Veganism is the hot new global trend that is all set to keep on growing, but its popularity is not down to just one thing. For people who care about their health, the planet, animals, and the world’s poorest, a diet free from all animal-products joins all these dots and makes perfect sense, says Jane Land, co-founder of Veganuary.
What we choose to buy, cook and eat has consequences that extend way beyond our taste buds and bellies. The breakfast bacon may have come from a factory-farmed pig whose feed was grown on land where ancient rainforests once stood, who was fed antibiotics routinely just to keep him alive and whose meat, when processed, is known to cause bowel cancer in people. Or what about the milk in our tea? It may have come from a ‘zero-grazed’ cow who lived her whole life in a shed, who was fed grain that could have instead been used to feed the world’s most hungry and whose slurry contributes significantly to climate change. We’re not told these things on the label but it doesn’t make them any less true.
The number one reason people give for taking part in Veganuary is out of concern for animals. With investigations into farming and slaughter practices becoming increasingly common, it is not possible any longer to kid ourselves that farmed animals have a life worth living and a humane death. It’s obvious that animals must die for people to eat meat, but most people are shocked to learn that animals are killed in the egg and dairy industries, too. Cows must be made pregnant in order to produce milk, and their calves are taken from them so that the milk can be bottled for human consumption. What happens to the calves? If male, they won’t be able to produce milk and so may be deemed worthless. These innocent creatures are no more than an unwanted by-product of the dairy industry, and many are simply killed. The same is true in the egg industry where billions of day-old chicks are killed because they are the wrong sex to lay eggs.
Eating animal products is one of the top four ways each of us adds to climate-changing emissions, along with driving cars, flying and having children. That is because every link in the chain that brings meat from farm to table demands energy. And too often in starts with the devastation of ancient forests to create grazing land for animals or to grow crops to feed them. The huge amount of methane that animals produce further exacerbates the problem. There are variations in estimates of just how much damage animal farming does to the climate but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has stated that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 per cent of human-induced emissions, making animal farming more damaging than every plane, train, car, truck and ship on the planet.
The great news is that we can help protect the planet with every plant-based meal we eat. Since producing vegan foods also requires less land and water than producing animal products, being vegan is also great news for forests, hedgerows, waterways and all the world’s other wild places and their inhabitants.
Health and nutrition
People who take part in Veganuary often report that their skin, hair, sinuses, digestion and sleep improve after eating vegan foods for just 31 days, so it’s little wonder that so many people decide to stay vegan beyond that initial month. Others say they have more energy, better mental clarity and that their sporting performance and recovery time improve. Some have told us that their chronic fatigue symptoms have reduced and that their depression symptoms were relieved. In the long term, eating a plant-based diet can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Vegans live longer, too so it’s great news all round!
As for nutrition, there is a plant source for all the nutrients we need. Of course, it is possible to be a junk food vegan but it is also entirely possible to be a healthy, powerful one. Just ask the ever-growing number of sportspeople who eat a plant-based diet like Lewis Hamilton, David Haye, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
The world’s poorest
What we choose to eat has an impact on people all over the world. Currently, we produce more than enough food for everyone on the planet, but still one billion people go hungry every day. War, poverty and natural disasters all play a part, but so too does the fact that we feed one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and 90 per cent of the world’s soya harvest to farmed animals instead of to people.
And it’s not as if we get more nutrients back in animal protein than we feed them in cereals. Not a bit! In fact, pigs require 8.4kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat, while chickens require 3.4kg of feed to produce 1kg. The Royal Institute of International Affairs calls it ‘staggeringly inefficient’.
For all these reasons – and more! – people are opting to eat more plant-based foods. You can find out more or register to take part in Veganuary all year round by visiting Veganuary.com
Jane Land, co-founder of Veganuary
Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year. www.veganuary.com
Jane Land is the co-founder of Veganuary and a former English teacher. She was a vegetarian for 10 years before she met vegan Matthew Glover, and soon came to wonder why it took her so long to become a vegan too! Together, they came up with Veganuary, an upbeat, non-judgmental global campaign that encourages and supports people as they try vegan for 31 days.