The Biggest Picture

This Veganuary more than 60,000 people signed up to go vegan for a month (at least). What this demonstrates is that a growing number of people are realising that our current diet and food production system is not only unsustainable but is slowly killing both us and our planet.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them children, die from starvation every single day yet we grown enough food worldwide to feed the 60 billion land animals we raise and kill every year for food. 75% of the Soy grown worldwide is fed to animals.

Governments and scientists around the world are on high alert because of the very real threat of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are added to the food that farm animals eat to avoid disease and increase growth. They are passed to us through the food system and we become resistant to the drugs. Tens of thousands of people are already dying each year because the antibiotics have stopped working and estimates are that 50 million a year could die by 2050 from ailments that would have been easily cured in the past.

The planet is warming and there could be some very dark days ahead of us. The largest contributor to this is animal agriculture and all of its associated industries. There’s a great deal we as individuals can do to lessen our own personal GHG footprint, but the biggest by far is changing our diets.

Since the introduction of fast food and with meat dishes taking centre stage in almost every meal, the rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer have sky rocketed. As consumption has gone up so have these diseases. Treatment costs health services around the world tens of billions every year and is crippling them.

90% of Amazon Rainforest destruction has been to either clear land for grazing livestock or to grow feed for food chain animals. Rainforests around the world are being cleared at an alarming rate and this has a knock on effect of habitat loss and species extinction.

Our oceans continue to be plundered and fish levels are declining very quickly. There is a real possibility that we could have fishless oceans before the end of this century. Coral Reefs are dying; ocean dead zones are appearing more regularly, often where waste from the animal agriculture industry is dumped into and poisons our waters. 60 billion animals produce a huge amount of waste which has to be disposed of.

The treatment of animals bred for food is one of, if not our greatest crime and history will one day reflect this. The huge majority of them are imprisoned in horrific factory farms, which in itself is torture enough. They are forced to produce offspring, or eggs in the case of chickens, as often as they can. Their young are taken from them at or shortly after birth and once their bodies have no more to give they are shipped off for slaughter. This could never be described as life. The only reason this evil practice continues is because it well hidden from the public eye and many of those who are aware choose to look the other way. It has become normalised.

The killing of any being who does not want to die can never be humane. Cows, pigs and sheep have their throats slit, often while still conscious and are hung by their hind legs until they bleed out. They are then skinned, butchered and their body parts are neatly packaged with cartoon images of happy animals on them. Nothing I know of could be farther from the truth.

Most people believe that the unnecessary killing of any animal is wrong. Health organisations around the world have stated that a well-planned vegan diet provides all the nutrients we need to live a healthy life. Therefore killing animals for food is unnecessary.

I understand that giving up meat, dairy and eggs can be difficult for a lot of people. We have been brought up to believe that we need to eat these things to live healthy lives. We learned this from our parents who learned it from their parents and we teach it to our children. It’s ingrained in our society.

If you ever wonder why this is the case, just pay attention to TV adverts, billboards and all forms or advertising. Everywhere you look someone is trying to get you to consume their products, telling you how good it is and how good it is for you. They are the puppet masters and we are the puppets. We fall for it every time.

Being vegan can be difficult for some. Being vegan can be inconvenient at times. There will be times when the less committed will be severely tested and times when the committed will go hungry.

For my part, I became vegan at age four or five. Not out of a love of animals, a consideration of the environment or for my health. I did it because the thought of eating the rotting flesh of a dead animal was and still is the most disgusting thing I could imagine. I have lived this way now for 48 years. I’ve never had worse than a cold, never broken a bone and am fit and healthy.

I guess it was a struggle but you adapt. Being the only child in a school of 1200 pupils that didn’t eat meat, made me stand out a little. More often or not I didn’t eat a thing until I got home in the evening because schools in the 1970s wouldn’t have considered catering for vegans and even at home it wasn’t easy, coming from a family of six which included five carnivores. I was always the awkward fussy child and was basically a pain in the ass. It’s who I am though; it’s who I’ve always been and I am so proud of myself.

Nick Bean

Environmentalist, activist, writer and public speaker. Decided to "Go Vegan" at the age of four.

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