Why am I vegan?
Why am I vegan?
I’ve been vegan for roughly a year now, and a question I get asked frequently is, why? Why are you vegan?
In this short piece I will try and answer this question. I must make some preliminary remarks. First, I don’t want to delve into philosophy on motivation, but clearly the underlying reasons why I am vegan is because I want to be and I am motivated to continue doing so. Instead, I will be focussing on external reasons. Second, this piece is brief and will not include all reasons why I am, but instead will touch on three main interconnected topics: animal welfare, the environment and humanity. Third, throughout this paper I will drop in links to videos, studies and generally, more interesting and thoughtful pieces on these topics, so click one of those if this gets too boring.
So, part 1, animal welfare. This was the reason, which actually sparked my interest in the topic of what to eat, or rather, what not to eat. I saw a video of Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins, in which, Dawkins admits he can’t see any morally relevant reason to eat meat. Watch that video here, link1:
This same topic, exploring a morally relevant reason to eat meat, is explored really well in this video by a professor from the University of Vermont, link2:
Now, I know that some people find it hard to be motivated by animal suffering because society constructs meat as so different to animals. We grow up caring about animals and eating meat and this is normal. Even the names are different, pigs and pork, beef and cows. Perhaps this is an attempt to cognitively distance ourselves from the reality of what we eat. Perhaps not, as lambs and chickens don’t follow this rule. However, despite the labels and societal norms, the animal products we eat come from animals, which can feel pain, suffer and have an interest in not feeling pain. Watch Earthlings, link3, via the link below, to see the reality of how animals are used:
In sum, I think animals have an interest in not suffering. I don’t think there is a morally relevant reason to consume animal products, given the fact that animal products come at such a cost for the animal and that we don’t need to consume them. However, even if animal products came at no cost to the animal. Even if there was no such thing as animal suffering and the animals were not mistreated, or in other words, even if I didn’t care at all about animals, I would still be vegan for the below reasons.
Part 2, environment. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of so many environmental ills: drought, climate change, ocean dead zones, deforestation and many more. For instance, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of amazon rainforest destruction (see link5). Put simply: I quite like the natural world and so the idea of destroying it just for culinary pleasure doesn’t appeal. Watch Cowspiracy, a documentary on animal agriculture and the environment, video4:
Or at least skim over the facts the documentary is based upon here, link5:
However, once again, even if eating meat caused no animal suffering and caused no environmental problems, in other words, even if I didn’t care about animal suffering and I didn’t care about the environment, I would still be vegan because of the final point.
Part 3, humanity. With human population growing and lower crop yields expected due to climate change, feeding everyone is not going to be easy. We already fail, with 13% of people today being malnourished or starving. Animal agriculture doesn’t help out here. At present, at least 50% of all grain grown worldwide is fed to livestock (see link5). In fact, earlier this year, a journal in Nature was published, which looked into how the world could feed everyone over the next 35 years or so. Here is the free article, link6:
The article combines realistic assumptions on future yields, agricultural areas, livestock feed and human diets. It looked at various different diets, and most were only feasible if croplands and yields increased — two unlikely conditions. Yet, 100% of vegan scenarios were feasible. Moreover, the article determined that human diet is the biggest determinant as to whether everyone can be fed. This is because, relatively, a vegan diet requires so few resources. A vegan diet needs less land, water and food to be sustained, compared to a vegetarian diet or a meat eaters diet. This is why even if animal products didn’t involve animal suffering, and had no environmental consequences, I would still be vegan because a vegan diet is the only one which is globally viable. It is very difficult to say, ‘I don’t care about other humans who are malnourished and starving’, even if one can more easily say they, ‘don’t care about animal welfare or the planet’. Writing this out reminds me of how moderate veganism really is. It is merely a diet which looks to limit harm, to animals and the planet. And is a diet which, is globally viable.
Finally, this blog ignored the biggest reason of all. I am vegan because I can be. Despite some small teething issues at first, it has been very straight forward. Food still tastes nice, I still get all my protein and other nutrients, I can easily cook fast, cheap meals and I can still eat out. Essentially, before going vegan I think I over-exaggerated the social and financial costs. And although I am aware that this may not be the same for everyone, as some people may have more difficulties than I did for various reasons, for many of us it can be straight forward.
By Ian Harper