December 27, 2020

The Whys of Being Vegan

Maybe you stumbled across this site looking for adventure and camping gear and are now wondering about being vegan. The truth is, people explore Veganism in many ways and for many reasons. For most people, becoming fully vegan is a transition that starts with learning about the Whys and figuring out which Whys resonate for them. In our experience, most people start with one or two Whys. Then, as they become vegan (and love it) they learn about the others. These additional Whys typically solidify a person’s resolve regarding being vegan. 

In order to discuss the Whys of being vegan, we need to dive into some uncomfortable topics. The reasons why people become vegan relate to some unpleasant truths of several industries. To fully explore why people are vegan, we need to be able to discuss these topics frankly, and we will attempt to do that in a way that is both transparent and respectful.

A resident of Sage Mountain Sanctuary in Peoa, UT enjoys some dinner. Many people become vegan out of their love and respect for animals. Just like companion animals, farm animals have their own personalities, friendships, and quirks.

Why People are Vegan #1: The Desire to Avoid Animal Use and Abuse 

The desire to avoid animal use and abuse is probably the most well known reason why people become vegan. What most people do not know is that this reason has multiple components.

Eating Animals

Vegans do not consume animal products. So, many animal lovers become interested in trying a vegan lifestyle. For some people, this is based on a respect for all life and a desire to avoid taking an innocent life for any reason. Many religions advise against eating animals or specific animals for various reasons.

People who have close relationships with animals know that they have personalities, emotions, and the ability to suffer just like humans. So, for people like this avoiding meat is not just about respecting life, but also about a desire not to contribute to suffering. Regardless of the corporate packaging you may encounter in grocery and outdoor stores, animals raised for human use rarely lead pleasant lives.

Even in the rare cases of truly free range meats, these animals still endure the withholding of food and water prior to transportation to the slaughterhouse. Slaughter does not happen at an idyllic, pastoral farm – that’s actually illegal. The US government requires meat sold at a supermarket to process through an FDA approved facility. The multi-day horror of slaughter involves lengthy transportation; to prepare for this transportation animals are denied food and water. Once at the slaughterhouse, animals wait in line to be killed, often surrounded by the screams and smells of the animals killed before them. Due to the need for profits, the kill lines move quickly and often workers do not kill the animals in ways that are effective or pain free.

One of the most common Whys of being vegan is summed up in the phrase “Friends, not food!”

The Dairy Industry

While many vegetarians seek to avoid contributing to the above horrors by only consuming dairy instead of meat, the truth is that the life of a dairy cow – and the veal calf, a byproduct of the dairy industry – is perhaps the most horrible of all. Farmers forcibly impregnated dairy cows multiple times over their lives, only to have their babies stolen so humans can have their milk. Stories of mother cows wailing for their missing children and even escaping in an attempt to find them are common within the industry.

Babies born to dairy cows have two equally unpleasant fates. The females become dairy cows themselves. The males are chained in small quarters to keep their muscles supple and deprived of nutrients until they are killed for veal. The dairy industry requires a codependent relationship with the veal industry: when you drink a glass of milk, you drink something meant for a baby cow. And that baby cow is now a byproduct that will by used in other ways.

Teddy was born at a dairy farm. Since the farm needed his mom’s milk for humans, he was quickly separated from her and sold to a goat farm. The goat farm planned to fatten him up with goat’s milk and then sell him for meat. The Ritzy Rescue Rancher heard about Teddy and rescued him. Now, he lives the good life!

Fur, Entertainment, Breeding, and More

Other people are more concerned about the suffering animals endure in other industries. Fur and entertainment are particularly gruesome. Animals raised for fur often suffer in cramped quarters and are often skinned alive. Animals raised for the entertainment and products of imbedding with complex medical conditions. If these animals resist their training, they are killed, kept in deplorable conditions, or surrendered where they often become the taxpayer’s problem via a government agency.

Caroline, a bengal tiger, was privately owned and used for breeding. She now resides at Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary where she enjoys lying in the sun near her pool. Tigers, lions, and elephants are a few of the majestic species bred and trained to work in the entertainment industry.

Why People are Vegan #2: Health and Wellness

Human Health

Another common reason people adopt a vegan diet is to address health concerns. For decades, peer reviewed medical journals have supported the power of a plant based diet in treating heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Researching the health benefits of Veganism can become a rabbit hole. A great documentary to start with is What The Health, and a great book to start with is How Not To Die. However, these are only two of many great documentaries and books about how being vegan can positively impact your health.

As you research the health benefits of veganism, you will inevitably find a lot of information about why people should not be vegan. This includes a lot of myths about protein, amino acid profiles, calcium, etc. A great source that addresses these objections is Dr. Garth Davis M.D., who wrote the excellent book Proteinaholic. You can find Dr. Davis on social media, and his book speaks to all of these myths and debunks them using peer reviewed science.

An End to Pandemics

An interesting twist to the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic is that it has highlighted the danger of zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases move between animals and humans, and they are increasing as the proximity between humans and animals increases. In addition to the zoonotic nature of Covid-19, many diseases of concern in recent history have been zoonotic, including H1N1, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and West Nile Virus. The crowded confines of animal agriculture and the existence of wet markets are perfect breeding grounds for these diseases.

The most common zoonotic infection is currently salmonella, which is responsible for making millions of people sick via in the United States alone each year through the food they eat. Salmonella is typically contracted through eating animal products. However, it can also be caught from eating plants that have been exposed to raw meat or eggs through cross contamination.

Why People are Vegan #3: Concern for the Environment

A third reason why many people are moving to a plant based diet is that animal agriculture is detrimental to the environment. This reason has been gaining increasing attention as climate change and environmental concerns have become more mainstream. The statistics on the ways animal agriculture impacts the environment are changing every year. So, instead of giving specific facts that will become outdated, here are some general ways that eating animals impacts the planet:

Damaging the oceans

Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepard often says, “If the oceans die, we die.” Eating wild caught fish contributes to overfishing. For every fish caught on purpose, additional fish are caught only to be discarded. Corporate fishing techniques literally cast a wide net, and many of the animals caught (which can include fish, birds, turtles, and sea mammals) are killed in the process. Overfishing destabilizes the ecosystem, which also damages sea plants. A great overview of how eating fish damages our oceans is covered in the documentary Seaspiracy, now streaming on Netflix.

Emissions

Animals raised for meat emit methane gas, and a lot of it. In addition, animal agriculture uses tremendous resources to transport animals. Animals may live at several farms and facilities until they are ultimately transported to the slaughterhouse, then the processing plants, and then the stores. All of this is much more intensive than growing a vegetable in the ground and then moving it one time to a store or farmer’s market.

Land

Animal agriculture requires a large amount of land in the United States and the world. This has two effects. First, animal agriculture destroys native land so it can become farm land. Rainforests are a particularly heartbreaking example. Much of the world’s fast food is produced on what was once lush forest. Second, it prevents humans from using this land for more sustainable purposes. Big agriculture effectively destroys land. The top soil is depleted and chemical pollutants are left in the ground. Sadly, once land is used for a big agriculture production, that land becomes spent. In contrast, the same land could be used to grow vegetables, fruits, and legumes, or to help humans with housing options, natural preserves, or spaces that would benefit society.

Wild Heart Sanctuary in Park City, UT provides shelter for wild mustangs displaced from their native lands. Demand for government land for ranching has led to yearly round ups of wild horses despite their benefits to the land via pollination and fire prevention.

Why People are Vegan #4: Concern for Human Rights

One criticism many vegans hear is that we only care about animals and not humans. Nothing could be further from the truth! Factory farming and big agriculture have many practices that exploit and harm humans. To start, these workers are often undocumented. Therefore, they earn unfair wages, face abuse, and live in fear of being turned into the authorities. Both digital and print publications contain accounts of long shifts and unsafe conditions. Some workers even reported adults wearing diapers due to a lack of adequate bathroom breaks. A good starter source on this topic is this article at Human Rights Watch. While the information can be difficult to read, it makes it crystal clear that eating a vegan diet does not just help animals, it helps humans as well.

What’s next?

These four Whys of being vegan barely scratch the surface, but they are a great place to start. Interested in more? Here are some ideas for what to do next.

  • Adopt Meatless Mondays or the VB6 diet (vegan before 6pm) to work more plant based meals into your routine.
  • Check out one of the many great vegan documentaries available.
  • Read a book about veganism.
  • Visit a local health store and try some vegan treats. Look for the green V label on the back if you are unsure if the product is vegan or not.
  • Join one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to being vegan. There are groups for vegan athletes, vegan activists, vegan environmentalists, and more. You can also find groups such as Vegan Costco and Vegan Trader Joe’s to help you with your weekly shopping.

Final Thoughts and Further Reading

Are you vegan? Or thinking of becoming vegan? What are your most important Whys? Leave us your thoughts in the comments! If you enjoyed this post, check out these others:

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About the Author: Stephanie Mathers
Stephanie Mathers is an educator, writer, and vegan explorer. When she's not blogging or saving animals, she is snowboarding, hiking, or reading.

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