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Why I’m Vegan

Why are you vegan?

I’m asked this question all the time and the full answer is far too complicated for me to answer succinctly. Instead, I tackle the interrogation with a simple answer – “for the environment, animals, and my health” – but the truth is there’s far more to it.

Sometimes my response is enough, but more curious folks will press further. How is being vegan better for the environment? But aren’t dairy cows treated well? So where do you get your protein? In such moments, I wish I had a packet I could give them and say “read over this and that’s your answer.” Although realistically I can’t walk around with copies of a document highlighting the facts that informed my decision to go vegan, I can share one digitally.

So here’s my web-based Why I’m Vegan fact sheet for those who are curious and for vegans who need a reminder of why they made changes to their lifestyle. Let’s start with one of my favorite facts:

“Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.” [c]

The environment

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than all of the combined exhaust from transportation. [c]
  • Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32 million tons of carbon dioxide per year; that’s 51% of all the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. [c]
  • Methane has a global warming potential of 86 times that of CO2 in the next 20 years. [c]
  • Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050. [c]
  • In the US, methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal. [c]
  • Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. [c]
  • Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. [c]
  • Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US. [c]
  • Californians use approximately 1500 gallons of water per person per day – and close to half of that is associated with meat and dairy products. [c]
  • 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb. of beef. [c]
  • A person saves more water by not eating a pound of meat than by not showering for six months. [p]
  • Approximately 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1 lb. of eggs – and almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1 lb. of cheese. [c]
  • 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk. [c]
  • Only 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes, while 55% is for animal agriculture. [c]
  • 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world is attributed to animal agriculture. [c]
  • Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land. [c]
  • Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. [c]
  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. [c]
  • Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead-zones in our oceans around the world. [c]
  • The EPA says that animal agriculture is the number one cause of water pollution, and is responsible for more than all other industrial sources combined. [p]
  • The meat industry is directly responsible for 85% of soil erosion in the U.S. [p]
  • Nearly half of the continental U.S. is devoted to animal agriculture. [c]
  • Approximately 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared in order to make room for cropland to produce feed for animals raised for food. [p]
  • Every minute, 7 million lb. of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the U.S. [c]
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. [c]
  • 10 million pigs in North Carolina produce the waste equal to 100 million humans. [w]
  • In the U.S., liquid pig manure is pumped in to waste pits that leach into rivers and streams and is sprayed unfiltered onto nearby fields. [w]
  • 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the U.S.; that’s 1.4 billion tons of waste from the meat industry annually. [c]
  • In the U.S. livestock produce 116,000 lb. of waste per second. [c]
  • Livestock grazing is the number one reason that plant species in the U.S. go extinct. [p]
  • 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted. [c]
  • We could see fishless oceans by 2048. [c]
  • 90-100 million tons of fish are taken from our oceans each year. [c]
  • As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year. [c]
  • For every 1 lb. of fish caught, up to 5 lbs. of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. [c]
  • As many as 40% – approximately 63 billion lb. – of fish caught globally each year are discarded. [c]
  • Scientists estimate that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins, and seals are killed each year by fishing vessels. [c]
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction. [c]
  • The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feed crops. [c]
  • About seven football fields of land are bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals. [p]
  • 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second. [c]
  • Up to 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction. [c]
  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture. [c]
  • Worldwide, humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion lb. of food each day, while cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion lb. of food each day. [c]
  • The land required to feed one meat-eater for one year is 18 times as much as one vegan. [c]
  • 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 lb. of plant-based food, and the same amount of land can only produce 375 lb. of beef. [c]
  • If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and ate vegan food instead, the impact would be equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road. [p]
  • The University of Chicago found that going vegan is more effective in fighting climate change than switching from a standard car to a hybrid. [p]

Animals

  • Factory-farmed animals are mutilated and abused their entire lives before being gruesomely killed. Watch this video from PETA to see what billions of animals experience in the U.S. alone each year.
  • 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are for livestock. [c]
  • 70 billion farmed animals are raised annually worldwide – and more than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour. [c]
  • Factory-farmed animals are genetically manipulated to grow larger or produce more eggs and milk than they would naturally. Often, chickens grow so unnaturally large that their legs can’t support their bodies. [p]
  • Chickens, turkeys, and ducks often have their beaks removed in factory farms to reduce the harm they cause to themselves and others due to stress. [ds]
  • Globally, approximately 2 in 3 animals live in factory farms. [ds]
  • In order to produce dairy, factory farm operators impregnate cows using artificial insemination. Calves are usually taken away from their mothers the day they are born, which causes both of them immense emotional pain and anxiety. [p]
  • According to the USDA, 16.5% of dairy cows suffer from mastitis (a painful inflammation of the udder) which is one of the leading causes of death for adult cows in the dairy industry. [p]
  • When dairy cows give birth, female cows often become dairy producers while male cows are slaughtered and sold as veal. [p]
  • Every year, more than a billion animals are slaughtered for leather across the globe. [p]
  • Dogs, cats, and sheep – in addition to cows – are slaughtered for leather in China. And unless specified, there is virtually no way of knowing what animal your leather purchase comes from. [p]
  • 300 million hens are used in the U.S. each year for egg production. [p]
  • After birth, female and male chicks are separated. Female chicks will be used for egg production, while male chicks are either suffocated when they are put in garbage backs, or ground up alive. [p]
  • In many U.S. hog farms, dead hogs are processed into feed and then fed back to the hogs. [w]
  • In West Virginia and Maryland, male fish are growing ovaries. Scientists suspect that this is the result of factory-farm runoff containing drug-laden chicken feces. [p]
  • The wool industry is extremely violent and deadly. Read more here: 16 Things You Need to Know About Wool
  • If you buy down products, you are contributing to the abuse of geese and their eventual slaughter. You may also be supporting the foie gras industry, since producers of foie gras often sell the feathers of force-fed ducks and geese in order to increase their profits. Learn more here: The Down Feather Industry.
  • Over 100 million animals suffer and die each year in chemical, drug, food, and cosmetic tests. Many species are used for testing including cats, dogs, monkeys, fish, birds, pigs, and goats. [vb]
  • U.S. industry-backed laws make it legal to do almost anything to a farmed animal. For example, in 1996 Connecticut legalized “maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal” as long as it’s done “while following generally accepted agricultural practices.” The same type of abuse inflicted on a cat or dog could send someone to jail. [f]

I couldn’t possibly include all of the information on animal abuse worldwide – so please do additional research to learn how animals are abused and killed for food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation across the globe.

People & Politics

  • 1,100 land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years. [c]
  • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people. [c]
  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten in Western countries. [c]
  • Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock. [c]
  • The U.S. government spends approximately $38 billion each year to subsidize meat and dairy, but only 0.04% of that to subsidize fruits and vegetables. [f]
  • In the U.S. there is a disproportionate number of hog facilities located near communities of color and low-income communities. These areas are impacted by environmental and health problems, which is environmental racism. [w]
  • USDA Dietary Committee members have received money from animal products, sugar, and alcohol industries. [w]
  • The U.S. dairy industry spends at least $50 million promoting its products in public schools. [w]
  • Meat and dairy spend at least $138 million lobbying congress. [w]
  • Ag-Gag laws in the U.S. criminalize whistle-blowers who photograph or video tape the abuses of the animal agriculture industry. [w]
  • According to a Human Rights Watch report, U.S. meat and poultry workers endure hazardous working conditions and companies often use illegal methods to terminate union organizing efforts. [h]
  • Meat packing is the most dangerous job in the U.S. [h]
  • Jamie Fellner, the director of the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch, says that meatpacking companies will “hire immigrant workers because they are often the only ones who will work under such terrible conditions.” Fellner added, “they exploit the illegal status of undocumented workers to keep them quiet.” [h]
  • Approximately 23 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, which are areas in which access to affordable, healthy food options is limited or nonexistent. As a result, many people living in low-income communities have a difficult time accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. [ds]

Health

  • The World Health Organization has classified bacon and sausage as carcinogenic to humans. [w]
  • Approximately 70% of deaths are largely lifestyle related and preventable. [w]
  • In one study, one serving of processed meat per day increased risk of developing diabetes by 51%. [w]
  • The number one dietary source of cholesterol in the U.S. is chicken. [w]
  • Dairy is the number one source of saturated fat. [w]
  • Bio-toxins accumulate in fish flesh, and fish have become sponges for mercury. [w]
  • 93% of dioxin exposure comes from eating meat. [w]
  • There is a strong link between dairy and autoimmune diseases. [w]
  • Most people in the world are lactose intolerant. [w]
  • Milk is a hormonal fluid and dairy products contain pus. [w]
  • Countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. [w]
  • Americans eat more meat per person than any other group on earth. [f]
  • 3,000 people in the U.S. die each year from food borne illnesses. [w]
  • Dairy consumption is linked to many different types of cancer. [w]
  • Dairy can increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 34%. [w]
  • For women who have had breast cancer, one serving of whole dairy a day can increase their chance of dying from the disease by 49%. [w]
  • The USDA has admitted that eggs cannot legally be labeled nutritious, low-fat, part of a balanced diet, healthy, good for you, or safe. [w]
  • Plants have plenty of protein. [w]
  • Testing shows 88% of pork chops, 90% of ground beef, and 95% of chicken breasts sampled were contaminated with fecal bacteria. [w]
  • The largest, strongest land animals on the planet are herbivores. [w]
  • You can stop and reverse heart disease with a plant-based diet. [w]
  • Vitamin intake and overall nutrition go up when transitioning to a plant-based diet from a meat-based diet. [w]
  • Humans closest living relatives are chimpanzees, and they get 97% of their calories from plants. [w]

Resources

Documentaries
  • Forks Over Knives (dir. Lee Fulkerson, 2011)
  • Vegucated (dir. Marisa Miller Wolfson, 2011)
  • Cowspiracy (dir. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2014)
  • What the Health (dir. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2017)
Blogs
Cookbooks
Magazines
Organizations

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