Cutting out meat is one of simplest ways for a person to reduce their impact on the planet. It's never been simpler to go plant based.
We live in era of overlapping crises, from coronavirus to climate change and the coming of antibiotic resistance.
Much of the change we need to see in the world is fundamentally structural, but going vegan is a simple personal choice that significantly reduces a person’s individual impact.
Veganuary is a great way to try out a plant-based lifestyle and for many it sticks or leads to a significant reduction in meat consumption.
From animal exploitation to human health and beyond, there are numerous reasons to live a plant-based lifestyle that touch on many of the key issues of our age. Below are four of my top-motivations.
It goes without saying that for many, the principle driver for dropping meat is the appalling manner if which animals are raised for our consumption.
From chickens living in overcrowded cages or bans, pecking out each other’s feathers due to lack of space to sows being forced into farrowing crates that they can’t turn around in while suckling their young – intensive farming abounds with cruel practices.
High welfare animal products are often extremely misleading. There have been numerous exposes of certified free-range egg producers cramming chickens into overcrowded barns for much of the time.
As Chas Newkey-Burden has pointed out, horrific practices that most people wouldn’t expect of free-range farms such as ‘beak trimming’ are common place.
And let’s not forget that day old male chicks are killed often by being thrown in a macerator or by being gassed.
The only sure fire way to reduce your impact on the suffering of animals is to cut out meat completely. High welfare practices as demonstrated above are often little more than a smokescreen.
In 2020 it was impossible to escape the discussion of viruses jumping from animals to people amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While eyes turned to Chinese slaughter markets, believed to be the source of the current virus, experts were highlighting the role that intensive animal practices much more commonly used than wet markets have in the emergence of new diseases.
Experts from the UN and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have highlighted the fact that factory farms the perfect conditions for viruses to jump from animals to people in much the way that coronavirus did through wet markets.
Valentina Rizzi, a disease expert at EFSA stated that “A big proportion of all infectious diseases in humans are originating from animals, and more specifically the majority of emerging new infection in humans in the last 10 years really come from animals or food of animal origin.”
Alongside animal exploitation, the environmental impact of the meat industry is up there as the other key reason people go vegan.
The meat industry is an enormous driver of climate change. Greenpeace has pointed out that the global carbon emissions from meat production are roughly equivalent to “the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world”.
It is also a major causal factor in the destruction of the Amazon and other rainforests, driving habitat loss and destroying one of our key carbon sinks.
Meat sold in major UK supermarkets and fast food chains is routinely produced using soya based animal feeds from deforested regions.
The enormity of the environmental impact of meat is hard to understate. I certainly don’t have space in this article to do it justice! Greenpeace has created a handy run-down of the top 7 reasons why meat is bad for the environment.
Alongside climate change, antibiotic resistance is another major crisis which is brewing and is closely linked to animal agriculture.
Meat producers routinely use anti-biotics preventatively, by immunising a whole herd when one animal becomes sick.
This practice alongside antibiotic runoff from farming getting in our water supply are making a situation where common illnesses are no longer treatable in people much more likely.
The severity of the situation led the leaders of the UK’s main medical associations to call for ban on these practices in 2018.
The above are just a few of the many reasons to reduce meat consumption or cut it altogether.
Veganuary is a great entry point and has now been helping the vegan movement progress over the past few years.
It’s never been easier to live a plant-based lifestyle and we’re now at a crucial juncture where more people doing so will make a huge difference.
Many of the social justice and environmental issues that we face today are fundamentally structural but one simple way that individual action can help is through reducing or better cutting out all animal products.
Andrew Taylor-Dawson has been involved with the social justice and environmental movements for over a decade. He works in the NGO sector as well as writing about civil society, campaigning and progressive causes. He tweets at @Andrew_J_Taylor.