by Trent Grassian
For many, the holiday season is a time to spend as much money as possible on as many presents for as many people as can physically be managed without completely maxing out every credit card, bank account and bowl of change lying around the house. However, it can also be an excellent time to reflect on the past and plan for the future – not just through short-lived New Year’s Resolutions, but by taking a serious look at the bad habits and personal ruts we may feel stuck in.
With the threat of climate change ever approaching, eco gifts are becoming more and more popular. While a bag made out of recycled bottles is certainly excellent for carrying groceries, changing the groceries you choose to buy is one of the best gifts you could give yourself, the planet and the other human and nonhuman animals living here.
- The Environment
If you thought driving less was the best lifestyle change you could make for the environment, think again. With films like Cowspiracy and Meat the Truth drawing increasing attention to the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and climate change the reality that the industry is a substantial contributor to environmental degradation is starting to become common knowledge. Recent estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimate that animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs). As researchers at Chatham House have explained: ‘This is more than the emissions produced from powering all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and aeroplanes combined’. Animal food production is the largest source of methane (39 percent) and nitrous oxide (65 percent) emissions, which are 28-36 and 298 times more potent than CO2, respectively.
Animal agriculture contributes to environmental degradation in other ways as well – through water pollution and shortages, ocean dead zones, soil erosion and biodiversity losses. As a result, significantly more resources (an average of ten times more) are needed to produce animal versus plant foods. The emissions per gram of protein when consuming beef or lamb is 250 times greater than that of legumes, and eating twenty servings of vegetables results in less emissions than eating just one serving of beef.
- Your Health
The consumption of animal products (AP), particularly red and processed meats, has been shown to incur substantial negative effects to individual health. Increased AP consumption has been linked to higher mortality rates, instances of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, food-borne illnesses, gallstones, obesity and other medical conditions. Colli and Colli (2006) found a direct correlation between increased prostate cancer mortality rates and the consumption of animal fat calories, milk, animal fat and meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently announced that sufficient research exists to classify processed meats as carcinogenic and red meats as ‘probably carcinogenic’. Links between animal fat consumption and breast cancer mortality rates have been identified as early as the 1980s. Increased outbreaks and cases of infectious diseases (e.g. avian influenza) have also been directly linked to animal food production.
While some may argue that we need animal-based foods to survive, vegan diets have been fully supported by research as not just healthy, but often healthier. Many professional athletes (including the strongest man in Germany, Patrik Baboumian) are vegan, as are celebrities (including Natalie Portman and Brad Pitt) and everyday people. If you could live a fulfilled, healthy (or perhaps even healthier) life on a vegan diet, wouldn’t you want to try?
- The Animals
In 2013 over 1 billion animals were killed for human consumption in U.K. slaughterhouses. If you also consider shellfish (2.6 billion) and fish (4.5 billion) the numbers become unimaginably large: over 120 animals killed per person living in the U.K. Globally, over 100 billion animals are killed each year for food.
There is nothing natural about the system that raises and kills these animals, who experience pain (just like us!) and emotions (just like us!). Family farming has essentially become a thing of the past, with between 76 and 79 percent of all global animal food production now industrialised. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, as these ‘farms’ are called, raise sentient beings as commodities, focusing on the ‘bottom line’ instead of alleviating suffering.
When treated as commodities rather than living, sentient beings animals experience short lives filled with pain and misery. Lives in confinement have been shown to lead to psychotic breaks, leading to aggressive and repetitive behaviours. Animals are raised for their meat, dairy and eggs, so they grow unnaturally quickly, suffering from lameness, bone deficiencies and a wide variety of other painful ailments. Animals are generally killed while fully conscious and often in full view of others. Their miserable lives are cut so short simply so we can fulfil a dietary preference.
Still not convinced?
Consider this: Every time you purchase animal products you are making a choice. Each of these decisions has an impact on our environment, your health and on the life of an animal. By paying for meat, dairy or eggs we are giving our money to an industry that is quite literally destroying the planet and funding their ability to continue to do so.
So, what choice will you make this holiday season?
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