From the meat industry’s rampant abuse of animals and environmental devastation to the tremendous health benefits of a vegan diet to helping end world hunger and deplorable working conditions in slaughterhouses, there are countless reasons why more and more people are leaving meat off their plates for good and embracing a healthy and humane vegan diet.
Farmed animals are every bit as intelligent and capable of feeling pain as the dogs and cats we cherish as our companions. They are inquisitive, interesting individuals who value their lives, solve problems, experience fear and pain, and are capable of using tools.
Yet the more than 16 billion animals who are killed for food every year in the U.S. have little legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on companion dogs or cats. They are neglected, mutilated, genetically manipulated, put on drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transported through all weather extremes, and killed in gruesome and violent ways.
Even so-called “free-range” animals are often mutilated without the benefit of painkillers; kept in filthy, disease-ridden sheds; forced to endure long trips to the slaughterhouse without food or water; and killed in the same ways as animals from factory farms. Going vegan is the best way to stop these atrocities.
For more info, see Animals Used for Food.
Giving meat the boot is also the best way to ensure a lifetime of good health. Vegan foods provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants that are found in meat, eggs, and dairy products. Plant-based diets help protect us from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, strokes, and several types of cancer. Vegans also tend to have stronger immune systems and, on average, live 10 years longer than meat-eaters do.
Going vegan helps keep the Earth healthy too. America’s meat addiction is poisoning and depleting our drinking water, arable land, and clean air. More than half the water used in the U.S. goes to animal agriculture, and since farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human population does, the runoff from their waste greatly pollutes our waterways.
Not only does raising animals for food gobble up precious resources and produce tons of waste, it also steals food from hungry people. Raising animals for food is extremely inefficient. For every pound of food that they eat, only a fraction of the calories are returned in the form of edible flesh. If we stopped intensively breeding farmed animals and grew crops to feed humans instead, we could easily feed every human on the planet with healthy and affordable vegetarian foods.
Animals aren’t the only ones who are abused by the meat industry. Human Rights Watch has said that slaughterhouse workers have “the most dangerous factory job in America.” The industry has refused to do what’s necessary to create safe working conditions for its employees, such as slowing down slaughter lines and supplying workers with appropriate safety gear, because these changes could cut into companies’ bottom lines. Many workers endure crippling injuries and many have even lost their limbs—or their lives—from working with dangerous meat-processing machines. Refusing to buy or eat meat ensures that you aren’t contributing to this exploitative industry.
FACTORY FARMS: POISONING COMMUNITIES
People who live near factory farms suffer too. Factory farms pollute the air and water for many miles in every direction, often spreading contamination and illness to the people who live and work nearby. Chronic sickness, brain damage, poisoned waterways, elevated cancer rates, and even death plague these communities, while the government does nothing to protect citizens or regulate the industry. It’s up to us to help stop these farms from poisoning small-town America by refusing to buy their products.
Between 2000 and 2005, agribusinesses funneled more than $140 million to politicians, who helped to ensure that laws that might protect consumers, animals, and the environment did not pass. The federal government does little to protect human health, animal welfare, and our environment from the factory-farming industry’s negligence and excess, but each of us can make a major difference by going vegan and encouraging our friends and family to do the same.