Some people view a vegan lifestyle as ‘extreme’ because it contrasts starkly with the traditions of our society. Using animals as food is so deeply embedded into our cultural norms that it seems extreme even to question it.
But animal farming contributes more to climate change than the emissions from all the cars, planes, ships and trains on the planet.1 It is also a key driver of deforestation2 and species loss;3 it wastes land, energy and water; and it pollutes the air, waterways and the earth.4
It causes appalling unnecessary suffering to billions of animals whose lives are anything but natural – artificial insemination Is routine, hormone sponges are commonly implanted inside animals’ vaginas,5 and routine and legal mutilations are all commonplace. And, though we care deeply about the animals we know, we turn away from the suffering of farmed animals, often because we cannot bear to witness it.
A diet based on animal products cannot feed the world’s population,6 many of whom starve while crops are being fed to farmed animals,7 8 and it raises the risk of suffering from cancer, heart disease and diabetes for those who do eat it.9 As soon as we as a population decide to eat meat, we have to invest heavily in health and regulatory initiatives to ensure we are not poisoned by it.10 All the same, 48 million Americans are affected by foodborne illnesses every year and 3,000 die.11 The two leading causes of foodborne deaths are poultry and dairy.12
Objectively speaking, doesn’t that all sound rather extreme?
Conversely, a diet that is plant-based is kinder to the earth, its peoples and other inhabitants, and is better for those who choose to eat it.
It reduces our environmental impact, better protects the Earth’s forests, rivers and other species and means we have enough food to feed the global human population. And when we eat it, we are not only sparing untold suffering of factory farmed animals, we are being kind to our own bodies, too. Vegans have a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Far from being extreme, eating plant-based is logical, sensible and compassionate.
And the food itself is far from extreme unless you consider rice, pasta, peanut butter, beans and bread to be radical foodstuffs. In fact, lots of the food you already buy is vegan and the rest of it can easily be replaced, like for like: plant milks, yogurts, ice cream and cheese can replace the dairy versions; faux meats can replace the fleshy ones; and vegan pies, casseroles, soups, curries, stir-fries, fajitas, burgers, chilli, sausages, schnitzels, sausage rolls, ‘fish’ fingers and so much more can replace the non-vegan ones.
Far from being extreme, in terms of what you eat each day you might not even notice the difference.
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9 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ‘Position of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets’, 2016 [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704]