Let’s talk about why we should all go vegan.
I’m speaking as a person who used to love eating meat.
I’m ashamed of that now.
There are a dozen sensible reasons for becoming a vegan – or at least for becoming a ‘neo-vegan’ – some of which apply to humanity as a whole, some of which apply to us as individuals.
Let’s consider just a few.
Four common-sense and pragmatic reasons why humanity shouldn’t eat meat…
- Eating meat damages the environment. Intensive meat and dairy farming corrupt the ecosystems in which they take place, degrading soil, rivers and sea water. This encourages parasites and disease, causing harm to the creatures and plants who share or are no longer able to share these environments. And, crucially from our point of view, degraded environments won’t sustain the vast populations of people who now live upon the Earth.
- Meat and dairy farming have appalling carbon footprints – produced both by the animals themselves and the farming processes. They also reduce the wildernesses and forests where carbon capture by plants and trees would otherwise take place. As super-producers of CO2, meat and dairy farms endanger us all.
- Intensive animal farming undermines the efficacy of antibiotics – with animal proximity and uniformity requiring a profligacy of antibiotics simply to keep the farms economically viable… The result? Any one of us could suffer enormous harm when we find that much-needed antibiotics no longer work…
- Meat preparation and consumption facilitate transfer of diseases between species (see BSE, SARS and Coronavirus) and risk harmful and destabilising global pandemics. We’re feeling that bite-back right now.
Looking after yourself
These reasons alone seem cause enough to stop eating meat… but there are compelling reasons which affect us individually too:
- Too much meat is bad for your health. Eating less meat has significant health benefits in reducing heart disease and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- There are cheaper sources of protein: tofu, lentils, chickpeas, mycoproteins (e.g. mushrooms/quorn)… So save money! Spend it on something better than a bit of corpse.
- Many of us can grow a little vegan food for ourselves – and we should. It will make us more resilient in the face of future pandemics and climate change….
- And, lastly, humans don’t need meat. We can be perfectly healthy on vegan diets.
Mounting the high horse
So those are powerful pragmatic reasons not to eat meat – but the most important reasons are moral.
Let’s mount our high horses, canter up to the moral high ground, stick our noses in the air, and discuss…
That’s not necessary.
Taking the low road
The canterers on high horses, well-healed and well-housed, gazing down their long noses at the rest of us, don’t really get it. They like to enfold their morality in hierarchy and status, in ceremony and pomp. So let’s leave them to their high road. Let’s take the road us ordinary folk tread.
Because here, where most of us live, morality is simple.
And sort of obvious.
It’s about kindness.
It’s about looking after each other.
It’s about not being cruel to strangers or children.
It’s about telling the truth.
Morality is social
Morality’s about pulling together.
It’s about lending a hand.
It’s about not always putting your own needs first.
And guess what? (And here’s where we reach our point…)
It’s about animals, too.
Morality is an animal thing
Because decent folk are decent to animals.
Because decent folk know that animals hurt.
Animals struggle, just like us.
Like us, they try to survive, to go about their business, to get on with their lives. Like us, they do their best to cope.
And, like us, they have feelings.
Some will ask, “How can you know that?” Or they’ll say, “Don’t anthropomorphise.”
Which is like saying, “Don’t have empathy or imagination.”
And it’s not even a big leap of empathy or imagination – and I’ll tell you why.
It’s because we’re animals too.
Me and you.
That’s what we are.
Why eat or kill our fellow animals, animals who bleed and hurt and need, unless we have to?
Why lock them in tiny spaces or thwart their natures or blight their lives unless we’re compelled to?
Why let the brutalisation of tens of millions of animals – an animal holocaust – continue, when there are alternative ways to feed ourselves?
There’s no good reason.
None at all.
The moral choice
So fairness? Compassion? Empathy?
Showing kindness to others, whatever their origins or species?
And veganism or neo-veganism?
There’s no avoiding it: it’s the moral choice.
Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives and author of Intelligent Ethics (2019). This article comes from his 2020 book, Short Conversations: During the Plague.
His new book, Short Conversations: During the Storm, is out now.
See the @EthicalRenewal thread about Veganuary here:
Luke is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal collective and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).