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