03rd Feb 2022 by MASECO Culture Committee

Beyond Veganuary

Veganuary

As Veganuary came to an end at the end of January, we thought we'd provide a reminder of the two main reasons for going vegan to hopefully encourage you to continue your efforts and adopt a vegan diet beyond January and long into the future.


As Veganuary came to an end at the end of January, we thought we'd provide a reminder of the two main reasons for going vegan to hopefully encourage you to continue your efforts and adopt a vegan diet beyond January and long into the future.

Animals

Cows

Undeniably, the dairy industry in itself has been a rising reason that people are switching to Veganism. With years of growing concern over breeding, abuse, and health issues, it's no wonder that it's estimated that dairy consumption has dropped by 40% since 1975.[1] Did you know cows on dairy farms are selectively bred to produce unnaturally high milk volumes, and their calves are taken away from them within 36 hours? Today, a British cow typically has 4.5 times more milk than she would need to feed her calf and is forced to endure hours of being tied up to machinery.[2] Over 90% of U.S. dairy cows are confined in primarily indoor operations, with more than 60% tethered by the neck inside empty stalls, unable to perform even the most basic behaviours essential to their well-being.[3]

So, does changing your dairy source work? The answer is yes. As of 2020, there were 11,900 U.K. dairy farms, a 67% reduction since 1995[4] – that's a lot fewer cows sitting around in big metal chambers.

All in all, dairy, and specifically milk consumption, seems to be an easy win and switch to save cows from a lifetime of pain. Maybe next time, give an alternative a go.

Chicken

In 1950, chicken was eaten as a treat; British people ate less than a kilo in a whole year. Now, we eat on average 25kg in a year - that's more than 2kg per month.[5] It's undeniably the U.K.'s most popular meat choice.

Chickens farmed for meat have been intensively reared and bred to grow very quickly over the last few decades. Chickens can live for six or more years under natural conditions; however, those used in intensive farming will commonly be slaughtered before they reach six weeks old. Kept in barren conditions with no access to natural light and the outdoors, the air becomes polluted with ammonia from their droppings. This causes damage to the chickens' eyes and respiratory systems and can cause painful burns on their legs.

Assuming everyone gets the picture painted above, it's time to think about what we can do to help. Initiatives such as the "Better Chicken" commitment are good to start. The initiative encourages people to start looking at where they are getting their chicken from, ensuring the chicken they choose in the shops or butchers aren't over intensified and have a better life.

However, Veganuary does mean looking at taking this a step further, the increasing availability of good quality alternatives at various price points means that there isn't an excuse not to be looking to substitute at least a few times a week (how much meat is actually in a chicken nugget anyway). You might be surprised and see that vegan meat alternatives provide much better nutritional value and taste.

Hopefully, the takeaway from this is that there are many ways that we as individuals, can change the products we use to help the animals. We've only touched on cows and chickens, but there are many more animals suffering from humans, and it's time to start thinking about it.

Environment

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals contribute 14.5% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions[6], which is more than the fuel from every car, plane, truck and train on the planet.

This is because at every stage, from acquiring land for grazing to plastic-wrapping the final product, the production of meat, milk, and eggs is energy-intensive.

Animal farming is so inefficient (we get back far fewer calories than we feed to the animals) that a lot of land is needed to grow their feed. Animal farming is a crucial driver of habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change; it is also a driving force behind the loss of wild species. This releases even more climate-changing gases and means there are fewer trees on the planet to absorb the CO2. 

While carbon dioxide has long been cited as one of the main culprits of global warming, the methane produced from animal farming also has a significant effect. Methane might not linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide does, but it is more potent as it absorbs more heat while it is there. 

Humanity has Wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970[7], and the three leading causes all relate to the consumption of animals: farming, eating wild animals, and fishing.

Water Scarcity

According to water.org, "771 million people – 1 in 10 – lack access to safe water[8],” and yet agriculture uses around 70% of the global freshwater that is available.[9] The difference in water use between growing (most) vegetables and producing meat is significant too.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "It takes between 1 and 3 tonnes of water to grow 1kg of cereal. A kilogram of beef takes up to 15 tonnes of water to produce".[10]

Simply put, our appetite for meat and the factory farming system that feeds it is unsustainable.

But we don't have to rely on unsustainable factory farms to feed us. This is where Veganism comes in. By eliminating our consumption of animal products and making the switch to plant-based eating, we can stop the rapid depletion of the earth's resources, slow the threat of climate change, and help protect our planet for generations to come.

It is undoubtedly the case that every human on the planet affects the environment and that it is essentially impossible to mitigate this completely. But it is also true that the choices we make throughout our lives dictate the extent to which our presence affects the world in which we live. While no one can be perfect – or indeed blameless – when it comes to the environment, being aware of our choices' implications and changing our behaviour accordingly can at least help us sleep a little easier.

[1] https://www.statista.com/chart/2387/american-milk-consumption-has-plummeted/
[2] https://www.peta.org.uk/issues/animals-not-eat/dairy/
[3] https://animalequality.org/issues/dairy/
[4] https://www.darigold.com/uk-dairy-farmers-face-upheaval/
[5] https://www.ciwf.eu/farm-animals/chickens/meat-chickens/
[6] https://www.fao.org/news/story/
[7] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/animal-decline-living-planet-report-conservation-news
[8] https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/
[9] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water-in-agriculture
[10] https://www.fao.org/
 

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