What comes to your mind when you hear the word vegan?
Do you picture someone like this?
Who lives like this?
And eats food like this?
Have you heard vegan logic be questioned like this?
The former narratives are all misconceptions of the vegan lifestyle Let’s get to the bottom of what is actually going on with this “hippie, save the animals” movement.
Commonly Accepted Beliefs
- Religious texts state that God put animals on earth to serve man.
- Meat and dairy is a vital part of our diet as both are protein-rich and provide other vital nutrients we would be unable to get with a vegan diet.
- It is in our nature to eat animals as we did millions of years ago and the fact that we are carnivores.
- Civilization would not have progressed as rapidly as it has without animals serving us in the agricultural and industrial revolution as well as today.
- Animals do not have emotions, therefore, are unable to experience fear and true pain.
What we know
Animals began being domesticated 11,000–15,000 years ago and served us well during the agricultural revolution. Animals were used primarily for food, protection, and clothes/materials. Today, animals are used today to provide us with food, clothing, entertainment, and a means of practicing medical research when we are testing new drugs that may hit the market. Many Religions and cultures have practices that describe the use of animals for humans either ordained by the almighty or accepted as a cultural norm.
The environmental impacts of animal agriculture are massive, to say the least. Per The Economist, Animal agriculture is responsible for a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions, uses about 70% of all freshwater resources, and occupies about 40% of the earth’s land surface.
It is not humanizing to saying animals can’t experience pain, because they can. Believing otherwise would be scientific ignorance.
The following text is a small piece from a video with Yuval Noah Harari, the notable Israeli Historian turned author, speaking on the role of scientists in the debate about animal warfare and how we need to solidify the importance of facts over ethics.
“ To the best of our scientific understanding, all mammals, birds, and most reptiles and finish and other organisms are conscious sentient beings. They all have the capacity to experience sensations and emotions. We have no evidence to believe that lettuce or tomatoes can feel pain or can experience fear.
Mammals and birds have a complex world of sensations and emotions. It is not something only God gave homo sapiens to create and enjoy art, it is something that natural selection evolved in all mammals and other animals to make decisions in life.
Emotions like fear and courage are not unique to human beings. They are common to all mammals and probably to many other animals because they are practical tools for animals to make decisions. Some emotions may be unique to humans. Guilt, as far as we know, may well be unique solely to humans. It is also likely, that there are other emotions that are unique to whales and humans don’t have this emotion.
Another very important and common emotion is motherly love. The bond between mother and offspring. without a strong emotional bond between mother and offspring, no mammal can survive and reproduce. Whether you are a cow or giraffe, a baboon or a dolphin, if there is no bond between the mother and offspring in the case of mammals, the offspring will not survive because they depend on the milk and of the care of the mother for at least a few weeks, months, or even years. Even though science clearly now tells us clearly that this emotion of mother-offspring bond is common to all mammals, we ignore it outside of scientific context, in the context of industrial farming.
The entire dairy industry is built on breaking this most basic bond of the mammal kingdom between mother and offspring. a cow will not give milk unless you first get her pregnant (this happens forcefully) and it gives birth to a small calf. But if you allow the calf to stick around and drink the milk, you won’t have anything for the dairy industry. So the entire dairy industry is built on getting cows pregnant, and then when they give birth, separating the mother from the offspring, usually fattening up the calves and slaughtering them, and milking the cow until she dries up and then you get her pregnant again and start another cycle.
To the best of our understanding, this is likely to cause a lot of misery, a lot of emotional pain, to both the mother and the offspring.
When it comes to humans, we indulge our desires and urges even if they are unnecessary today. But when it comes to animals, we tend to ignore them, and this causes tremendous suffering to the animals. A calf which is separated from his mother and from other calves and is locked in a small cage without any opportunity to play will be extremely miserable, just as a child or a puppy will be extremely miserable under such conditions and yet this is the faith of millions upon millions of calves every day across the world.
Silence in the face of misery is an extreme and very unfortunate ethical choice.”
-Yuval Noah Harari (Israeli Historian)
Benefits of Veganism
If not already aware, a vegan diet provides a handful of benefits offered by almost no other diet that exists. With a vegan diet, you:
- Reduce animal suffering while developing empathy for all living sentient beings.
- Eliminate toxic foods from entering your body that are leading causes in the increased risks in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other health complications (as well as simply not necessary).
- Reduce the demand for animal products (which in theory should lower the supply).
- Help cut down methane emissions which are contributing to the destruction of our ozone layers.
- Have a clear conscious of not supporting what is considered to be the largest genocide in human history (comparisons have been drawn with the Holocaust and slavery).
A feasible solution
While many vegan activists have great intentions, they do not always have well thought out solutions. Sure, we can all stop eating meat today. The result would simply not be as ideal as many vegan activists hope. Many who lack a basic understanding of economic theory have shouted that demand for animals will decrease and then the supply will go down. This should, in theory, mean no more need for consuming animals for food, clothing, testing, or entertainment. This simply does not add up.
It is vital to remember there are societal, cultural, religious, and personal implications at play. People, as shown throughout history, do not like change, especially when it contradicts all that they have ever know.
Take, for example, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, written sometime between 380 and 360 B.C. during a period of Greek history known as the Classical Age. In this allegory, cave dwellers stay chained together and face a wall their entire lives only being shown shadows of objects passing by. They have no idea of the outside world and firmly believe the cave is all there is and is the ultimate truth. One day, one of the prisoners escapes from the chains and climbs out of the cave. He discovers sun, land, civilization, and all that was hidden to him in the cave. He returns to the cave to tell the other prisoners of the “truth” that he has seen. They do not believe him and threaten to kill him if he tries to set them free from their previous beliefs.
In essence, just because we have always believed something to be true and have reinforcement from society, religion, family, friends telling us so, it may not always be the case. You may not be killed like the slave in the cave, but you are likely to not be received well. We must also be aware that with this realization, you may not always be welcomed with open arms by those who are stuck with their belief systems.
I have had multiple experiences where a normal communal meal turns into a heated debate on animal welfare. When I first became vegan and returned home from a semester at university, I shared the news with my family that I am now a vegan. They responded, humorously, with “okay, so what’s her name”? Although influenced by a romantic interest, this was NOT the reason.
The popularized notion that animal consumption, in whatever form it may be, is Natural, Normal and Necessary is nothing further from the truth. We have been conditioned to believe this radical narrative of the three N’s when it pertains to animal welfare.
The solution to ending the suffering of animals (aka a vegan lifestyle), asides from continuously informing others of the movement and engaging in constructive civil dialogue, is finding substitutes for how we use animals that are both affordable and accessible.
There is the notion that if we do find substitutes that are affordable and accessible, millions of workers will lose jobs and it will hurt the economy. When we take a look back to the 19th century and the invention of the automobiles, were there thoughts of how these new vehicles would destroy the businesses of people whose living came from navigating horse carriages? Sure. However, there was also the realization that automobiles would prove to be much more productive for society as a whole.
I grew up in a culture, religion, and family that all told me it was Natural, Necessary, and Normal to consume animal products. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to engage with others who challenged my way of thinking and, fortunately, guided me to resources but never pressured me to make any decisions. After doing my research, I made the decision to go vegan while also being realistic to the future of how animal welfare will look.
There are clear, scientific backed facts, that indicate the prosperity of all life on earth will come down to a more compassionate and aware human race. In order to save not only the planet and the animals but ourselves from immoral condemnation, we must take strides towards a vegan lifestyle. We must invest in the technology that will provide us with substitutes for animal products that are both affordable and accessible.
“May all that have life be delivered from suffering.” (Buddha)