Towards a Vegan Diet
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
According to experts in environmental sciences, current climate change is seen as the greatest challenge to the survival of humanity and it is the most serious ‘environmental threat’ in the world. The main cause of this phenomenon is the production of meat that is contaminated and is depleting the planet’s drinking water resources, fertile land and clean air.
More than half of drinking water is used for the agricultural industry as farm animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human population and their waste pollutes all waterways. This animal waste emits gases that poison the air on farms and include hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide, which are the main causes of climate change.
Forests have been razed to create industrial farms or to grow food that feeds farm animals. All this destruction causes soil erosion and plays a role in wildlife extinction and habitat loss.
Raising animals for human consumption also requires huge amounts of raw material, since farm animals consume 70% of the corn, wheat and other grains produced by US agriculture, while a third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the US are intended for animals raised for human consumption.
According to the main agricultural experts, to combat the current climate change the easiest and most effective solution would be to change the typical American meat-based diet to a vegan diet. In fact, it has been shown that the inclusion of meat, dairy products and eggs in the daily diet can be a recipe for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes, which are three of the main causes of death in the Latino community in the US. According to experts, becoming vegan is the best and simplest way to avoid these health problems.
A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the nutrients required by humans, eliminating saturated fats, cholesterol and the toxins present in meat, eggs and dairy.
Each year, more than 27,000 million animals are slaughtered to produce food. The beaks of chickens are removed with a hot blade, while male cattle and pigs are castrated without any type of anesthesia. Pigs, turkeys and chickens live their short lives locked up in dark, windowless cellars. In some cases the birds are so cramped that they cannot move or spread one of their wings. They live stuck in their own excrement and drowning in the stench of ammonia.
Many of them die on the way to the slaughterhouse and others are too weak or sick to get out of the truck that takes them to the slaughterhouse. Those who survive this terrible experience are hanged ‘upside down’ and beheaded when they are still conscious. Many are skinned alive, slaughtered or scalded in tanks to be plucked.
Most humans nowadays grew up eating meat, wearing leather and visiting circuses and zoos, so the question that arises is why should animals have rights like human beings?
Peter Singer, in his book entitled Animal Liberation,says that the basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment of all living beings, but ‘equal consideration’. This is an important difference when it comes to animal rights as many wonder if animals should have rights. The answer is yes, and they deserve to have a life without suffering and without exploitation. For his part, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the utilitarian reforming school of moral philosophy, says that when deciding on the rights of a living being the question is not whether they can think or speak, but whether they can suffer.
Bentham points out that the ability to suffer is what gives all living beings the right to be treated equally. The universal capacity for suffering is not just another individual characteristic, such as speaking or knowing advanced mathematics, because all animals have the ability to suffer like the human being.
Advocates of animal rights see in them a value completely separate from the benefit they have for humans. They believe that every creature that has the desire to live without pain has the right to live without suffering. Animal rights are not just a philosophy, but an actual social movement that challenges the traditional view of human society that believes all non-human animals exist only for human use.
It’s just prejudice that leads human beings to deny other animals the right they expect for themselves. Whether due to issues of race, gender, sexual orientation or species, any prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you do not eat dog meat why do you eat meat from a pig? Both feel the same pain but it is species-based prejudice that allows one animal to be regarded as a companion and another as food.
Addendum: Perhaps prejudice is the last step by human beings to reach a level above the one at which they are now living.