Why Vegan?
       For the Animals.

A vegan diet helps animals. Modern high-pressure agriculture commonly keeps cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other animals in overcrowded stalls, cages, crates, or sheds where they are often unable to turn around or take even a single step for their entire lives. Deprived of veterinary care, exercise, sunlight, and even the feel of grass beneath their feet, these living, breathing, thinking, feeling beings, whose senses are so much like our own, suffer and die at the rate of millions per day just so that we can have burgers, patties, nuggets, and wieners. Deciding what we will eat means choosing between the horrors of factory farming and respect for animals.

Animals suffer extreme pain and deprivation on today's factory farms. Chickens have their beaks sliced off with a hot blade, pigs have their tails chopped off and their teeth removed with pliers, and male cows and pigs are castrated-all without anesthetics. The animals are crowded together and dosed with hormones and antibiotics to make them grow so quickly that their hearts and limbs often cannot keep up, causing crippling and heart attacks. Finally, at the slaughterhouse, they are hung upside-down and bled to death, often while fully conscious.

It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into steak at the modern slaughterhouse where Ramon Moreno works. For 20 years, his post was “second-legger,” a job that entails cutting hocks off carcasses as they whirl past at a rate of 309 an hour. The cattle were supposed to be dead before they got to Moreno. But too often they weren’t.

“They blink. They make noises,” he said softly. “The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around.”

Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller.
“They die,” said Moreno, “piece by piece.”

Under a 23-year-old federal law [which exempts the slaughter of birds], slaughtered cattle and hogs first must be “stunned”—rendered insensible to pain—with a blow to the head or an electric shock. But at overtaxed plants, the law is sometimes broken, with cruel consequences for animals as well as workers. Enforcement records, interviews, videos and worker affidavits describe repeated violations of the Humane Slaughter Act at dozens of slaughterhouses, ranging from the smallest, custom butcheries to modern, automated establishments such as the sprawling IBP Inc. plant here where Moreno works.

“In plants all over the United States, this happens on a daily basis,” said Lester Friedlander, a veterinarian and formerly chief government inspector at a Pennsylvania hamburger plant.

“I’ve seen it happen. And I’ve talked to other veterinarians. They feel it’s out of control.”

The Washington Post “Modern Meat: A Brutal Harvest,” 4/10/01

Need more reasons?

For Your Health

If you thought living near a nuclear reactor would be a nightmare, trying living by a factory farm. A farm producing 18,000 pigs a year can create as much waste as a town of almost 60,000 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pollution from animal waste causes respiratory problems, skin infections, nausea, depression, and even death for people who live near factory farms. According to other U.S. studies, as many as 70 percent of all workers employed by hog barns suffer from bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses resulting from the corrosive nature of hog waste.

In December 1997, the Senate Agricultural Committee released a report stating that animals raised for food in the U.S. produce 130 times as much excrement as the human population-5 tons for every person in the United States. A Scripps Howard synopsis of the report (April 24, 1998) stated, "[I]t's untreated and unsanitary, bubbling with chemicals and disease-bearing organisms. ... It goes onto the soil and into the water that many people will, ultimately, bathe in and wash their clothes with and drink. It is poisoning rivers and killing fish and sickening people. ... Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness and death are occurring in areas where livestock operations are concentrated. ... Every place where the animal factories have located, neighbors have complained of falling sick."

"No one has the right to use America's rivers and America's waterways, that belong to all the people, as a sewer. The banks of a river may belong to one man or one industry or one State, but the waters which flow between the banks should belong to all the people." -Lyndon B. Johnson, signing the Clean Water Act of 1965

It's not just animal waste that is making us sick. Vegetarians have 40 percent less cancer mortality and are less likely to suffer from strokes, obesity, appendicitis, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and food poisoning. According to the Worldwatch Institute, "Dr. Colin Campbell of Cornell University, who headed the China Health Project, conservatively estimates that excessive meat consumption is responsible for between $60 and $120 billion of health care costs each year in the United States alone."

Comparative anatomy studies show that humans are not natural carnivores. Comparisons of our digestive tracts to those of carnivores and omnivores prove that we have nothing in common with these other animals. (See The Comparative Anatomy of Eating) It's no wonder that a diet high in animal protein (including eggs, dairy, and fish) has been linked to these and other diseases in humans.

Drugs and hormones are routinely used on farms. Factory farmers routinely add antibiotics to animal feed to prevent the spread of disease and hormones to induce growth. The use of antibiotics in farm animals that are not sick causes an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that jeopardizes human health. Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Antibiotic resistance can cause significant danger and suffering for children and adults who have common infections, once easily treatable with antibiotics.

In addition to drugs and hormones, meat is full of pesticides. Farmed animals are eating pesticide-laden grain, and pesticides then collect in the animals' flesh such that meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those in plant foods.

Contaminants are not just limited to farm animals. Fish flesh is laden with poisons such as mercury and lead. In fact, the FDA recently issued a warning to children and pregant and/or nursing women that states, "...some fish contain high levels of a form of mercury called methylmercury that can harm an unborn child's [and young child's] developing nervous system if eaten regularly..."

For the Earth

While most environmentalists recognize the havoc that animal agriculture wreaks on the planet, they fail to recognize that the only viable solution is to embrace a vegetarian diet. In the United States alone, 72 million animals are killed for food each day. These animals suffer miserably, of course, but they also require staggering amounts of grain, beans, and water and produce billions of gallons of what is basically toxic waste. The meat industry causes more water pollution in the United States than all other industries combined because the animals raised for food in the U.S. produce 130 times more excrement than the human population. Every year, factory farms dump 220 billion gallons of animal waste onto farmland and into our waterways.

According to the EPA's "Animal Waste Management: What's the Problem?":

The growing scale and concentration of AFOs [animal feeding operations] has contributed to negative environmental and human health impacts. Pollution associated with AFOs degrades the quality of waters, threatens drinking water sources, and may harm air quality.

By definition, AFOs produce large amounts of waste in small areas. For example, a single dairy cow produces approximately 120 pounds of wet manure per day. Estimates equate the waste produced per day by one dairy cow to that of 20-40 humans per day.

Manure, and wastewater containing manure, can severely harm river and stream ecosystems. Manure contains ammonia which is highly toxic to fish at low levels. Increased amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from AFOs can cause algal blooms which block waterways and deplete oxygen as they decompose. This can kill fish and other aquatic organisms, devastating the entire aquatic food chain.

Twenty times more land is required to feed a meat-eater than to feed a pure vegetarian.

Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all the water used in the United States. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. "The water that goes into a 1,000-pound steer would float a destroyer." -Newsweek

The primary cause for deforestation in America is not urban development. For each acre of American forest that is cleared to make room for parking lots, roads, houses, and shopping malls, 7 acres of forest are converted into land for grazing livestock and/or growing livestock feed. Two-thirds of the rain forests of Central America have been cleared, in part to raise cattle whose meat is exported to profit the U.S. food industry.

Raising animals for food requires more than one-third of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the United States.

For the Humans

What about world hunger? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. The same acre of land, if used to grow cattle feed, can produce less than 165 pounds of beef. During the 2002 World Food Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that 24,000 people die every day as a consequence of chronic, persistent hunger. The Hunger Project estimates that 600 million to 1 billion people live in conditions of poverty so severe that they are unable to obtain enough food to meet their daily requirements. Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer is quoted in E magazine as estimating that reducing meat production by just 10 percent in the U.S. would free up enough grain to feed 60 million people. Adopting a vegetarian diet is kind to animals and humans alike. "In a world where an estimated one in every six people goes hungry each day, the politics of meat consumption are increasingly heated, since meat production is an inefficient use of grain-the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grains to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat eaters and the world's poor." -Worldwatch Institute

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." -Mohandas K. Gandhi quoted in E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful.