Vegans are known for their passion for animal rights. People keep wondering why vegans care so much about animals but not about humans. Usually, the main argument for this statement is that vegans buy fast fashion or products from big food companies that do not care about human rights. Obviously, I cannot talk for all my fellow vegans, so I will explain here my personal opinion on the matter.
First, I need to mention that veganism is about doing your best to avoid animal suffering. Generally, I experience that people have extremely high expectation towards vegans and their lifestyle. It feels like vegans are being observed and every mistake is directly pointed out. Sometimes you live in circumstances that do not allow you to be the perfect human being and that is OK. It is important that you do your best within your possibilities.
Second, in the vegan community ‘human animals’ and ‘non-human animals’ are used terms which show the basic idea a lot of vegans have. In fact, we do not care less about humans than about animals, we just care as much about animals as we do about humans. We are anti-speciesists and believe that animals and humans are equal.
Most vegan brands I know use recycled or organic resources, produced under fair conditions because they want to harm neither animals nor humans.
As much as equalising animals and humans, veganism helps both parties too. The benefits of a vegan world population for the animals are widely known. However there also a lot of benefits for all humans living on this planet.
ENVIRONMENT AND WORLD HUNGER
The world is facing the biggest mass extinction since dinosaurs. According to the Living Planet Report 2016 published by WWF, populations of vertebrates will have fallen by 67 per cent since 1970 by 2020. Animals are not the only ones affected by the consequences of deforestation, hunting, pollution, overfishing and climate change. One out of nine people on this planet (that’s 795 million!) is suffering from chronic undernourishment. We are actually producing enough food to feed every person but due to unsustainable food choices, we are not using the full potential of our resources. We currently raise 70 billion farm animals, which need food and water.
As a comparison: The whole human population consumes 5.2 billion gallons of water and 21 billion lbs of food ever single day. However, only the cows living on this planet consume 45 billion gallons of water and 135 billion lbs of food on a daily basis. (Numbers come from Cowspiracy Facts) Now think about how many more people we could feed if we were all on a plant-based diet. So much the worse animal agriculture is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses ¹/₁₁ oil, ¹/₁₃ water, and ¹/₁₈ land compared to a meat-lover for their food. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO₂ equivalent, and one animal’s life.
A vegan diet or at least a reduction of meat and dairy consumption could not only save animal lives but also human lives and maybe even the planet.
If you are further interested in the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, I suggest watching Cowspiracy.
WORKERS OF THE MEAT INDUSTRY
During my research I have read two highly interesting texts which are the sources of my information: “A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform” by Jennifer Dillard and the study “Slaughterhouses and Increases Crime Rates” by Amy J. Fitzgerald from the University of Windsor.
Workers of the slaughterhouse industry are working in a dangerous environment. They deal with tools that easily cut through meat and bones and have to do their job at an enormously fast pace. It is one the industries with the highest illness and injury rate. Other than physical damage, slaughterhouse workers also have to deal with mental issues caused by the act of killing animals in an assembly-line workflow.
“The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll… Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care.” –Ed Van Winkle, hog-sticker at Morell slaughterhouse plant, Sioux City, Iowa
Amy J. Fitzgerald and her team have analysed the crime rate in areas of slaughterhouses and found a significant increase of arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape and arrests for sex offenses in comparison with other industries. Most of these crimes were committed against those considered less powerful by the offender – such as women and children. The authors link this to the industrialisation of killing the less powerful animals.
Since the huge meat industry thinks economically, they try to save as much money in the production as possible, which has an impact on the well-being of workers in the industry. Indeed, slaughterhouse workers used to be paid more than average but nowadays they are paid clearly less than average (at least in the USA).
After reading these two texts I was honestly shocked. I was not aware of the fact that the work these people have to do on a daily basis was so mentally toxic. However, if you think about it. Killing other beings every day under stressful circumstances cannot correspond with our natural instincts.
If we were to consume more plants instead of animal products these people could work in other food-related industries. Personally, I would rather work in a seitan (plant-based meat alternative) factory than in a slaughterhouse.
I am aware that I think in an idealistic way when I say that we – as a vegan society – could stop world hunger, save the planet, improve labour conditions of certain people and lower the crime rate in certain areas. However, I believe that everybody that consumes animal products should be aware of the consequences as much as the person that buys fast fashion. Information is key. This is the reason why I am writing these blog posts. I do not want to lecture you, I would rather inspire you to question your choices and start your own research.
Let me know of other benefits you can think of in the comments.