Considering I run a vegan food blog, perhaps it is not surprising that I think a plant-based diet is the most delicious and exciting way of eating. There are however even stronger arguments for choosing to eat less animal protein. These four reasons keep convincing me day after day that steering away from meat, eggs and milk is a wise choice:
Reason 1: It’s been scientifically proven over and over again that a plant-based diet promotes health and longevity.
A number of scientific studies from the world’s most well respected research institutes show that consuming animal protein – milk products definitely included – can be directly harmful for us and is connected to some of our most feared diseases such as cancer, heart disease, alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and arthritis. Eating significantly less animal protein than what most of us do is central for longevity. Here, here and here are a few examples of studies (or coverage of) from University of Southern California, Harvard and Karolinska, but there are many, many more with findings leading to the same conclusions – eat less meat, drink less milk, eat more vegetables!
Another significant health aspect is that by eating animal products, we are also at high risk of indirectly consuming antibiotics which is given to animals for faster growth and disease control to compensate for the animal’s often unhygienic living conditions. Few people will have missed that antibiotics resistance – largely caused by overuse – is recognized by all governments in the world as one of the near future’s major health threats. An entire 80% of the world’s antibiotics is given to animals raised for food (as opposed to the 20%, which is given to humans).
Reason 2: Today’s meat consumption is severely contributing to ruining our gorgeous planet. I challenge anyone to find a serious scientist who says it is sustainable.
To start, meat eating generates more greenhouse gas than all transportation worldwide (that is all cars, planes, trains, trucks – the lot – grouped together), says the UN’s Food and Agriculture division. The same organization states that an entire 30% of all land on this planet is used by livestock. That is how much space the animals we eat need to live, and their food need to grow. Every minute, a rainforest area equivalent of 36 football fields is shoveled down, mostly for cattle ranching, according to WWF. And despite most of us taking it for granted, fresh water is actually a scarcity in the world, and 27% of what is used in total by us humans go to raising food animals that we will later eat. That can be compared with the 4% we use at home for showering, gardening, doing the dishes etc. Animals need to drink, and their food need water to grow. Read the study here.
Reason 3: Today’s meat production is counter-productive in terms in feeding the world’s starving (and growing) population.
Just like with the environment reason, this has to do with inefficiency. When you eat meat, you eat not only that piece of food, but also all the water and food, which that animal needed to live. It feels like common sense that this is not the most efficient way of feeding the world’s 7.3 billion people. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, food animals are fed 6 kg of plant protein for every 1 kg of animal protein produced. 40% of all grain grown globally are fed to animals raised for food. And in parallel with these mindboggling statistics, 800 million people suffer from malnutrition due to lack of food today according to The world Food Programme, and every year, 3.1 million children die before their fifth birthday because of the same. Even if there are also other major factors behind world starvation (geography, corruption, war etc), outlining these realties next to one another, and the inequalities become very disturbing. An ecologist from the Cornell University claims that the grain fed to livestock in only the US, could feed 800 million people. To make matters worse, meat is strongly linked to global warming (as we know) which will hit the less fortunate parts of the world the hardest.
Reason 4: Animals, just like humans, have the ability to experience joy, pain and fear. They want to live, and they don’t want to suffer. Which is what close to all of them do, immensely, to become meat on your plate.
Billions and billions of intelligent animals go through immense suffering before they die to become food on our plates. Animals that just like your loyal dog, horse or cat are able to feel pain, fear and joy. Cows loudly mourn their calves that are taken away from them soon after birth. Pigs, which by nature are friendly and highly intelligent animals (more so than dogs, animal behaviorists say) are placed in cramped warehouses far from what would be their natural surrounding. Hens, also social and smart animals – did you know they can use the sun to navigate and are the most caring and protective mothers? – live in cages where they can hardly turn around. This is the reality behind the meat on your plate, across all countries (even if it is worse in some), from most farms, organic or non-organic, with only incredibly few exceptions.
Despite all of the above, the global meat consumption has tripled over the last four decades and continues to rise. We eat enormous amounts of meat, dairy and eggs. Choosing a plant-based diet on an individual level helps to change this and is therefore making so much sense to a growing number of people across the western world. Perhaps it is something worth considering for you too? Even if you’re not ready to give up on meat completely, perhaps do it for a few meals a week, and when you do eat meat, make sure it comes from those rare more responsible places. You will help make a big difference. And my guess is you will find that you actually love your new food habits.