If you were looking for a reason to go vegan, here’s 3

This is an op-ed.

Hey! Considering veganism? Maybe a little curious? That’s awesome, and I am here to totally support you. In case you need a little motivation, below are some of the reasons I identify as vegansam! Being vegan can sometimes be a little inconvenient, but is it worth it? Yes, and here’s why.

1. The Environment

Love and fear for the environment is what led to me becoming a vegan as a junior in high school. I was taking AP Environmental Science, and I learned about bottom trawling – a way fish were harvested from the ocean (with giant sweeping nets that completely destroy the complex environment found on the ocean’s floor). I couldn’t eat fish anymore, knowing that my dinner would support the collapse of an ecosystem.

The average American eats 270 pounds of meat a year

I learned about animal agriculture’s intense contribution to climate change, and knew that wasn’t something I wanted to be contributing to. Raising animals as a food source requires immense amounts of land and water. Did you know it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat? Only 25 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of wheat! The average American shower uses roughly 17 gallons, making a pound of meat worth nearly 140 showers. That’s around the amount of showers I take in a year, all for a single pound of meat. The scary part? The average American eats 270 pounds of meat a year.

2. World Hunger

Production of animal based foods contributes to mismanagement of resources. Large amounts of land are allocated for grazing (see the rainforests in South America that are being chopped down to provide land for cattle grazing). Sufficient plant based crops are grown to feed the population, yet the majority of these crops are fed to livestock. When an animal eats crops and a human eats that animal, only around 10% of the crop energy is actually passed along to the human.

Michael Chatham, in his article “Could Veganism End World Hunger”, urges us to “imagine, if you would, all the food (mostly grains) that a cow would eat in the course of 18 to 24 months (which is the average age of most cows when they are slaughtered for their meat). Now imagine if you were somehow able the pile all of that food up in front of you. This massive mountain of food is what has sustained this cow for all of these months; giving him energy, allowing cells to regenerate, bones and muscles to grow, his heart to beat and his lungs to breathe.

“Now imagine that a slaughterhouse worker came and killed that cow, carving his body up into cuts of meat and placing these cuts of meat into a separate pile. Which of these two piles do you think would feed more people: the pile of meat that used to be his body, or the pile of food that went into creating and nourishing it? This is the stark equation that makes the animal farming industry so illogical and unsustainable.”

Before you tell me “but cows eat grass! I can’t eat grass!”, most cows are fed a diet of corn (that they can’t digest) and soybeans. I’d encourage you to check out the documentary Cowspiracy (it can be pretty upsetting, but I think it’s important!).

Within the United States, an estimated 1 in 6 go to bed hungry each night. Globally, 925 million people struggle with hunger, with starvation killing over 2.5 million children under five each year. These people could be fed with land used to grow crops fed to animals. Our natural resources are precious, and can’t support 270 pounds of meat per person, per year.

3. Animals

Animals are precious. They’re cute, friendly, fun, and like you, they don’t want to grow up in crushed in small, dark disease ridden places. When grown to be eaten, animals face horrible conditions. Did you know every year more than 100 million male chicks are ground up alive or suffocated in plastic bags because roosters aren’t good eat?

Cows produce milk meant for their babies, not your cereal. How is milk harvested? Often, female cows are artificially inseminated, and have their babies taken away from them at birth. Instead of her baby getting the nutrients provided by the milk, the baby and its mother are separated, causing extreme emotional distress. How would you feel if after your mother gave birth to you, you were taken away from her and she had to continue to provide breast milk? I don’t know anyone willing to do that, so I don’t understand why we do it to animals. The natural lifespan of a cow can be 20 years, yet dairy cows lose their profit status at around five years, and are sent to slaughter. This is cruel, and unfair.

There is no ethically produced meat. I’d like to say this very clearly. 

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I hope this has helped to convince you to join the vegan cult! Just kidding, we’re not totally a cult, but most of us are nice people, and experienced vegans are totally willing to help you “veganize” your favorite recipes / point you in the direction of really great vegan meals in your area (Berkeley kids, I got you).

While there are some clear socioeconomic barriers to veganism, if you’re serious about taking some steps person steps towards lowering your environmental impact, start with cutting meat where you can! Do a “meatless Monday” or get veggies instead of steak at Chipotle (and get free guac!). Grab the vegan option at an info session, try your hand at zero waste grocery shopping, take the bus or walk instead of calling an Uber. Little changes add up!

We live in a scary, scary world. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the amount of information telling you just how bad everything is, and not knowing what to do. It’s okay! Taking little steps towards mitigating your environmental impact is a great way to start, and you should be proud of yourself for trying.

Sam Good

Sam Good is a third year Civil & Environmental Engineering major (with a concentration in water quality), and a double minor in Chinese, and Global Poverty and Practice. She spent the summer interning in Taiwan, and is currently on a gap semester, working and traveling in Southeast Asia. She’s super vegan, loves people, and being outside! Sam Good covers vegan food and food systems.

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