You have a box of strawberries in front of you. You can see and smell the fresh, organic strawberries. You can take a knife and slice through the strawberries and they look as delicious as before. Now you have a pig in front of you. You either think that that pig is a cute, cuddly, and playful animal or you see bacon, ham, sausage, pork, or a hot dog. Either people will see an animal, or they will see food. However, most wouldn’t be willing to take a butcher’s knife and cut through a living pig.
Similarly, some people eat dogs in China but Americans could never imagine hurting a dog. What is the distinction between these two animals? Why would it be wrong to kill a dog but right to kill a pig or vice-versa? It all comes down to the culture in which one is raised. In American culture, dogs are considered as pets and our companions, while pigs are food. In other cultures, dogs are food and pigs are considered as pets. In some parts of India, the cow is a sacred animal, and certain Hindus wouldn’t dare to consume its meat. Many meat-eaters believe that consuming dairy and animal meat is the way humans are designed.
However, because of the certain cultural beliefs people have, diet is learned behavior. Regardless of culture, everyone is a human being. The question it all boils down to is: what diet is natural to the human species? Veganism, the abstinence of consuming animals and animal products, is the most sustainable lifestyle because it is the most natural and healthy way of human existence and is also environmentally and socially conservative. The term “vegan” was first coined in 1944 and was initially defined as a “non-dairy vegetarian,” but then evolved into a more animal rights centered definition as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.” People normally think that veganism is only a diet that requires abstention from all animal food, such as land animal meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, and gelatin.
However, veganism is a lifestyle the branches to the abstention of all animal products as well: wool, fur, silk, suede, leather, etc. Vegans live off a plant-based diet that includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and the array of dishes that can be produced with combinations of these ingredients. With the rise of vegan versions of familiar foods: vegan hot dogs, ice cream, cheese, meat substitutes, non-dairy yogurt, and even vegan pizza, it is becoming increasingly easier for meat eaters to change diets and to adapt to a lifestyle free from animal products. According to estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020.
Additionally, due to the diet’s growing popularity among celebrities, veganism is becoming trendy among millennials worldwide.Whether it’s due to health benefits, or animal and environmental rights, people may go vegan for several reasons. Vegan diets are known to contain less saturated fat and a higher content of many essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins C, vitamin E, and magnesium. Vegans are usually healthier and are at a lower risk of developing certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and suffering from arthritis (Lin). Sustainability is also a key factor: the environmental benefits are considerable, such as the more efficient use of land and water saved from farming or the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and global hunger. However, many vegans don’t even realize that their diet is the most biologically natural diet for humans. Humans do not require animal products for survival; humans’ mouths do not salivate at the sight of a living pig as would a wolf, and many studies prove that our physiology itself is not suited for meat consumption. “You need to eat meat to get protein” is a common misconception that many kids are taught when they grow up.
It is easy to get the right amount of proteins that your body needs as a vegan. Ironically, what people often don’t realize is that in developed countries, the problem is not that people aren’t getting enough protein, it is that they’re getting too much. Eating excessive amounts of animal protein has been linked to the development of endometrial, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
It is all about the way one approaches a vegan diet. If a vegan eats a reasonably varied diet and consumes a sufficient amount of calories, he or she will undoubtedly get the recommended amount of protein. If a vegan lives off of a mere salad for all three meals, he or she will undoubtedly not eat enough protein. And, unlike animal protein, plant-based protein sources contain healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates. “Vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease” (Craig).
If you give a baby an apple and a chick, the baby’s instinct is to play with the cute chick and eat the apple. Most people, especially in the US, wouldn’t be willing to take a butcher’s knife and kill a living animal. This bloody sight of raw flesh is repulsive to us, unlike carnivores such as lions or hyenas. Many argue that the diets of cavemen consisted of mainly meat and if our ancestors consumed meat, then the diet must be natural to our species, irrespective of our natural animal instincts. Firstly, we were largely vegetarian during most of human history. More meat consumption in the early human diet came with the discovery of fire, which reduced the risk of death due to bacteria in meat. This allowed our ancestors to survive during times when plant foods were either unavailable or scarce.
If crops were plentiful, then animals were not killed for meat, but for rawhide and fur for insulation, for example. Now, however, especially in industrialized nations, people don’t have to worry about where they get their food, not considering money restrictions. Our ancestors didn’t have a Whole Foods down the street, they ate meat out of necessity.
And only until fairly recently, the wealthy could afford meat. Because of widespread factory farming, US meat consumption has doubled in the last 100 years and is therefore becoming cheaper and readily available. The amount of meat we are currently consuming is incomparable to the cavemen diet that many meat eaters justify their diet by. In fact, our physiology itself proves that the humans aren’t adapted to chew and digest meat. A lion doesn’t need a fork and knife to eat a lamb. Dr.
Richard Leakey, a renowned anthropologist, states, “You can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand. Our anterior teeth are not suited for tearing flesh or hide. We don’t … have large canine teeth, and we wouldn’t have been able to deal with food sources that required those large canines.” Meat is difficult for humans to digest as we don’t have short intestinal tracts like carnivores that allow meat to pass quickly through. Our intestines are much longer, which gives the body more time to absorb nutrients from plant-based foods instead (“Are Humans Supposed to Eat Meat?”).Many argue that veganism could not be a plausible lifestyle for the future human population. It is important to consider what would happen if the world was vegan and if this future is possible. Without any meat-eating humans to provide a market, entire herds of domestic animals would disappear, freeing up vast quantities of land.
On earth, 33 million km of land, which is about the size of Africa is used for pasture, not even including the land used to grow crops for animal feed. Although some farmland is too dry to grow crops, artificial nutrients and proper management could counteract global warming by increasing the amount of CO2 absorbing trees. Combined with the loss of these CO2 absorbing trees and plants cleared for farming, livestock production is responsible for more than 15% of global greenhouse emissions, which is more than all the trains, planes, and automobiles put together (AsapSCIENCE). However, students aren’t taught in schools how our dietary choices affect issues like climate change. An average family of four in the US emits more greenhouse gases due to the meat they consume than from driving two cars, so why is it that cars, not steaks, regularly come up in discussions about climate change? Many scientists argue that reducing or eliminating meat consumption is one of the best strategies for managing and combating the effects of global warming. A vegan diet would also reduce water consumption as about 70% of global freshwater consumption is used in agriculture.
However, raising and processing animals is a full-time job for more than one billion people- most of whom are small-scale farmers in the developing world. Critics state that these billion people will suddenly lose their jobs and their way of life would become obsolete. However, the rise of veganism is a slow process, not a sudden cutoff, and many these farmers would be able to grow vegetable crops and gradually adapt their culture to changing demand.
Every day, a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 30 sq ft of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life (Hedges). Every year, a vegan saves about 198 animal lives. Veganism is the most biologically natural diet to the human species, as our bodies were not designed to consume meat and dairy products. Confining animals in cages, tearing them apart from their families, artificially inseminating them and injecting growth hormones just to maximize profit is not only unnatural and unethical, but also severely unhealthy. A vegan diet is as good for human’s health as it is for animal welfare, reducing risks for many chronic degenerative diseases and conditions that are leading causes of death in the US, such as diabetes, As people worldwide continue to recognize the devastating toll of animal agribusiness — on the environment, human health, and collective sense of ethics, a vegan future could and should be a reality.