would feed almost the entire populations of India and China – that’s over two billion people. In the UK, ninety percent of the animal feed protein concentrates come from poor countries, often where children are dying from starvation. The reason so many people can’t put food on their tables is because we continue to put meat and dairy on ours. There is something seriously wrong with a world where half of the population is severely underfed while the other half overfeeds itself into a state of illness and even death. If those enjoying the excess were to make the change to a starch-based diet, this would free up sufficient rice, corn, wheat and potatoes (now going to animal feed) to allow the entire world population adequate food supplies. In fact, reallocating land from animal to crop production would increase our food resources at least seventeen fold: crops like potatoes can produce 17 times the calories as animals on the same piece of land.
Not interested about saving other people? What about saving some money? We are faced with enormous national debt, in part due to the spiraling public health costs of caring for a population that is sick and getting sicker, based on what we eat: every year, in US alone, spends $77.4 billion on cancer, $273 billion on heart disease, $245 billion on diabetes, $190 billion on obesity, $245 billion on diabetes, $152 billion on food poisoning. All of which are primarily caused by an animal-based diet.
At this point the picture is clear: what we choose to eat has a huge impact on the world in a number of ways, at an environmental, social and moral level. The animal products industry is the most environmentally devastating force on the planet; our choice to eat meat, dairy and eggs impacts more than just our stomachs: it tears down forests, uses insane quantities of water, creates massive pollution, and diverts over 80% of the world’s crops to livestock, crops that could otherwise easily feed the world’s hungry.
So is eating meat is just a personal choice? I would say no. What about respecting the environment and the future generations who have to live in the wake of our destruction? What about respecting the people who can’t put food in their stomachs because your right to eat animal products took precedence? It is essential to become conscious about the connected relations of such universe and understand that what goes inside each of our bodies affects more than just you or me – our decisions affecteach other, the animals and the planet. We are the choices we make. When you choose to eat meat, remember that you are literally putting your right to choose above another’s right to live (that could easily be the animal you are eating as the child from the other side of the world you are depriving from his cereals to feed the animal you are eating).
There is more to my decision to become vegan beyond liking vegetables and fruits. For me, it is an informed decision based on my research about how non-vegan food is produced and its effects on the people and planet I live on. I leave you with these last words:
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Thomas Edison
An Italian girl living in London tenaciously looking for a truth
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