As a Midweek Munch Special, in order to celebrate National Vegan Week and spread awareness of this increasingly popular lifestyle, Jake Ross tells Nerve what it really means for him to be vegan…
Edited by Imi Byers
The idea of ‘veganism’ is only a fairly recent concept, with the term being created by the six members of the Vegan Society in 1944 where they took the first three letters and the last two letters from ‘vegetarian’ to create the name. The aim of the collective six was to find an alternative way of living by following a non-dairy, vegetarian diet. ‘Veganism’ is now officially defined as:
“A philosophy and way of living of which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.”
“In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
While the concept of no longer eating meat, dairy or any other animal by-product may seem daunting, I have been vegan for a little over a year and, before this, I had a pretty average diet, consuming meat almost everyday.
I get many questions about being vegan, the most common being “why do it?” My honest, short reply is “for moral reasons” and based on the situation and the individual, I will then determine whether to elaborate. Because many people feel uncomfortable confronting the topic, there is always hesitation involved. To be blunt, the reason I have gone vegan is to no longer be a part of the constant degradation that animals face every day: they suffer to create meals for our plates; to fill our stomachs only briefly until the next meal where they are then dished out again – this time in a new fashion so we don’t get bored of them.
Breakfast is eggs and sausage, then a burger for lunch, finished off with tuna pasta bake… Every meal different but the same in that some animal had to suffer to create it. Would you bite so freely into your Big Mac if you knew that the 250 cows, which could be used to make it ,are killed each hour in an slaughter house, with turn-over rates so high that not all of the cows are able to be effectively anaesthetised?
Does the thought of a succulent roast chicken still sound so appealing if you found out that due to the confined space in some battery farms, the chickens’ beaks are cut off to stop them from pecking each other to death? (For more information, check out here).
Another reason that many vegans choose their lifestyle is from reviewing the effects that the farming industry has on the environment. The use of animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest and around 137 entire species are wiped out every day because of it. Becoming vegan, or even just eating a plant-based diet, will decrease the amount of land needed to farm food and will encourage further crop growth. In turn, the same amount of land usage of animals with plants could feed more people. 1.5 acres of land can either produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food or 375 pounds of meat. With an ever-growing population, surely these statistics are enough to make you think twice before being so critical of the vegan ways?
Moreover, land isn’t the only resource at risk: the livestock need to be watered as well as fed, and it has been found that animal agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today. In addition, the methane released by the flatulence of cows (around 150 billion galleons per day) contributes to the greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere, with methane being up to 20 times more destructive than CO2 (Science Magazine). Waste products created by these poor animals kept in captivity becomes sewage and can infiltrate and pollute valuable water supplies; Water supplies which may be home to the same marine life that finds its way onto your plate.
From having a brief glimpse into some of the shocking realisms that are hidden in the creation of our food, I hope you can now see veganism from a different perspective: To understand that vegans fight for the equality of animals and the awareness of environmental disrepair. We see no logical reason (except for the small percentage that need meat to survive) for the animal industry to continue as it is and endeavour to strengthen the valuable crops and plants we use.
You now have the choice to make a change in a world that has enough people unwilling to do so. Cowspiracy has altered my views on how to understand the environmental impact being a vegan has. Another option is Vegucated, a documentary following the life of three new vegans and what they have to do (which may be useful for those willing to start out). Forks over Knives is a more hard-hitting programme, featuring doctors and researchers explaining the correlation between diseases and a meat based diet. There are other ones that will forcibly put you onto one side if you have any doubts about the morality involved in the animal industry.
Dietary changes can be as simple as going vegan for a day or a meal – even this can make a difference. You have the power to make alternative choices to alleviate animals’ suffering, bringing about greater possibilities for the future. I believe in you. That might sound silly, but I sincerely mean that. That change can start today. Good Luck (: