The Case for Veganism
Maybe you’re curious about veganism, or maybe you’re already vegan, and want to brush up on the common arguments for being vegan. In this essay, we will explore why people go vegan, what it means to be vegan, and how you can become vegan even if you're unable to cut out animal products entirely.
There are three primary arguments people use for becoming vegan.
- Climate: The production of animal products, particularly meat and dairy, is a major contributor to climate change. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest polluters, as well as being responsible for deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. Current and projected future levels of meat production is not sustainable. Period. There is no way around it.
Animal food products can never be better for the climate than plant products. This is because animals have to eat food themselves, and this food eventually comes from plants. Plants which need farming area that could have been used for human food, or plants that could have been used for human food in the first place. Moreover, animals are entropy machines. Simply put: The calories in are much greater than calories out. Animals spend a lot of energy on things that are not growing muscle or fat. They walk around and socialize. They sleep and live, so it will always be more efficient to eat the plants directly instead of feeding animals and eating them.
- Animal welfare: The treatment of animals in factory farms is cruel and inhumane. Animals are confined to small spaces, denied access to the outdoors, and subjected to painful procedures, such as tail docking and debeaking. If we value the well being of animals, it is difficult to reconcile factory farming conditions.
And there seems to be good reason to care about the well being of animals. The more we understand about the neuroscience and the behavioral psychology of emotions, the clearer it becomes to us that animals especially mammals are able to experience complex emotions such as depression, and stress. It is generally agreed that animals experience these emotions under factory farming conditions. Moreover, if we model moral agents as agents having the capacity for suffering, we should include slaughter animals in this group, and if done so, we should extend the same considerations we have for breeding humans for slaughter and consumption to animals.
- Health: A vegan diet can provide many health benefits compared to the average diet, including weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Healthy plant-based diets are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and can help support a healthy immune system and prevent nutrient deficiencies.
However, it would be pretentious to ignore the health benefits of for example eggs, and fish. Health benefits you can also get through a vegan diet, but is arguably more difficult. This seems to be the weakest argument of the three. It’s entirely possible to eat unhealthily as a vegan, moreover, eating healthily vegan isn’t necessarily the easiest way for people to be healthy, and there are non-vegan ways to be healthy as well. However, there’s an ever growing body of evidence suggesting that eating meat in particular red and processed meat is bad for you, and can cause cancer, so cutting down an or eliminating meat red and processed meat consumption will likely contribute to your health. Even so, if your diet is currently not as healthy as it can be, changing your diet preferences in a drastic way that will force you to rethink your diet might be the change you need to eat more healthily.
Veganism as a political stance
Veganism is often seen as more than just a dietary choice. For many vegans, it is a political stance that reflects a commitment to social justice, animal rights, and environmental protection. Vegans may engage in activism, boycott animal-based products, and advocate for public policies that promote veganism and animal welfare. However, there is a minority of vegans who only consider people vegan if they can completely adhere to a vegan diet and lifestyle - that is cutting out any and all animal products.
However, vegan puritans neglect to consider the specific circumstances people are in. People who live in food deserts and do not have access to vegan food, and don’t have time to cook for themselves, and might not be able to afford it have a much more difficult time than someone affluent living in a big city with plenty of access to plant foods. They also neglect to consider illnesses people might have requiring animal products for treatment.
However, by viewing veganism as a political stance rather than merely a lifestyle, we can be vegans even if we don't live up to the puritan ideal, and it provides a framework for critiquing the world for not accommodating vegans, and treating animals poorly. It moves the responsibility from the individual to the collective.