Monday, May 10, 2010

The Case for Going Veggie

The strong case for “going veggie” rests on four key reasons: saving animals, saving yourself, saving others and saving the planet!

The moral decision to stop eating animals is based on the refusal to participate in the suffering and killing of animals for food. This argument gathers potency when you are confronted with the horrifying facts about 21st century factory farming.

The volume of animals slaughtered for food has escalated over the last 30 years with the rampant proliferation of fast food outlets that tantalise the insatiable human appetite for animal flesh.

Globally 57 billion animals are killed for food every year, according to UN figures. Pause for a moment to let this figure sink in. The human population is only 6.8 billion. This staggering volume of animals including cattle, pigs, sheep, chicken, ducks, turkeys, fish and seafood is unimaginable and incomprehensible.

Worldwide five billion sick, deformed and distressed hens are incarnated in cages to lay eggs. In US intensive egg production is maximised in hideous sheds which each house up to 50,000 screeching birds, in a vision of insanity.

The US, not surprisingly, excels when it comes to sheer numbers of animals killed. In hidden slaughterhouses dotted across the country, life is drained from so-called “food animals” 10,000 times a minute. As the Americans say, “do the math”. How many animals is that per hour, per day, per week, per month, per year?

Americans eat as much chicken now in a single day as they did in an entire year in the 1930s. In 2010, 8.5 million birds are killed every week to keep up the demand from KFC, McDonalds and other fast food pushers. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkeys are massacred en mass, ironically to celebrate these heart-warming, wholesome occasions.

In the UK, 850 million animals and hundreds of millions of fish are killed every year to put meat on British tables; that’s more than three million animals a day.

In Australia, with a population of just 22 million people, 500 million animals are raised in factory farms annually and 11 million laying hens are crammed in cages.

To keep up with the rapacious demand for animal flesh, factory farms now “manufacture” meat through the intensive breeding, raising and slaughtering of animals in abject conditions. Small, independent family farms are relegated to the idyllic rural past. More than 90 per cent of meat consumed in developed countries comes from factory farms. And China and other developing countries are following the trend.

The cruel conditions in these intensive operations, run by a monopoly of corporations, cause misery and pain to millions of creatures before they are subjected to terrifying and agonising deaths.

Food animals are considered by this efficient industry as objects and money-making commodities, rather than living creatures that feel acute emotions and physical pain. Animals are sentient vertebrates; they have senses and a nervous system, just as humans do.

If humans extended the same love they feel for their pets to “food animals”, they could never accept these daily atrocities and they would not contemplate eating animal flesh. Imagine for a moment the horror of killing and eating your pet dog.

The heart-breaking film Earthlings, available on the internet, shows shocking footage of everyday scenes in US slaughterhouses. The book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer documents a litany of sadistic abuses by desensitised workers in slaughterhouses across the US. And the film, Food, Inc. exposes the market stranglehold of the six aggressive corporate giants behind the new agribusiness.

In the UK, Viva! (Vegetarian International Voice for Animals) has produced hard-hitting films and graphic reports on the torturous treatment of loveable farmyard animals including pigs, ducks, turkeys and lambs.

Pigs are affectionate and intelligent animals, similar in nature to dogs. Viva! founder and director, Juliet Gellatley has seen the horror for herself. She writes: “Peek into any intensive farm in Britain and you are likely to see diseased, dead or dying animals. Neglect and indifference are commonplace – broken legs, abscesses, ruptured stomachs, animals coughing with pneumonia, others panting from meningitis, cuts and lacerations.

“The camera lights revealed baby pigs in barren metal pens and utterly devoid of bedding. The noise was their tiny trotters clattering on the bare metal floors as they tried to get away. But there was no place to go, no place to hide.”

The Truth About Dairy

Nor is the dairy industry the idyllic picture of contented cows grazing in lush fields. Viva’s ground-breaking Anti-Dairy campaign has smashed the milk myth.

Over-worked cows live in misery. Incarcerated in concrete pens, they are kept permanently pregnant and have their calves traumatically removed days after giving birth. Emaciated cows and are forced to produce 40 litres of milk a day from grotesquely swollen udders infected with excruciating mastitis. Milk containing high levels of hormones, antibiotics and pus can be sold legally.

Juliet says: “People have a huge emotional attachment to milk because we were given it as babies so we think it is all-nourishing no matter what species it comes from. However it is unnatural and dangerous to consume milk meant for a calf. Dairy is linked with a host of diseases.”

The same merciless approach and economies of scale are now applied to fishing. A single trawler, the size of a football field, has the ability to haul 50 tons of sea animals in a few minutes on long lines that stretch for 75 miles and nets of 30 miles in length. The oceans are being emptied of sea life at an alarming rate.

The film Earthlings shows Japanese fishermen luring mother dolphins and their calves into a cove, hauling them onto land and hacking and mutilating them while still alive and writhing in agony. Dolphin meat is sold as a delicacy for diners with discerning palates and no concern for these beautiful, gentle creatures.

Save Animals

When you stop eating meat you literally save animals. The average British meat eater chomps through four cattle, 18 pigs, 23 sheep and lambs, 1158 chickens, 39 turkeys, 28 ducks, one rabbit, one goose, 6182 fish and 3593 shellfish in their lifetime. This is a total of 11,046 animals.

Becoming a vegetarian (meat and fish free diet) or even better a vegan (meat, fish, egg and dairy-free, plant-based diet) is the most effective, radical action an individual can take to boycott factory farming and reduce the slaughter of animals.

As consumers we wield immense power in our food choices by reducing demand and supply. We get to protest against the horrors of factory farming three times a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner and influence others every time we take a stand as a Veggie. We are not helpless victims of the system. We have the power to change our meat-eating culture.

Save Yourself

The saddest point of this genocide is the fact that meat-eating is not necessary for human survival or health. There is a vast range of plant-based sources of protein and calcium, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Nutritious alternatives include legumes such as soy, lentils and chickpeas; nuts such as almonds and cashews, grains such as rice, oats, rye and wheat and seeds such as sesame and sunflower.

These days an appetising variety of meat-free, ready-to-eat products offer an easy alternative to meat. Despite the scare-mongering of the dairy industry about soy products, the truth is the humble soya bean is power packed with protein, even more concentrated in tofu and tempeh and soy milk.

The reason most meat-eaters refuse to give up their habit is not health but taste. Staunch carnivores will tell you defiantly they simply like the taste of meat! To justify mass suffering and killing for the trivial reason of satisfying taste buds seems immoral in the extreme.

Maybe some startling facts will spoil any fast food fan’s appetite. In Eating Animals, the author describes how chickens are dunked in water tanks he calls “fecal soup” full of filth and bacteria and that millions of contaminated chickens are shipped for sale to consumers.

Factory farmed meat is dangerous. A meat-free, dairy-free diet is healthy. The second reason to Go Veggie is to save yourself and your whole family.

Juliet, a qualified zoologist and nutritionist, says: “Fundamentally what’s gnawing at people is the misguided idea that humans are meant to eat meat even though they know that vegetarians have less heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, obesity and countless other health problems.

“Humans are not natural born killers. Our physiology, with grinding teeth and long intestines, is designed to eat wheat not meat.

“We have so many other food choices for protein. In fact, people thrive on a vegan diet, reducing their chance of chronic diseases and increasing their energy to enjoy life.”

Save The Planet

Most of us feel helpless when it comes to saving the planet and yet factory farming is at the very root cause of environmental destruction.

Viva! reports: “Rainforests are cleared for grazing; methane from livestock causes global warming; soil is eroded by cattle; slurry poisons waterways and the seas are laid to waste by overfishing.”

Safran Foer reveals that American pig farms produce 72 million pounds of manure annually – that’s 130 times as much waste as the human population. Most of it seeps into rivers, lakes and oceans killing wildlife and polluting the air, water and land.

Pig effluent contains ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals and 100 microbial pathogens that cause virulent diseases such as pfiesteria.

In the face of our collective helplessness about global warming, loss of habitat, species extinction, the pollution of land, water and air and threat of super bugs, it is empowering for caring individuals to understand the cause of these horrendous problems and know they can actually do something real on a daily basis to stop the destruction.

Save Others.

Viva! reports: “While 750 million people go the bed hungry every night, one third of the world’s grain is fed to farmed animals. A typical Western meat-based diet can only feed 2.5 billion people; a plant-based diet will feed every one of us.”

Maneka Gandhi, India’s former minister for social justice and empowerment, says: “In a country where millions of people go hungry, 37 per cent of arable land is being used to grow fodder for animals that are being raised and killed for export.

“As if that were not enough, we are exporting soya beans to feed European livestock, who will in turn be murdered for meat. I see no reason why India should feed the world at the expense of her own land, her water, her people, her hunger.”

There is a mountain of shocking evidence about the atrocities of factory farming and the case for Going Veggie for any courageous person who wants to face up to where their food comes from and give up their taste for meat.

Visit Viva!’s dynamic, resource-rich website; read Eating Animals and watch Earthlings and Food, Inc.

Once informed, you can no longer plead ignorance. You will be moved to feel empathy for other living creatures and confronted to make a choice. Please make it in favour of animals, the planet, the poor and hungry and your family and yourself.

As a new Vegan, every day I feel empowered and good about myself for not participating in cruelty against innocent animals. I feel physically better for not having dead flesh inside me. I feel a new level of strength and vitality.

And I feel determined to spread the message to Go Veggie.