by James O’Donovan
In this issue of the magazine we present a range of articles exploring many different aspects of vegan sustainability. We learn how animal agriculture is contributing to water shortages in South Africa and we study how a transition to a vegan Australia will affect their economy. We present how the destruction of natural ecosystems has “already reduced local biodiversity intactness beyond its recently proposed planetary boundary across 58.1% of the world’s land surface.” Using data from the UN FAO we show how it is agriculture that is destroying these ecosystems and nothing else. Agricultural land now occupies 53% of the planet’s productive ecosystems (excluding Antartica and the deserts) and 80% of this is for animal agriculture.
Perhaps animal agriculture is feeding the world and preventing malnutrition and famine? But we know it is doing the exact opposite. Animal agriculture manages to convert enough healthy food for 7.5 billion people into enough unhealthy food for 1 billion people by first feeding it to animals. Using land for animal farming is causing the sixth mass extinction of species on the planet. Fortunately, the solution is possible, environmentally necessary, personally healthy and not only is it financially viable – it results in benefits that cannot be measured in dollars or euros. The solution is transitioning to a vegan society.
So how do we get there? Buckminster Fuller said: “The way to a positive future is not through fighting against an abusive and inefficient system or situation. Rather, it is to build an alternative that reflects the harmony, freedom, and integrity that we envision, and that naturally renders the existing system obsolete.” So how do we build this alternative?
One part of the answer to that question is more external. Socially, we invest in and create vegan businesses (see our Ethical Investments article), we oppose planning applications, we educate and advocate, we enact laws and shut down harmful industries. Personally, we do research into the impacts of animal agriculture, learn how to stay physically and mentally healthy by spending time in nature (see our Green Gyms article) and we understand more deeply animal intelligence. However, a deeper aspect of behaviour change involves the (often unconscious), underlying beliefs and attitudes that support our society’s non-vegan thinking and behaviour. By working on this deeper internal level we will be empowered to sustain ourselves to participate in a peaceful transition to a vegan society.
Dr. Will Tuttle and Dorothy Greet explore these beliefs and attitudes in their articles and describe how working on a process of self awakening is an essential support for our exterior vegan lives. They also describe how this influenced their work as vegan advocates. In Awakening from Materialism, Dr. Tuttle describes materialism as “The defining educational practice of our culture that teaches us from infancy to harden our gaze, and to see certain beings as mere matter.” Some people call it speciesism. The delusion of materialism is also part of our own mental conditioning. “Our natural sense of kinship with other animals and with each other is fractured by our cultural and personal blindness.”
Veganism is the struggle to free ourselves from this delusion and to see beings as subjects, rather than as objects to be used. Veganism is a movement to liberate animals and it is also a movement to liberate ourselves. “Opening our hearts and unblinding our eyes, we respectfully release other animals to once again celebrate their lives in the natural world as they are intended.”
We hope that this collection of articles in the summer edition of Vegan Sustainability will give you some food for thought.