Published on December 16th, 2018 | by Daryl Elliott0
How To Opt Out Of Animal Agriculture & Live Plant Based
December 16th, 2018 by Daryl Elliott
With the climate generally growing warmer, and with animal agriculture contributing more than its fair share of greenhouse gases and other pollutants to the environment, more and more environmentalists and people in general are going plant-based. This article is a part of a series of articles on the environmental impact of the animal agriculture (ag) industry.
This installment is about how to do something about it personally by adopting a plant-based diet.
Part one of the series covered the climate change connection to animal agriculture as well as other animal agriculture issues, such as biodiversity loss, acid rain, air pollution, topsoil erosion, and desertification.
Part two of the series covered animal agriculture’s connection to freshwater use, freshwater quality, water pollution violations, fishes and other sea animals, ocean hypoxia, and declining phytoplankton in the oceans.
Part three of the series covers the relationship between animal agriculture and wildlife habitat encroachment, species extinctions, concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) odors, financially marginalized communities, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, world hunger, tax subsidies for animal agriculture, hidden costs of animal agriculture (including subsidized fast foods), slaughterhouse PTSD and alcohol/drug abuse, domestic abuse, human rights issues, and more.
First, let’s get into a comparison between what it means to live as a vegan versus what it means to adopt a plant-based diet. Veganism is a lifestyle of avoiding all animal use for food, clothing, entertainment, experiments, and other purposes. The actions surrounding eating a plant-based diet addresses only the dietary aspect of the full set of issues that pertain to veganism. The motivations for adopting a plant-based diet are environmental and health, while the motivation for adopting veganism are more centered on living ethically to not use animals — the environmental impact reduction and health benefits being mere side rewards.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Healthful? The American Dietetic Association Believes So
The short answer is yes. “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned … vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
There’s no nutrient in animals that we cannot get directly from plants, understanding that both vegans and non-vegans should supplement vitamin B12. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, of the Tree of Life Center in Arizona, 40% of non-vegans and 80% of vegans are low in B12. Vitamin D is another nutrient that requires attention. Checking nutrient levels in a blood test occasionally is a good idea for everyone, vegan or not.
World Health Organization Classifies Processed Meat as a Group 1 Carcinogen
The World Health Organization (WHO), late to the table, could no longer ignore the mounting science on the dangers of eating animals. In 2015, WHO classified processed animal flesh as a Group 1 carcinogen. Further, they classified non-processed red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen.
There are many misconceptions about diet. All of these items bode well for the adoption of a plant-based diet. Some of these commonly misunderstood items are addressed in this section.
Nutrition science has advanced significantly in the last couple of decades. There has been a strong consensus building that a plant-based diet is the most healthful diet for humans. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, founded by Dr. Neal Barnard, has been one organization in the forefront to educate MDs and other healthcare and lay people on this topic. Another educational leader is Dr. Michael Greger, who publishes the advertisement-free and searchable website on peer-reviewed, science-backed, plant-based nutrition: NutritionFacts.org.
Heart disease is another area where a plant-based diet has a significant impact for improving health conditions. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and heart disease researcher, discusses the cause of heart disease and how we can reduce our heart disease risk. The Cleveland Clinic has been ranked #1 in heart care in the US for 24 consecutive years, which is in no small part due to Dr. Esselstyn’s contributions there.
What about Nutrient Acquisition?
There is no nutrient that humans cannot obtain from a plant-based source. In many cases, animals get nutrients from plants, and then humans get those same nutrients from the animals. It’s easier and more efficient to get the nutrients directly from the plants.
Of the three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fats — protein is probably the easiest for us to acquire. Protein is in all fruits, vegetables, legumes, greens, nuts, and seeds. When we get enough calories, and we aren’t getting them all from cotton candy or other empty (non-nutrient) calorie sources, then we are very likely meeting our minimum daily requirements for protein.
Whole Foods Markets states in one of its blogs about how easy it is to get protein from a plant-based diet: “The good news is that the growing body of nutritional research is illuminating the fallacy of this cultural myth. Research has shown that all plants contain protein and at least 14% of the total calories of every plant are protein.” They continue: “Multiple studies have shown that if you are meeting your caloric needs through plant-based nutrition, you will satisfy your body’s protein requirements.”
Carbohydrates, or “carbs” for short, are considered to be bad by many fad books, but there’s a part of the story that is often omitted about carbs. There are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are found in processed pasta and bread, and these processed foods are indeed not so good for us relative to whole plant foods. Complex carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, greens, nuts, and seeds, and these are nutritious and important nutrients for us to consume.
Fiber is needed for digestion, weight loss, cancer prevention, regular bowel movements, and other purposes. When we eat a plant-based diet, we get all of the fiber that we need for a fully functioning body. Animal products do not provide any fiber.
Cholesterol, the good cholesterol (HDL: high-density lipoprotein), is produced in the liver of the human body. Animal products all contain the bad cholesterol (LDL: low-density lipoprotein), which we do not need. Statin drugs, which are a class of drugs designed to lower cholesterol, according to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, lowers cholesterol in about 30% of the patients, while he claims a fully plant-based diet will help high cholesterol level patients to lower their cholesterol.
What about Ethics? What is Speciesism, and Why Does it Matter?
While one might consider ethics to be a personally graded topic, a growing number of people around the world consider the process of using animals to be unethical. The perspective is that animals are here with us, not for us, and their use for entertainment, clothing, experiments, food, and other purposes are all optional. There is no human need that requires one to use animals. It is all done based on preferences, which raises the question: if we do not need to harm animals by using them, then why is this practice continued?
People are good. No one wakes up in the morning seeking to harm an animal. Veganism offers a simple solution to getting our behaviors into alignment with the values that we already own. When one realizes that all nutrients we need can be obtained from plant foods, and much more efficiently, sustainably, and healthfully, then one who naturally questions authority and dominant paradigms is compelled to ask why we continue to enslave and kill animals needlessly.
Speciesism is discrimination between species. This is sometimes called the “Pet-the-dog-and-kill-and-eat-the-cow” syndrome. It holds an inherent valuation predisposition that does not stand up to reason according to many of us. All animals are equal in value. They all have feelings, and family structures.
The underlying characteristic that motivates racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, speciesism, and the other forms of bigotry has its root cause in supremacy. The supremacistic mentality causes one group to think they are better than another group. If we accept that all non-parasitic life holds its own intrinsic value, then perhaps reason compels us to move beyond this limiting speciesist perspective.
One may reasonably ask why vegans think it’s okay to use and kill plants if it’s unethical to use animals. If one does truly regard the lives of plants, then one must consider that an omnivorous dieter kills about ten-fold the number of plants as a vegan in that vegans eat plants directly, and avoid the inefficiency of feeding plants to an animal and then eating the animal. So, the answer to the question is two-fold: first, it’s a relative matter since vegans kill only a fraction of the plants as an omnivorous dieter, and second, when fruits are eaten, no plants at all are killed.
To champion equality between species does not mean that animals will be given equal rights in the sense of getting driving licenses or other absurd notions. It simply means that animals deserve respect. The vegan perspective is that animals deserve to not be used as slaves in entertainment, for clothing, to be tortured and killed in experiments, to be used and killed for food, or for other purposes.
What about the Taste of Plant-Based Foods?
A common excuse for not going vegan is that animal products taste good. With credit given to creative vegan chefs, and the advent of new food technology, there are plant versions of many animal foods that taste great, and these foods are getting better over time. There are a growing set of food groups such as ice creams where one cannot easily tell the difference in taste between the animal and non-animal versions.
One notable example that puts a bit of a dent in the taste argument happened when vegan Chef Mama T entered a Chili Cook-off contest, and told no one that her chili entry was vegan. Then she won.
In a recent case, at a London football (aka soccer) match, Sainsbury, a large food chain in the UK, passed out vegan burgers, hot dogs, and other plant-based meats. Many of the fans liked them, but had no suspicions that they were plant-based.
Today’s vegan burger is not the vegan burger of the past. These burgers have improved, and come in a range of varieties that leaves behind hamburgers. Vegan Not Dogs and other plant-based hot dog brands such as Smart Dogs are delicious and don’t include: “mechanically separated meat, pink slime, meat slurry … sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite.”
There are now vegan versions of meatballs for pasta, lunch meats, chicken wings, turkey, lasagna, cheese, cheesecake, cream cheese, milk, ice cream, cake, muffins, pizza, chili, tacos, burritos, bacon, meat loaf, chocolate bars, sushi, shrimps, and more. In addition, many popular foods have always been plant based, such as bagels, hummus, most breads, most falafel, store-bought French fries, hash browns, potato chips, many crackers, some soups, many pancakes, waffles, pretzels, hot dog and hamburger buns, and many more.
Pretty much any food you can imagine can be veganized. There are hundreds of thousands of vegan recipes on YouTube, including veganized versions of many animal-based foods. This claim can easily be tested in a YouTube search. There is a whole army of chefs and regular people who have been working on and perfecting these recipes for decades. Many are surprisingly good.
Recently, at the National Fried Chicken Festival, a vegan catering company was declared best dish by Time Magazine‘s food editor for their Cajun Fried Chicken and Waffles entree.
The vast majority of vegans, after a while, claim nearly in unison that the animal foods are no longer missed. Most further claim that it’s an easier transition than they expected.
Who are the Farmed Animals?
Most people either love or like animals. There is no intent of malice to harm animals. But due to traditions and a blind spot caused by internalized speciesism, people sadly do harm animals. Once people look into this topic, many start to see opportunities to make changes.
The “it tastes good” motivation is apparently wearing thin for many who are now intentionally reducing their animal intake. Unfortunately, overall, animal product sales are increasing globally. Based on a study reported in Public Health Nutrition, Futurity reports: “The most commonly reported approach to reducing meat consumption was buying less meat (64 percent), followed by smaller portion sizes (56 percent), meatless meals (42 percent), meatless days (32 percent), and avoiding meat altogether (9 percent).” To have the strongest impact for the environment, going entirely plant based is best.
When we look into the rich family lives of animals, we see their beauty and value. Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love, travels to meet animals and explore their relationships with others and their emotional lives.
Many people are now questioning if an animal’s life — actually, hundreds or even thousands of them over time — is worth the intermittent ephemeral pleasure of the palette.
Is Living Vegan a Burden or Opportunity?
Many non-vegans feel besieged by do-gooder vegans who do their best to influence people to live vegan. While this is a somewhat natural defensive response, one could choose to see it as an opportunity to do better once the environmental, ethical, and health factors are known.
In an article in The Guardian on how animal agriculture is choking the Earth and making us sick, famous filmmaker James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron write: “Our collective minds are stuck on this idea that talking about food’s environmental impact risks taking something very intimate away from us. In fact it’s just the opposite. Reconsidering how we eat offers us hope, and empowers us with choice over what our future planet will look like. And we can ask our local leaders – from city mayors to school district boards to hospital management – to help, by widening our food options.”
They continue: “We simply need less meat and dairy and more plant-based options in our food system if we’re to reach our climate goals.”
Is Vegetarianism Enough? What’s the Difference between Vegetarianism and Veganism?
It’s very common for people and the media to conflate vegetarianism and veganism. They are different, and significantly so. Here are three distinguishing differences between veganism and vegetarianism. Vegetarianism varies from veganism in these ways:
- as far as animals are concerned, vegetarians support the dairy and potentially egg industries, which kill billions of animals each year;
- environmentally, vegetarianism is responsible for significant environmental degradation via carbon and methane GHGs, wildlife habitat encroachment, deforestation, water pollution (aquifer, river and ocean) and eutrophication, and air pollution — as stated above, a good-sized dairy farm can produce as much fecal waste as a small city; and
- on the ethical front, vegetarianism is only a speciesist diet. In addition to causing the killing of billions of animals, it does not concern itself with the use of animals for entertainment, clothing, experiments, or other purposes.
How Does One Go Vegan?
Having supported countless people through this transition over the nearly past four decades, I can confidently say that there are usually three stages a person experiences in going vegan. The first is how daunting a task it appears at first, the second is how easy it is to live vegan, and the third experience is how the people had wished they had made the transition sooner.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
~ Maya Angelou
Vegan restaurants anywhere they exist on the planet. Website or app.
Nutrition science site, by Dr. Michael Greger. Searchable.
The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine
Plant-based health professionals
Video resource page of 12 categories about veganism
Info, resources, book recommendations, web links, recipes, and action steps
News source about plant based and vegan topics with free email subscription
30 Answers to Common Questions about Going Vegan
There are many questions and concerns that people have who are considering veganism. A lot of them are unfounded. Here are 30 reasons that people commonly give to not live vegan, and responses to those. This PDF document was created by British vegan activist Earthling Ed Winters.