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There are 99 Reasons to Go Vegan But You Only Need One

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I don’t have to scroll my Facebook feed for long to find a repost of an article advocating reasons to go vegan. Usually accompanied by a picture of a mouth watering veggie burger, or a forty-year old with the body of someone twenty years their junior, I fear that the tactics being used to create new vegans is getting convoluted. In fact, it’s often not reasons that are being talked about at all, but individual benefits that have come from eating a vegan diet. In championing veganism to my friends, family, and to you the reader – I urge you to narrow your focus to the one sincere reason to go vegan; the animals.

In our society, there already exists a moral imperative to not cause suffering and death to others, but only when humans or pets are involved. If more people were able to make this connection to the animals we commodify, more people would find ethical veganism not only an obvious choice, but an easy one to make. Bare with me, my intention is not to discourage anyone who has already gone vegan for their owns reasons, or anyone considering to make the change. I’m looking to explain why compassion and consideration for all living beings should be at the forefront of our reasoning.

When someone decides to go (again, eat) vegan for reasons other than the animals, it usually falls into two camps; for themselves or for the environment. While both can yield positive results for the person or the planet, they still leave progression for animals out of the equation.

Eating vegan food can be a beautiful gift for yourself, but with most plant-based diners wrapping themselves in the vegan label inappropriately, animals are pushed aside for illness prevention, anti-aging, and “ideal-figure” comparisons. A study done by the Humane Research Council found that up to 70% of people who try eating vegan quit. Compared to the 86% who failed to remain vegetarian, it’s easy to see that a craving to eat meat can overcome that desire to look or feel a certain way. That’s because it’s really easy to cheat on a diet, or to allow yourself to not care if something contains animal products this time because it’s more convenient. If the people who are already interested in vegan alternatives in the kitchen added morality to the recipe, they might not become statistics. When your heart and mind are convinced of something bigger than just yourself, it becomes much harder to turn a blind eye. When I forgo a piece of cheese it’s not because that food doesn’t serve me, it’s because that food has come from exploited animals. It doesn’t serve them. We’re very good at leaving our own best interests behind, but when we care about someone else, a friend or a child, we usually give our true best efforts. If we can consider the cow before eating a burger, it’s a much easier choice to say no than forcing ourselves to eat lentils instead.

Similarly, eating vegan only for the environment is another problematic choice. Just as someone might have the best intentions to recycle will go and order a recycling bin, it’s not unreasonable that they might find the garbage bin more convenient to discard a pop can when away from their home. This scenario is easily applied to people who eat vegan to lessen their impact. With tons of buzz around the water and land use, and gas emissions caused by animal agriculture, it’s hard to ignore. But just like cutting back, or reducing your intake, it’s falls short in considering all the animals being used in ways that don’t as dramatically hurt the environment. We can see this with people who think eating eggs from their own backyard chickens is acceptable, or think visiting zoos doesn’t contribute to the problem. When the best interests of animals aren’t driving our efforts, we still end up treating certain animals as our property. When we allow aspects of veganism to be a step on the same plane as conserving water, we give ourselves permission to not commit fully. To care for all beings means to give equal treatment, and in this case not use, any animals.

I don’t think there are many people that would willingly harm an animal if told that was the only way to have one item on a menu consisting of thousands of options. That’s true of people who eat vegan to live longer, or go vegan to feel better about the state of our planet. But unless people see what’s happening in our world, first and foremost, as an injustice to animals, then we’ll continue to try and fail to make a difference. Until wearing a leather jacket carries the same weight of eating a steak because of billions of unnecessary deaths, reasons to go vegan won’t be important enough to outlive a trend, a goal, or an idea. Promises of clearer skin, loads of energy, and an end to global warming may never come, but if you align your veganism with morality, it’ll be a joy every step of the way. It won’t be what we have to gain from the movement, but what the animals do.

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  • vegan truth seeker

    I call those who become vegan because of the well being of animals ‘ethical vegans’.

    All the ‘other’ veg*ans will not commit fully because, as you very well put it, they don’t associate the extreme suffering and death of animals with the desire of humans for animal products… or they’re not very aware of it.

    However, if people don’t see actual footage of animals being tortured by the ‘industry’ they will not become vegan just because of animal suffering and therefore we have to list a number of excellent reasons to convince people to become veg*ans… and maybe one day they will eventually associate cruelty towards animals with animal products…

    • Michael Fairall

      Ethical veganism is the only real veganism.

  • stewart lands

    I disagree with the suggestion that environmental motives are inferior to “ethical” motives. In many regards, “ethical” vegans ignore environmental considerations that ought to figure heavily in their decision making process. For example, ethical vegans draw the line between good food and bad squarely between plant and animal–as if all plants are created equally safe (from the animal perspective) for consumption. If fact, many plant items are extravagant as meat when it comes to environmental degradation and animal death. Most of us are aware that almonds and cashews require more water to grow than does chicken. Where water is diverted from sensitive aquatic systems, fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates all suffer, as do the other wildlife dependent upon them. Many vegetable items, such as bananas, generate a great deal of pollution in their production or transportation, and take their liberal toll on wildlife as a result. Other crops, such as asparagus, artichokes, kiwi, etc. require a lot of land relative to their nutrient output. Of course, wherever land is converted to agricultural purpose, wildlife habitat is lost and animals die as a result. “Ethical” vegans argue that such death and destruction does not matter, as it occurs only by “accident,” as if the consequences of something that we intentionally undertake (such as farming) with easily recognized consequences (such as habitat destruction and death) are, themselves, unintentional. Until ethical vegans recognize their own impact on wildlife and wild systems, they will continue to excuse themselves much in the same fashion as omnivores. And, of course, the hypocrisy will not go unnoticed by those who deny the value of our shared priorities.

    • Lalasunflower

      This is incredibly short sighted. Ethical vegans support environmental protection because it protects non-human and human populations.

      • stewart lands

        Ah, but they do not always choose to support environmental protection. In addition to the example regarding responsible vegetable options (not all nuts, fruit and vegetables are responsible), there is also the question of meat which, under certain conditions, may be more responsible than any vegetable option.

        As a example, consider the backpacker who consumes a trout taken from a mountain lake. Given that nature always breeds more animals than habitat can support, leaving the excess to perish of starvation or disease, the impact of the trout meal is easily measured as one animal life lost with no environmental degradation, whatsoever. The death of one fish simply frees resources to support another which would otherwise have died for lack of food, and so the trout population remains healthy, as does the system within which it resides.

        The “ethical” vegan will argue that there is no justification for any meal consisting of such fish. He will instead suggest that the backpacker carry a meal of rice and beans, for example, grown on a field from which all native life forms have been destroyed and excluded, with water diverted from struggling aquatic ecosystems, and using fertilizers generated as animal wastes or synthesized at great expense to the atmosphere. He will downplay his impact as “unintentional,” despite the fact that such consequences are the fully-anticipated and unavoidable result of land conversion and farming. So, in exchange for the ability to wrongly claim that such animals do not matter because their death results only by “accident,” the “ethical” vegan would destroys entire ecosystems with every creature upon them. Clearly, such behavior is inconsistent with the claims that vegans are motivated primarily by environmental concerns or animal welfare.

        • Lalasunflower

          I’ll die before I go backpacking so nice try buddy

    • Lalasunflower

      And I have NEVER come across an ethical vegan who said “it does not matter.” You’re silly!

      • stewart lands

        How, then, do you explain their behavior if actions speak louder than words? Any thinking person must be aware of the fact many vegetable items impose unnecessarily great death and destruction, yet “ethical” vegans consume almonds, etc. as gleefully as Jimmy John devours BBQ. I have had this conversation with many vocal vegan advocates, and not one has ever conceded this concern. Instead, they will always attempt to divert attention away from their own selfish behavior by pointing to the even more outrageous habits of others. As there can be no clear line to distinguish between “good” food and “bad,” moral and immoral, t is my contention that food choice remains a personal decision. Some will chose more responsibly than others, but no one group has yet cornered the market.

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