You have a box of strawberries in front of you. You can see and smell the fresh, organic strawberries. You can take a knife and slice through the strawberries and they look as delicious as before. Now you have a pig in front of you. You either think that that pig is a cute, cuddly, and playful animal or you see bacon, ham, sausage, pork, or a hot dog. Either people will see an animal, or they will see food. However, most wouldn’t be willing to take a butcher’s knife and cut through a living pig. Similarly, some people eat dogs in China but Americans could never imagine hurting a dog. What is the distinction between these two animals? Why would it be wrong to kill a dog but right to kill a pig or vice-versa? It all comes down to the culture in which one is raised. In American culture, dogs are considered as pets and our companions, while pigs are food. In other cultures, dogs are food and pigs are considered as pets. In some parts of India, the cow is a sacred animal, and certain Hindus wouldn’t dare to consume its meat. Many meat-eaters believe that consuming dairy and animal meat is the way humans are designed. However, because of the certain cultural beliefs people have, diet is learned behavior. Regardless of culture, everyone is a human being. The question it all boils down to is: what diet is natural to the human species? Veganism, the abstinence of consuming animals and animal products, is the most sustainable lifestyle because it is the most natural and healthy way of human existence and is also environmentally and socially conservative. In 1944, Donald Watson first coined the term “vegan” when he founded the Vegan Society in England. At first, it was defined as a “non-dairy vegetarian,” but from 1951, the society defined it as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.” Veganism is the practice that requires abstention from animal products, such as meat, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, wool, fur, silk, suede, and leather. Vegans eat plant-based foods such as grains, fruits, beans, vegetables, and nuts, and the near infinite number of foods that can made by combining these ingredients. In addition, many vegan versions of familiar foods are available: vegan hot dogs, ice cream, cheese, non-dairy yogurt and vegan mayonnaise along with the more familiar veggie burgers and other meat substitute products. Interest in veganism increased in the 2010s, when more vegan stores opened and vegan options became increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants worldwide.People go vegan for several reasons. First, because of health issues. Vegan diets are known to contain less saturated fat and a higher content of many important nutrients like fibre, vitamins C, vitamin E, and magnesium. Vegans are usually healthier and are in less of a risk of developing certain cancers, high blood pressure and suffering from arthritis (Lin). Sustainability is also a key point: the environmental benefits are considerable, such as the more efficient use of land and water or the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and global hunger. However, even many vegans fail to realize that their diet is the most biologically natural diet for humans. Humans do not need animal products to survive, humans’ mouths do not salivate at the sight of a living pig, and many studies show that our physiology is not suited to eat meat. “You need to eat meat to get protein” is a common misconception that many kids are taught when they grow up. It is easy to get the right amount of proteins that your body needs as a vegan. Ironically, what people often don’t realize is that in developed countries, the problem isn’t that people aren’t getting enough protein, it’s that they’re getting too much. Eating excessive amounts of animal protein has been linked to the development of endometrial, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. If a vegan eats a reasonably varied diet and consumes a sufficient amount of calories, he or she will undoubtedly get enough protein. And, unlike animal protein, plant-based protein sources contain healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates. “Vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease” (Craig).If you give a baby an apple and a chick, the baby’s instinct is to play with the chick and eat the apple. Most wouldn’t be willing to take a butcher’s knife and kill a living animal because the sight of blood, intestines, and raw flesh is revolting. Unlike carnivores such as lions or hyenas, the bloody reality of killing and eating animals is innately repulsive to humans. However, many argue that the diet of cavemen was mostly meat. If humans have been consuming meat for so long, then it has to be natural to our species. During most of our evolutionary history, however, we were largely vegetarian: Plant foods, such as yams, made up the bulk of our ancestors’ diet. The addition of modest amounts of meat to the early human diet came with the discovery of fire, which allowed us to lower the risk of being sickened or killed by parasites and bacteria in meat. This didn’t turn our ancestors into carnivores but rather allowed them to survive during periods in which plant foods were unavailable or scarce. Only until fairly recently, only the wealthy could afford meat. However, animal flesh is becoming relatively cheap and easily available because of factory farming and government subsidies and consumption of meat in the US has almost doubled over the last 100 years. The amount of meat humans are currently eating is incomparable to our ancestors, who ate meat out of necessity. Cavemen surely didn’t have supermarkets. In fact, our physiology itself proves that humans were not designed to chew and digest meat. Humans have short, soft fingernails and small, dull canine teeth, while carnivores have sharp claws and large canine teeth that are capable of tearing flesh without utensils. Dr. Richard Leakey, a renowned anthropologist, says, “You can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand. Our anterior teeth are not suited for tearing flesh or hide. We don’t … have large canine teeth, and we wouldn’t have been able to deal with food sources that required those large canines.” Meat is also hard to digest for humans. Unlike carnivores, who have short intestinal tracts that allow meat to pass quickly through their digestive system, humans’ intestinal tracts are much longer, which gives the body more time to break down fiber and absorb the nutrients from plant-based foods (“Are Humans Supposed to Eat Meat?”).Many argue that veganism could not be a plausible lifestyle for the future human population. It is important to consider what would happen if the world was vegan and if this future is possible. Currently, there are about 20 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, over a billion sheep and nearly a billion pigs in the world. Without any meat-eating humans to provide a market, whole herds of domestic animals would disappear. This would free up vast quantities of land. Approximately 33 million kilometers of land is used for pasture, which is about the size of Africa. This isn’t even including the amount of land used for growing crops exclusively for animal feed (ASAPScience). Although some farmland is too dry to grow crops, artificial nutrients and proper management could revert land back to its natural state of grasslands and forests, which could help counteract global warming. After all, the loss of CO2 absorbing trees cleared for agriculture is a major reason why global levels of Co2 are going up. Cows and other grazers also impact our climate through large amounts of methane production, which has 25% more planet warming power than Co2. Combined with the loss of forests and other effects, livestock production is responsible for more than 15% of global greenhouse emissions, which is more than all the trains, planes, and automobiles put together. We are told about the dangers of carbon pollution, consequent global warming, the water shortage crisis, but we fail to realize how our dietary choices affect issues like climate change. In the US, for example, an average family of four emits more greenhouse gases because of the meat they eat than from driving two cars – but it is cars, not steaks, that regularly come up in discussions about global warming. No matter what it says on the package, animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to climate change. How come we don’t teach about this in our global warming lessons at schools? “Most people don’t think of the consequences of food on our planet,” says Tim Benton, a food security expert at the University of Leeds. “But just eating a little less meat right now might make things a whole lot better for our children and grandchildren” (Nuwer). Many scientists argue that reducing or eliminating meat consumption is one of the best strategies for managing climate change. A vegan diet would also reduce water consumption as about 70% of global freshwater consumption is used in agriculture. It takes 15,000 L of water to produce a kilogram of beef, 6000 L for pork, and 4,000 L for chicken. In contrast, it only takes 1600 L for a kilogram of cereal crops, 900 L for fruit, and 300 L for garden vegetables (ASAPScience). Fortunately, this animal-friendly future is much closer than many imagine with the rise of plant alternatives that don’t waste water. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and could make up one-third of the market by 2050. Raising and processing animals is a full-time job for more than one billion people- most of whom are small-scale farmers in the developing world. Critics state that these billion people will suddenly lose their jobs and their way of life would become obsolete. However, the rise of veganism is a slow process, not a sudden cutoff, and many these farmers would be able to grow vegetable crops and gradually adapt their culture to changing demand.Every day, a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life (Hedges). Veganism is the most natural diet to the human species. Our bodies were not designed to consume meat and dairy products. Confining animals in cages, separating them from their families, artificially inseminating them and injecting growth hormones is not only unnatural and unethical, but severely unhealthy. A vegan diet is as good for human’s health as it is for animal welfare, reducing risks for many chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. As people worldwide continue to recognize the devastating toll of animal agribusiness — on the environment, human health, and collective sense of ethics, a vegan future could and should be a reality.
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