Many people are aware of the growing number of vegans (or at least one person who keeps sharing vegan posts on your Facebook feed), but the average person might not be aware of how quickly veganism is growing, and why it has seen such a recent spike in followers.
Looking into why more and more people are going vegan, and more and more non-vegans are trying vegan products, it appears that veganism is a multifaceted group of people who have reached a vegan lifestyle from a multitude of different reasons. Not everyone who goes vegan decides to take on the lifestyle for just one reason, and in fact many are for multiple reasons or even for all of the reasons below.
As many people are already aware, the reality of animal agriculture is very different from the vision of it that is sold to consumers. At the grocery store, you see images of happy animals living on small farms, but these are just feel good images that are not the reality for most food animals. Most animals raised for meat in our meat based economy are raised on factory farms, which are basically giant camps that are dedicated to raising animals as cheaply and quickly as possible. If you take into consideration economies of scale, which shows how the goal of big businesses is to create a product as cheaply as possible.
When animals are commodified, and looked at as a product, then everything that adds value to their lives, i.e. food, water, comfort, space, socialization, and everything else that animals enjoy doing become costs to the company that owns them. From the perspective of the company, an animal that consumes the least amount of food and water, grows as quickly as possible, and spends the least amount of time outdoors or with their animal friends is the most cost friendly animal and the ideal product for the company’s budget. This strict business perspective has led to a world of abuse and misery for the animal as they are given growth hormones to grow faster, given just the right amount of food and water to keep them alive and at a good slaughter weight, and time outdoors or socializing are cut to a minimum or nonexistent.
This commodification of animal life has led many people to turn to a vegan diet as they do not want to pay into a system that treats animals in this way. This system has also turned more people against small farms that treat animals somewhat better as even these animals meet an early end by slaughter. By going vegan people have found that meat is not necessary for a healthy diet, so that has led to even more people finding these same conclusions.
In addition to animal suffering, animal agriculture has also led to a lower standard of living for people who live near large factory farms, people who work in slaughter houses of CAFO’s, and people who live in areas that have been destroyed to make room for animal agriculture.
People who live near factory farms and slaughter houses have found that there is a large amount of fecal matter that piles up after hundreds of thousands of animals living there. This isn’t just big piles of poop, it is Olympic pool sized lagoons filled with blood, pus, feces, pee, and body parts that sit there for years and grow very strong stenches that can be smelled for miles.
Factory farm employees and slaughter house employees suffer even as they participate in animal abuse. Undocumented immigrants are common employees as they can be paid minimum wage or lower and are unable to take legal actions as the job is dangerous and accidental amputations are common.
Animal agriculture is credited as the largest cause of deforestation in South America as clearing the forest has made much more space for breeding cattle. The natives to these areas have been pushed out and have had their homes destroyed to make room for growing cattle. This has all been increasing as Brazil and surrounding countries have become some of the leading beef export countries in the world.
There are also nearly a billion people on the planet who do not have enough to eat, and the amount of food given to food animals could more than feed everyone, but meat is more profitable.
As mentioned in the last section, meat production accounts for between 70% to 99% of deforestation worldwide. Even with the most conservative estimates at around 70% that still shows that animal agriculture accounts for more deforestation than every other industry combined. According to Green Peace, right around 80% of forest cleared lands are being used for cattle farming while other sources place cattle farming even higher. This in itself is enough reason for many consumers to decline meat products, but there are many other environmental concerns from meat products.
(Wait, what?) While many people would argue that the meat industry provides jobs, many people have found that tax payers are paying for the costs of creating such large amount of meat cheaply. The meat and dairy industries receive huge subsidies that help them to keep costs cheaper. They are also able to use tax payer money to externalize many of the costs relating to meat production, including the tax payer subsidies, the externalized cost to the environment, and the cost of health care that is passed on to the tax payer from meat related illnesses. According to an article by Meatonomics, the true cost of a Big Mac is somewhere around 12 dollars if all of these externalized costs are taken into consideration.
In terms of health, our current generation is the first generation in hundreds of years that is estimated to have shorter life spans than their parents. Much of this is due to sharp increases in heart disease and certain cancers. The China Study, along with other studies on the cause of these diseases have found that the correlation between meat and heart disease is just as strong as the correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and yet the meat industry has been working hard to cover this up. However, many people have been going vegan and finding many health issues have not only become lessoned, but the diseases have actually reversed on plant based diets that are primarily centered around non-processed whole-foods. This trend has been growing and convincing more and more people to go vegan as they see others having health benefits from the transition.
Sports industries have seen a recent rise in the number of athletes who prefer to eat plant based. One of the pioneers of this movement was David Carter, an NLF player who noticed that his health was deteriorating as he played for the NFL. He decided to give a vegan diet a try after watching a vegan documentary. This led to him noticing several changes from the diet including his body recovering much faster after workouts, his muscled working much better than they had been, and he was able to keep all of his muscle mass. After going through this transition, he has influenced many other NFL players to try a vegan diet. Many of these players have noticed similar benefits and have been spreading the diet in turn. There are also now athletes in many different sports who have gone vegan to achieve better performance.