When people ask me why I'm vegan, I have to decide which reason to give them. There are so many, each seemingly more important than the other.
First of all, animal agriculture disastrously effects the environment. A just released 400 page report by the Food and Agricultural Organization, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow explains that "livestock are responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming: more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together." The fuel it takes to produce the fertilizer and feed, and then to transport the animals to slaughter and distribution produces 9 percent of all the emissions of carbon dioxide (the most common greenhouse gas). In addition, the methane emitted by the cows makes up more than one third of the overall methane which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. And to top it all off, nearly half of our precious water supply goes to these factory farms even as they dump their waste into our rivers and lakes.
Livestock (which includes chickens and turkeys) also produces ammonia which causes acid rain. And of course all the pesticides, hormones, and the vast array of medicines used to treat these animals wind up polluting not only the meat and dairy consumer's body, but also the water we drink and the ocean that is becoming deader by the day. And lest you think "free-range" is the solution, keep in mind that ranching is "the major driver of deforestation." Yikes.
Then there is the argument for health. Cornell University's Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who is the former Senior Science Advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, says "The vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet. Apparently, there is something naturally occurring in animal flesh which inflames the body and turns on cancer. Organic or not, according to Dr. Campbell, it's in the animal protein (dairy included). Read The China Study for more information; it is eye-opening in its scope of research and discovery.
Finally, and most important to me, is that what happens to animals on the way to becoming our meal is so shockingly inhumane that it cannot be good for our soul to partake. Whether chicken, lamb, cow, or pig, these animals are raised in conditions that would likely horrify you if you saw it up close (if you still eat meat, please check out Alec Baldwin's video at www.meat.org) . There is a reason that these factory farms and slaughterhouses (processing centers) are behind locked gates without public access. The animals are packed so tightly that they can hardly move; millions every year are driven crazy by their inability to turn around or even lie down. They are often boiled, scalded, dismembered, and skinned while still alive just so that production needs can be met. Their beaks are cut off, tails "docked," and toes/claws removed - all without anesthesia - so that their desperate attempts at escape or survival are foiled. In one year, there is a 100 percent turnover of laborers in these animal factories; if the people who work there can't even bear to stay there for more than a year, why in the world would anyone want to eat the product of what happens in one of these hellish places? If you're eating meat, you're supporting abuses that would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if chickens and other farmed animals were protected by the same laws that protect dogs and cats.
So when I sit down to a delicious meal of braised tofu and grilled vegetables, I feel good. I feel like I'm doing my part for the environment. I'm nourishing and protecting my body. And I'm not participating in the rampant cruelty towards animals that takes place at every second of every day.