Many people, especially Americans, believe that they will not survive, or will become gravely ill, if they stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs. The reality is that you do not need these foods to be healthy and the best option is to cut these products out of your diet completely, but the vast majority of the population has become so addicted to meat, dairy, and eggs that they refuse to consider the idea of replacing them with substitutes, even when presented with the facts that it is a healthier diet, more sustainable for our planet and future, and overall the most ethical.
Ever since the beginning of humans’ time on Earth we have been using the supplies and sustenance animals provide for food, clothing, religious rituals, and even medicine. Hunter and gatherer societies thousands of years ago hunted animals that provided priceless resources that were integral to our ancestors’ survival. Today these societies have phased out and the farthest you must go to “gather” needed items is the mall and now we “hunt” at our local grocery stores. Compared to our ancestors we have it very easy and can ride in bikes or cars to our destinations as well, instead of on horseback or foot. Today we are also blessed with cutting edge science and technology that tell us matter of factly, we no longer need animal products to sustain ourselves, like we once thought. Years ago, false ideas were fed to the public claiming that we needed to eat animal products for protein and drink milk for strong bones. In reality, consuming animal products is linked to high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer (Health Concerns About Dairy). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled processed meat as a carcinogen, which means that it directly causes cancer, and red meat as a probable carcinogen, meaning it has a high probability of causing cancer. Other animal products such as milk and eggs are the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet and contribute to heart disease, Diabetes type 2, and even Alzheimer’s. If this wasn’t shocking enough, studies have linked dairy to an elevated risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
Today we also have facts to prove that dairy has absolutely no benefit for bone strength and that consumption has no correlation to greater bone density. This was proved by a study of more than 96,000 people that found the more milk consumed at a young age led to more bone fractures and breaks in adulthood (Milk Consumption 2014). It has also been proven that cutting dairy out of your diet will elevate your mood, reduce acne, and give you more energy. And the myth that meat is the best source of protein for humans is also false. Humans are by nature, meant to be frugivores. Our digestive system is not meant to handle a carnivorous diet, or even an omnivorous one. Unlike lions, tigers, and bears, we do not have protein receptors on our tongues. So, we do not possess the ability to absorb protein directly from the source of a cheeseburger or steak. Instead, we must break down meat with enzymes in our stomach. This takes a negative toll on our digestive system over time and does not provide the highest amount of protein possible. We absorb a much higher level of protein from plants because that is what we are meant to eat, and it is much easier for our bodies to break down. This is made evident by the fact that we can’t eat raw meat, like carnivores in the wild, without getting ill, and humans often season their meat as well, unlike any other predator in the animal kingdom. When it comes to vegetables and fruit on the other hand, we do not need to cook those to bypass diseases.
Not only are animal products extremely unhealthy, they are also the leading cause of global warming. When comparing the greenhouse gas emissions from all forms of transportation at 13%, with animal agriculture at 20%, there are obviously a lot of questions raised. Animals raised for human consumption, and their bi-products, are responsible for more than half of all the greenhouse gas emissions yearly (The Sustainability Secret). Methane makes up the most common emission released into the atmosphere from these animals, mostly cattle. Methane is very hazardous for our environment and is an average of 50% more dangerous for our planet than CO2 and is 86% more likely to cause an increase of global warming in the near future (The Sustainability Secret). Animal agriculture is also projected to increase greenhouse gas emissions at least 80% by 2020. Not only does animal agriculture contribute to global warming on a devastating scale it also contributes to drought and extremely high amounts of water use. Animal agriculture is responsible for 56% of our water consumption in the United States, and 27% on a universal scale. One pound of beef needs at least 2,500 gallons of water to be produced (), this high number comes from the water needed to grow feed for the cattle and for the cow to drink while it is alive. A staggering 1,000 gallons of water is needed to produce one gallon of milk. Livestock also takes up roughly 50% of the land in the world as well, which is not surprising considering how many people consume animal products daily. Converting our energy sources to green options such as solar or wind would take decades and billions of dollars, whereas cutting down or eliminating our use of animals would take far less time and money.
Animal agriculture is a life sentenced to misery and pain for sentient beings that have never committed a crime. There is no such thing as ethical meat, because there is nothing ethical about killing someone/thing that wants to live just as much as any of us. A popular misconception people make about animals is that they have low intelligence and do not understand life or pain; This is the farthest thing from the truth, and facts. The most common myth that people like to spread about meat is that fish feel no pain. This is wrong, fish have one of the most complex nervous systems out of all the animals in the world, and can detect change in temperatures, and pain. Scientists have also done enough experiments with fish to know once they are injured, they can alleviate their pain with pain medicine, which would not be a positive conclusion if they did not feel pain (Fish Feel Pain 2018). Other popular farm animals such as the pig, cow, and chicken also have a higher level of intelligence than people give them credit for. Pigs are one of the most sociable farm animals and their intelligence is equal to that of a three-year-old human child, they have social hierarchies, personalities, friends, know how mirrors work, can play the same video games as chimpanzees, can move a cursor around a computer screen to hit a target, and can be deceptive (Pigs Used for Food). When kept in slaughterhouses or cages, and one escapes, instead of running around, they are known to try and help other pigs escape. The myth that they are dirty and roll around in slop for fun is false, pigs are very easily sunburned and instinctively know that the mud will help them from getting burnt . Another popular farm animal, the chicken, can count, store memories, possesses object permanence, social hierarchies, personalities, can be manipulative and empathetic and have proven to have self-control as well (Chickens For Food 2018). Cows can go through a maze with ease, make friends, keep track of time, and hold grudges against people or other cows. With all the facts we know about animal intelligence it is preposterous to continue to treat them as objects. Animals kept as livestock lead miserable lives that humans wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Chicken are treated like broken objects. Their abuse starts at birth, where the male chicks are useless to the meat and egg industries, so they are either ground up alive, gassed, or suffocated . Once the female chicks are picked out their beaks are cut off, as to avoid fighting with others when they are older. They are often stored in small wire cages full of other chickens to the point where they are unable to move. “Free Range” chickens are only allowed 3 feet of walking room on average and pumped full of so many hormones that the often lose the ability to walk because of their size (Chickens Used for Food 2018). When the females get older and can no longer produce the same amount of eggs, they are locked in dark rooms with no food, so they can trick them into producing more eggs. A chicken’s egg is their equivalent of a human period, and instead of only laying 15 eggs a year, as wild chickens do, in captivity they lay over 300 annually. This puts them in unimaginable pain and when they can no longer lay eggs they are sent off to the slaughterhouse. Other farm animals such as the cow and pig, are not treated any better.
Male piglets are neutered and have their tails cut off shortly after birth with no medicine or anesthetic, often with old knives, and are taken from their mother at just ten days old. They are raised for 6 months in horrible conditions and fed hormones until they grow big enough to be killed for meat. During their lives they are kept in small cages with other pigs that are approximately 7 by 6 feet. Female pigs are treated very differently and once old enough are kept in cages called ‘farrowing crates’ that are not even big enough for them to stand or turn around. They are then artificially impregnated and once their piglets are born, they are immediately impregnated again. This cycle continues for 3-4 years until they are no longer useful to the industry, and then they too are sent to the slaughterhouse. While alive the pigs are abused by the people that are tasked with taking care of them, and often show signs of extreme boredom such as chewing on wire bars or even cannibalism, this is why farmers cut their tails off at birth. Farmers also break off the ends of their teeth with pliers, as to reduce this behavior, and to identify the pigs they cut holes in their ears, this is all done with no medication or painkillers (Pigs Used for Food 2017).
Cows are also abused throughout their entire lives. The females are artificially impregnated for years and when giving birth farmers often do not want to wait so they pull the calf out of the mother. The males have no use, so they are taken from their mothers at birth and are sold for veal. Cows form extremely strong bonds with their young and when their babies are taken away the mothers cry out for days after the separation and are impregnated right after. After males are taken, they are also castrated without painkillers and often have their scrotums ripped out. Older cows are dehorned by either burning them off or cutting them from their heads. When sent to the slaughterhouse they are kept in cramped trucks for days, and without food or water. If they do not die on the way to the slaughterhouse, they endure a painful and hellish death. They know what is coming and often try to escape and are known to be very clever. Of course, they never escape so they must go through with the process. They are lined up and shot with stun guns, which does not kill them, it just temporarily immobilizes them. They are then hung up from one leg on a conveyor belt. One by one they have their throats slit and are then skin and gutted. They are often alive for the entire process. Pigs and chickens are put to death in the same matter (Pigs for Food 2017).
There are no acceptable answers to the questions: Is it humane to eat animal products? What about free range? Lies are fed to children at a young age through books and television shows and these lies follow them into adulthood where they raise the next generation to repeat the same process. Most people envision farm animals in fields roaming around happily in their lives, which is not the case. The dairy industry learned very early that humans are addicted to dairy, so they add it to everything, and that bacon will always be a breakfast favorite. Celebrities and newscasters make fun of vegans and TV shows pass it off as a “fad”. The facts prove that veganism is the healthiest diet, most sustainable, and most ethical. After researching more, you will feel very lucky you were born human, and maybe even use your voice to speak out about the atrocities that are committed against animals every day.