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Being vegan or vegetarian is a lifestyle choice many around the world are committing to, with a sharp increase observed every single year. It is getting easier and easier to live a meat-free lifestyle, with more and more convenient cruelty free options available on a daily basis.

But WHY? Why are so many adopting a way of living that is such a contrast to what has been ingrained in our culture for so many years? Most vegans or vegetarians you talk to would draw reference to the following three broad themes (click to explore!):

DOCUMENTARIES TO WATCH:

Earthlings (YouTube)

(A graphic insight to factory farming)

Lucent (Website)

(The harsh realities of pig farming right here in Australia)

Cowspiracy  (Netflix or here)

(A peer reviewed scientific and fact based look into the extent of pollution and damage to earth from animal agriculture)

Forks Over Knives  (American Netflix or here)

(A thorough investigation of how animal products contribute to biggest disease killers, and how the body can thrive on a plant based diet)

Moral / Ethical

No one enjoys getting killed. I’m sure this we can all agree on.

There are so many fact and science based reasons to reduce or eliminate animal products from our diet, but one of the most basic core premises on why someone would choose to go vegan or vegetarian (or adopting a plant based diet) is based on the simple fact that we, as human beings, don’t need to slaughter or harm any other sentient living beings in order to survive. It is easy to argue that humans have evolved eating meat, all the way from hunter gatherers to butchers providing for their small village. However, this doesn’t apply to a modern culture where you can simply walk down to your local Coles or Woolies (or Charlie’s Fruit Market) ((15% off with a QUT Veg membership card)) (((Join QUT Veg))) and load up your trolley with whatever plentiful and nutritious food items you require. Requiring and relying on forcefully sourced animal products as a food source is just not necessary anymore. Many claim that eating meat is just simply one’s own personal choice and should be free of scrutiny, but personal choice ends the moment there is a victim. It is not one’s own scrutiny free ‘personal choice’ to be racist, sexist or homophobic.

‘Ethically sourced’ or ‘humanely slaughtered’ meat are terms you may have heard before. Is there really any way to ‘humanely’ kill something or someone? That’s up to you. Regardless, these ‘humane’ practices, like the local butcher mentioned earlier, giving their cows a happy life on their farm, are simply not a reality on a large scale. With such a huge population to provide for, the meat/dairy/egg industry predominately aim for optimal efficiency, which usually comes at the expense of the quality of life of the animal. An example of an ‘efficient humane‘ method: Video (Warning – Graphic)

Some of the horrors involved with the raising and slaughter of animals are almost unspeakable. Sentient beings that can process fear and pain, confined in tiny spaces, awaiting their execution. Dairy cows artificially inseminated to constantly provide milk, bellowing with grief for days on end when their freshly born calves are taken away from them again and again. Males chicks heaped into bags and crushed or suffocated as they are no use to the egg industry. Marine animals experiencing extreme habitat destruction and food depletion due to chaotic over-fishing.

I’m sure you have seen the shock videos shared on Facebook and YouTube (watch Earthlings from the links above if you would like a harsh reminder). It is extremely easy to become desensitised and disconnect from how these foods actually arrive on our plates. These are realities of the suffering that happens on a daily basis. Every human being should have the right to live a happy, healthy life. Extend that courtesy to all the other sentient beings on the earth. There is no need to put your money towards cruelty, suffering, mutilation and slaughter. The enjoyment of the taste of something fails to justify the cruelty and suffering that goes into getting it onto the plate.

People talk about evolution as if we, as humans, are on top of the food chain. However, the reality is, in the 21st century, we are so far removed from the food chain, to the point where we have used our intelligence to construct a faux ecosystem, where animals are cruelly mass farmed on an unfathomable scale. That isn’t an admirable representation of an apex predator, like a lion hunting a gazelle. It can just as easily be viewed as a blatant misuse of power. With great power, comes great responsibility. Today is no longer comparable to a time where sustainably hunting and eating meat acts as an evolutionary advancement to the species. Today, with our great superior intelligence, it is our responsibility to demonstrate care and compassion towards the ecosystems we are part of and the species we share those with.

Lastly, consider the way many feel about their pets, or other exotic animals, and the love and awe that is demonstrated towards them. Why does this care and compassion not extend to other species, purely because they have been conditioned to be perceived as an endless food source. Why love one and eat another? This term is referred to as ‘speciesism‘.

Only last year, a petition went viral within Australia and other western countries heavily protesting the Chinese dog festivals, where they endorse and celebrate eating dog meat. Imagine the parallel if a petition came out of China heavily protesting a Beef Week or the Ekka. There would be mass Australian outrage. It is an inconsistent viewpoint to maintain. If the love for a pet dog stems from its loyalty, intelligence and obedience, there is absolutely no reason why that love should not extend to a pig, which also demonstrates those same traits as a wonderful loving domesticated companion pet.

Environmental

Animal agriculture on a large scale takes a serious toll on the environment and its ecosystems. In a time where our population dictates the effective and efficient usage of water, land and providing food to as many people as possible, animal agriculture is viewed as an unbelievably poor solution for these things. Animal agriculture impacts heavily on our planet’s land masses, oceans, wildlife and rainforests. It should be the goal of every person to want to leave as small of a ‘footprint’ as possible in order to promote a sustainable world. With 82% of starving children living in countries where food is fed to animals that are predominantly eaten by western countries, there is clearly a serious problem. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4)

Someone following a plant-based vegan diet, compared to a ‘meat-lover’, uses the approximate equivalent of:

50% less Carbon Dioxide

–  1/11th oil

1/13th water

1/18th land

– Daily, saves ~4150 litres of water, ~20kg of grain, saves ~3 square metres of forested land, 9kg of equivalent CO2, and animal’s life.

(Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) (#5) (#6) (#7) (#8)


EMISSIONS:

Picture every car, every train, every plane and every boat in the world. These contribute to 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture and its byproducts contribute to an astounding 18%(Source)

The methane produced by agriculture makes up a staggering amount of the greenhouse emissions overall produced; almost equal to natural gas, with cows producing an estimated 150 billion gallons of gas per day. (Source) (#2) On top of that, methane is considered to have a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 over a 20 year time frame. (Source)

Heavily reducing these methane emissions is regarded as having a strong potential to bring ‘almost immediate tangible benefits’ (Source)


FOOD / WATER USAGE:

We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people. This speaks testament to the unbelievable inefficiencies that come with animal agriculture. A huge portion of the food grown is fed directly to livestock, with upwards of 50% of grown grain being funnelled into that purpose. Based on a rough worldwide estimate, human consume 19.68 billon gallons of water and 9.52 billion KG of food each day. Compare this to an estimate of cows’ consumption:170 billion gallons of water and 61 billion KG of food each day. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4)(#5)

Water usage from animal agriculture is astronomical in a time where saving water is crucial and necessary. Products such as almonds are quickly slammed for being water intensive within drought areas like California, but the status quo and power of meat and dairy industries encourage a blind eye to be turned to the real problems. The main problem with animal products, when it comes to efficiency, is the fact that the amount of crop fed to animals and water needed to grow those crops, is nothing short of unsustainable.

While most heavily researched and peer reviewed sources originate from the US, they are still heavily applicable to the way industries function worldwide, including Australia. Globally, animal agriculture is recognised as being responsible for approximately 1/4 (25%) of all fresh water consumption in the world. (Source) (#2) (#3)

California, continually pegged as an area that has well noted concerns over water consumption, uses 1500 gallons (5678 litres) per person per day, with close to half of this number stemming from meat and dairy products from animal agriculture. These findings stay consistent with the fact US animal agriculture water consumption clocks in at upwards of 34 trillion gallons (128 trillion litres) annually, with the growth of crops for livestock totalling a whopping 56% of water in the US. Compare this figure of 56% to the figure of 5% that is actually used within private homes. (Source) (#2) (#3)

Approximately 3400 litres of water are required to produce 1KG of eggs, approximately 6800 litres of water for 1KG of cheese, and a whopping approximately 19000 litres required for 1KG of beef. With these approximates, that equates to one McDonald’s burger being equivalent to 2 months of showering. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) (#5)


LAND / RAINFOREST / OCEANS:

Animal agriculture takes a serious toll on our usable space and natural ecosystems on our earth, clocking in as the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. This is achieved through:

– Mass clearing of forests to convert that land into growing feed crops

– Predator species being hunted and targeted due to threat to agriculture

– The widespread use of of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers poisoning waterways

– Exploitation of of wild species through fishing

– Consequences of global warming, which animal agriculture contributes heavily to

(Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) (#5) (#6)

1.5 acres of land can reliably produce 170KG of meat, while at the same time, 1.5 acres of land can reliably produce 16800KG of plant-based food.

This equates to the land required to feed 1 person for 1 year, equalling:

Plant-based vegan: 1/6th acre

Vegetarian: 1/2 acre (3x that of a vegan)

Meat eater: 3 acres (18x that of a vegan)

This means, purely on a protein viewpoint (which crops up a lot in a meat vs plant-based discussion), there is 15x more protein on any given area of land with plants (particularly soy), rather than animals.

(Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) (#5) (#6)


Livestock or livestock feed occupies approximately 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land. (Source)

In the US, every single minute, approximately 3 million KG of excrement are produced by animals raised for food. This does not include backyard animals or fished raised  in aquaculture settings. This equates to a dairy farm with 2500 cows producing the same amount of waste as a city with of 411,00 people. (Source) (#2) (#3)


Oceans and rainforests are two habitat types that get heavily exploited by the consequences and ramifications of animal agriculture.

Animal agriculture, as livestocks or feed crops, is considered single handedly responsible as the leading cause for Amazon rainforest destruction (up to 91%). Because of this, 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second, with an estimated 136 million acres of rainforest having been cleared for animal agriculture, and an estimated 137 plant, animal and/or insect species lost every day. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) (#5)

Sadly, over 1100 recorded Amazon land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years. Many of the industries that endorse deforestation pour a lot of money into maintaining their grip and reputation, and people that actively look to expose these industries are viewed as ‘at risk’. (Source) (#2)


Oceans, if fishing exploitation continues the way it currently is, could be fishless as soon as 2048. This is seen as a reality by the fact that 3/4 of the world’s fisheries have been deemed exploited or depleted. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4) 

Due to the mass scale that fishing operates at, for every pound of fish that is caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended other marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. This means, as a consequence, that while an estimated 90-100 million tonnes of fish are pulled from our oceans each year, as many as 2.7 trillion animals end up getting caught in total. (Source) (#2) (#3) (#4)

Health

*Health coming soon*

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