Is veganism a bit extreme?

Some people think that becoming vegan is an ‘extreme’ choice but if we consider the impacts of animal farming we may just come up with a different view …



Animal farming drives climate change

We have just 12 years in which to keep global temperature rise below 1.5º C. If we fail, we will reach a tipping point where weather events will become more extreme. Floods, heatwaves and droughts will kill and displace people, creating climate refugees, and we will lose whole ecosystems and countless species forever. Animal farming is a key driver of climate change, creating more emissions than the fuel from every car, bus, ship, plane and train on the planet.

Animal farming drives deforestation

Animal agriculture is a leading driver of deforestation. This is because it takes a lot more land to create animal products than plant products, and so swathes of ancient forests are razed to the ground to make way for grazing or to grow feed for farmed animals. The wild animals who lived in these forests are killed or displaced. Around 60 per cent of all animal populations have been wiped off the face of the Earth since 1970, and farming – particularly animal farming – is one of the leading causes.

Animal farming drives extinction

With the loss of habitat and animals comes the loss of whole species. Our meat-centric diets are driving species we haven’t discovered, and species we haven’t yet named, to extinction. Things are already so bad that scientists say the sixth mass extinction is underway. It is the first mass extinction to be caused by a species – us. Farming animals is driving wild animals to extinction.

Animal farming creates pollution

Animal agriculture is a key polluter of air, land and waterways. There are billions of farmed animals on the planet, each producing waste. These gargantuan quantities cannot be absorbed by the land as fertiliser and so slurry is stored in tanks and lagoons, from which it all too often leaks out, threatening drinking supplies and causing widespread destruction to aquatic wildlife. Slurry, as well as industrial fertilisers, are responsible for killing whole areas of the ocean, known as dead zones because no animal can survive there.

Animal farming is wasteful

It takes 3kg of grain to create 1kg of meat, which makes it a highly inefficient way of using the world’s resources. We could feed a lot more people with a lot less land if people ate plant products instead of animal products. Animal farming is also wasteful of water – a precious, life-sustaining resource we cannot afford to be reckless with.

Animal farming causes unimaginable suffering

Almost anyone who has ever been to a factory farm will find the system impossible to justify. Inside, sentient beings – who experience pain, love, fear and pleasure in the same way our beloved cats and dogs do – are imprisoned inside cages or forced to stand alongside tens of thousands of others in their own filth. They may never breathe fresh air or get the chance to roam, root, play or stretch their wings. Many cannot survive the squalid conditions and they die without ever having received care. Those who do survive have only a terrifying journey to the slaughterhouse ahead of them.

Animal farming threatens humanity

Because intensive farms are squalid, stressful places, animals are often given antibiotics just to keep them alive for the few weeks until they are slaughtered. The widespread use of antibiotics means resistant strains of bacteria are starting to emerge. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, has said ‘we face a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and once again, kill unabated’.

Animal products are harmful to human health

Eating animal products raises the risk of suffering heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while the World Health Organization has classified all processed meats as carcinogenic, and all red meats as ‘probably’ carcinogenic.

Is farming animals for their flesh, milk and eggs really worth all this?

On the other hand… plant-based foods are great for people, planet, and animals

If we ate a plant-based diet, we would need 75 per cent less land, which means nature could reclaim habitats and wildlife could flourish.

We could halt climate change and protect our planet for future generations. We could feed every person on the planet a wholesome diet and have the capacity to feed many more as the population grows.

We could protect the seas, stop fishing aquatic populations to the point of collapse, and prevent plastics – much of which comes from fishing fleets – from entering the oceans.

By eating plant-based, we would be living compassionately and sparing the most vulnerable from unnecessary suffering.

And we would each have a better chance at avoiding heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

With all this in mind, does veganism really sound extreme?

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Kate is the UK Campaign Manager for Million Dollar Vegan. Kate has been vegan for 25 years. She has worked on many media and political campaigns, including exposing the suffering of farmed animals at slaughter.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

  1. ‘World Health Day 2011’, World Health Organization [https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2011/whd_20110407/en/]

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