Effects of Veganism Essay Example


Hippies, hipsters, modern-fad! Oh my! As The Wizard of Oz is fictional, likewise are frequent of the stereotypes about vegans. So what is Veganism and who are vegans?  Vegans choose not to eat meat, fish, poultry, or daily, as well as live a lifestyle free of animal products. As the vegan diet has gained popularity among recent years, especially in young females, it has been found that nearly 1.4  percent of the United States identified with this animal free lifestyle (1). For many, this choice is centered around wanting to do better for the Earth and environment, issues concerning the ethical treatment of animals, or to experience the health benefits. In this paper, I will dive in and explore how the production of animal products affect the environment, any health benefits that may follow, as well as how animals are treated in the factory farming industry. 

Nutritional Effects

Many people considering a vegan diet have concerns regarding nutritional shortfalls. While this should remain a point to investigate, a vegan diet can also provide extremely positive impacts on one's health. Looking at plant-based diets, it is possible to encompass all the required nutrients as well as avoid any potentially harmful animal fats. Countless animal products consumed have been linked to various illnesses and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and various cancers (2). By cutting these fats from your diet, the risk towards health issues becomes greatly reduced.

Animal fat can also transfer cancer-linked chemicals and toxins which are used to raise livestock. Healthy, plant-based oils and fats can provide necessary nutritional benefits as well as lowering the risk of high cholesterol levels. Another health benefit to a vegan diet is the reduced threat of cardiovascular disease. Vegan diets are often associated with lower intake of calories, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, all of which increase the risk of mortality from heart disease. Consumption of whole grains, soy, and nuts, have been proven to accentuate cardioprotective effects (3).

Lastly, a vegan diet is thought to  help fight against the risk of cancer. Vegans consume substantially more total fruits and vegetables, tomatoes, vitamin C, and fiber. All of those foods and nutrients are proven to be protective against cancer. Fruits and vegetables can be described as proactive fighters of cancer in the lungs, mouth, esophagus and stomach (4). Although following a vegan diet has a multitude of benefits, many people have concerns of not gaining all the nutrients they need.

To obtain a nutritionally adequate diet, the consumer should become appropriately informed on how to achieve this. Diets that do not include fish or eggs generally lack the n-3 fatty acid, which is important for cardiovascular health as well as the eyes and brain. To achieve the nutrients through a vegan diet, it is important to take n-3 fatty acid supplements or consume soy milk regularly to counteract the lack of effects. Another risk of vegan diets is not intaking enough calcium. To ensure a fair amount of calcium in your diet, calcium-fortified plant food should be consumed. These are foods such as green leafy vegetables and tofu (5). Overall, although vegan diets have a higher risk of nutritional deficiency than meat eaters, it is easy to educate yourself on ways to adapt your eating choices along with enjoying positive health benefits that follow.

Environment

Have you ever thought about how the production of animal products impacts the environment? What if I told you that animal agriculture is responsible for more emissions of greenhouse gas than all the options of transportation combined?  The United Nations recognizes Veganism as an essential part in combating climate change (6). There are four main ways that the production of animal products harms the environment. The first is the volume of water that is needed.

Staggering amounts of water are used to grow crops to feed the animals, provide water for them to drink, and to clean filthy living facilities. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “A single cow used for milk can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day—or twice that amount in hot weather—and it takes 683 gallons of water to produce just 1 gallon of milk. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, while producing 1 pound of tofu only requires 244 gallons of water. By going vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year” (7). In addition to water usage, pollution is a tremendous issue in the animals for the food industry.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 500 million tons of manure are produced from factory farms each year. With no animal landfills, the waste is often disposed in waste gulfs or spread over fields (8). The runoff from factory farms finds its way to local lakes and rivers, making it the biggest source of pollution and contamination. Another way animal product production impacts our Earth is the amount of land that is used. 

“It takes almost 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant-based (vegan) diet than it does to feed a meat-eater since the crops are consumed directly instead of being used to feed animals. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes up to 10 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat, and in the United States alone, 56 million acres of land are used to grow feed for animals, while only 4 million acres are producing plants for humans to eat” (9). It doesn’t stop there! As factory farms continue to use and abuse our land, commercial fishing uses harmful methods that drag along the ocean floor, resulting in the death of all life and additionally, destruction of the coral reefs. While fishing for the industry, thousands of dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and other animals are killed every year (10). In brief, the production of animal products is harmful to our environment through water and land usage, as well as polluting our lakes and rivers and killing ocean life.

Animal Ethics

While there are clear-cut health and environmental benefits to Veganism, the strongest argument for removing animal products from your diet should be an ethical one.  Ultimately, every animal has a complex conscious mind, meaning that the pain inflicted on them is felt and understood. Factory farms keep animals cramped in unsanitary living conditions, with lack of access to sunlight and exposed to persistent diseases. In recent years, photos of these inhumane living conditions have surfaced, gaining momentum to the ‘free-ranged’ movement. Although the idea of free-ranged products is heavily advertised in the media, this does not ensure the environment is cruelty free.

While the treatment of animals has sparked chatter, more than three million animals- including domestic dogs, cats and endangered species, are killed by the Wildlife  services each year in goals to reduce threats to livestock farming. These animals are killed often in painful ways, often with little remorse. Another concept that is highly mis-informed about is that eggs are harmless. Out of all the hens that lay eggs on Industrial Farms, 95% live in battered cages in which they often suffer broken bones and dehydration while being forced to lay up to 30 times the amount of eggs than they would naturally.

As well as inhumane treatment hens face, new born calves and mothers are also faced with a violation of their rights. Within the first 12 hours of  a newborn calf being birthed, they are stripped away from their mother in order to begin the milking process. The mother and newborn often call for each other for up to days, becoming extremely distressed. Right from birth, the newborn will often spend two to three months in a limited dark stall, being fed a special milk engineered to assist their growth quickly. In brief, the products from animals we consume should not enter our mouths on a light toll.

Conclusion

After reading this paper, you may question my motive to choose this topic. I was not vegan before researching this issue, nor was I compelled to begin. I simply saw a video that made me reconsider the choices I decide while eating (video). After reading this paper, I hope you give just a little more thought into what you eat on a daily basis, if not for the environment or animal ethics, at least for your own health.

 

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