Guide To Vegan Ethics: Going Vegan For Your Health And The Planet
Particularly in Western societies, there is a huge disconnect between us and the food we consume.
Most of us aren’t picking the vegetables. We are just buying them. The same goes for animal products.
We don’t personally milk the cow. We just buy the gallon of milk and get on with our day.
Due to this disconnect, the majority of the population tends to forget what goes on behind the scenes during food preparation; namely, the disregard for animal welfare.
Veganism raises some pertinent questions in regards to ethics and morality. These questions of vegan ethics extend from animals to humans to the environment as veganism holds a high regard for environmental sustainability, animal protection, and human rights.
You may be surprised to learn that veganism isn’t just a diet; it’s a way of living that encompasses dietary choices as well as philosophical beliefs and actions.
Veganism & Vegan Ethics: Not Just A Dietary Choice
One of the biggest misunderstandings of veganism lies in the idea that it is only a way to eat. True veganism is not just about changing your diet.
Sure, that plays a huge role but veganism is also about following a set of vegan ethics. So what exactly is veganism?
Animal Welfare & Rights
Ethical Vegans do not just abstain from eating meat. They also do not partake in the consumption of animal products such as dairy and eggs.
While no animals are being killed in the process of obtaining milk and eggs, this procedure promotes the exploitation, over-working, and malnutrition of animals.
Vegans fight for animal rights by abstaining from the consumption of animal products but also lobbying local politicians.
They push for change on an economic level by spending their money away from the industry that is harming animals and they fight for new laws that promote animal rights.
Focus On Cruelty Free
The global market contains far more products that have been created by exploiting animals than you realize.
Vegans focus on cruelty-free products when making their shopping decisions as this falls in line with their belief of animal welfare and animal rights.
Here are some categories that ethical vegans don’t consume because they promote exploitation and direct harm to animals:
- Honey: Promotes exploitation, over-working, and malnutrition of bee populations.
- Gelatin: Made with animal parts such as skin and bones.
- Lanolin: Promotes exploitation and direct harm to sheep.
- Wool: Promotes exploitation and direct harm to sheep.
- Fur: Involves the slaughter of an animal for its skin and fur.
- Silk: Promotes exploitation, over-working, and malnutrition of silk worms.
- Suede: Involves the slaughter of an animal for its skin.
- Leather: Involves the slaughter of an animal for its skin.
To take this one step further, vegans also avoid those practices outside of the agricultural industry that are directly involved in animal and human abuse.
Vegans don’t use products that have been tested on animals.
Again, this all comes back to vegan ethics that avoid the use of any product where an animal was harmed in the process of making it.
This has resulted in an explosion of vegan friendly products that are made with all natural ingredients and refrain from animal testing.
Vegans don’t partake in forms of activity that center around animal exploitation such as the zoo or horse racing.
We’ll take more about this below in our Animal Consciousness section.
Companies And Charity
Everyone should donate to a great cause but vegans will not donate to companies who have been involved in any type of animal abuse or exploitation scandal.
Morality Of Eating Meat
Is it morally acceptable to kill a living and breathing animal in order to eat? If we were still in a pre-agricultural era, then it may be more justified.
However, in this day and age, we have global access to dozens of varieties of healthy plant-based foods and supplements.
You simply walk to the store and you can buy fruits and vegetables from around the world.
This over-consumption lifestyle has negated the need for meat; however, we are still addicted to eating it.
Ethical Vegans believe that with the access developed nations have, there is no need for meat. What’s more, on an ethical level, vegans believe that eating meat is morally unjustifiable.
We have all we need. We’re eating better than at any point in history. There is no moral or ethical need to kill an animal to support our diets or way of living.
Meat is not necessary for our survival. Meat is a luxury item that is being consumed as a necessity. Vegans believe that the welfare and rights of animals is far more important than the ability to enjoy meat when there are healthier and more ethical options available.
Positive Environmental Impact
Vegan ethics also holds humans and the environment to a sacred standard as well. The ideology of veganism extends past animals and supports the totality of the natural world.
By being vegan, you are also an environmentalist. This is because vegans see any damage that is done to the natural world as coming full circle to impact everyone and everything living upon it.
The best example of this is water pollution. We all need water. Everything living thing on this planet would die without it.
When water is contaminated through unsafe methods of production, humans and animals are the ones who are impacted. Drinking water with unsafe levels of pollutants can harm your health.
Want to see a modern-day example of this?
Look at Flint, Michigan. When the people of Flint started to get their water supply from the heavily polluted Flint River, a crisis began. Over 100,000 people were exposed to deadly levels of lead in the water, which led to hospitalizations and a state of emergency. When we destroy the environment, we only harm ourselves.
Environmental Issues That Can Be Stopped With Vegan Ethics
The greatest debate and issue of our time is climate change. Hundreds of studies have focused on the long term negative impact of climate change, the factors behind it, and ways we can curb those inevitable changes. Veganism has the potential to play a key role in those changes.
Agriculture & Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The sector of agricultural production that specifically deals with livestock such as cows and chicken is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change.
Imagine a vast plot of land that is home to animals that will become food products. These animals are being over-fed in order to produce a bigger product.
Everything that goes into feeding those animals from the farming practices to the deforestation is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the animals themselves are placing greenhouse gases into the air.
A study published in Royal Society demonstrated that cows treated with antibiotics produced more methane gas, a huge contributor to the greenhouse effect, than those that weren’t treated.
The bad news here is that most cows are treated with anti-biotics.
By going vegan, you can do your part to help cut these emissions as it takes far less resources to grow fruits, vegetables, and grain.
Agriculture & Antibiotic Resistance
The overuse of antibiotics is a serious problem in our current medical climate. By overusing antibiotics, we have unintentionally created antibiotic resistant strains of disease.
These “super bugs” are showing up all over the world. The long-term repercussions are extremely serious to global human health.
One of the ways that we are fueling this creation of antibiotic resistance and super bugs is through the agricultural industry.
Cow, in particular, are being injected with dramatic dosages of antibiotics in order to avoid becoming sick. These antibiotics wind up in the milk we drink and the meat we eat.
The end result is we are being exposed to high levels of antibiotics, which are helping to create the very super bugs making us sick.
By choosing a vegan lifestyle, you are doing your part for animal welfare and for avoiding the creation of antibiotic resistant strains of disease.
Animal Waste & Polluted Water Systems
With the disconnect mentioned above, people forget that animals are living, breathing things that need to eat, sleep, and produce waste in order to live.
Cows, in particular, are large animals that require an abundant food supply and produce an average of 120 pounds of manure per day. This waste ends up in rivers and streams where the ecosystems are directed impacted.
Again, let’s bring this full circle and remember that it isn’t just the tiny ecosystems we can’t see that are impacted.
The waste run-off can easily make its way into water supplies that are used by humans. For example, imagine having harmful bacteria such as e-coli in your drinking water.
Without the demand of bovine agriculture, the amount of waste in water systems will greatly decrease allowing the ecosystems to thrive.
Land Destruction And Deforestation
With such a great demand for livestock, especially from Western societies, there comes a need for a lot of land to house the livestock.
In Latin America alone, previously lush and forested areas have been destroyed and turned into soy fields to provide feed for livestock.
Going vegan can help to preserve forests and green areas. More importantly, it can help to promote the growth of a variety of nutritious produce to help feed people around the world.
Human Health, The Environment, & How Veganism Can Help
While it is a human problem, obesity has a direct impact on our environment. The over consumption of food, particularly animal products, plays a center role in the obesity epidemic in developed nations.
As fast food restaurants thrive and make an unbelievable profit, they do so at the expense of animals, environment, and human health.
A story published in The Guardian reviewed a study that demonstrated nations with a higher rate of obesity produced more carbon emissions that fuel climate change.
By switching to a vegan diet, you not only benefit the environment around the world but you also have a positive impact on your own health.
Top 3 Reasons To Go Vegan & Practice Vegan Ethics
Still not convinced yet? If you’re still on the fence about trying a vegan lifestyle, don’t worry!
Veganism isn’t this scary and monk-like practice that restricts you from a normal life. Veganism is about making conscious choices that benefit you, animals, people, and the environment.
Let’s take a look at the top 3 reasons to go vegan and practice vegan ethics.
As we’ve mentioned several times throughout this article, animals are living, breathing, and thinking creatures. It’s easy to forget this when you don’t get a chance to actually see them. All you see is the aftermath.
It’s important to remember that animals feel pain and suffering just as we do. They aren’t mindless things walking around for the sake of being slaughtered or captured for our entertainment.
The best way to connect to animal consciousness is to place yourself in the same situation. Imagine not being able to communicate your feelings as you are being poked and prodded in a cage.
Animal consciousness is not some figment of imagination. It’s real. You see it every day with your pets. Now extend that to the animals being prepared for your dinner.
As we discussed above, environmental destruction is widespread thanks, in part, to unsustainable farming via livestock production. We destroy land to feed animals that we eat. We use grain and resources to feed animals that could be used to combat world hunger.
In the process, we are damaging our ecosystems around the world. This all comes back to us. When we harm our environment, we harm ourselves.
Veganism may not be the cure-all for all of the environmental woes but it will certainly make a tremendous difference, especially against climate change.
If you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, you may be surprised to discover that your beliefs may fall in line with vegan ethics.
Religions around the world share a degree of vegan ideology. Here are some of the most common and popular religious practices that promote veganism.
While there are plenty of Christians who do consume animal products, there are many sects or followers of Christianity that practice veganism. This is for two primary reasons.
First, many leaders of Christianity promote temperance or the idea of voluntary self-restraint to strengthen belief and willpower.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, is Luke 6:31. This famous quote is often referred to as the Golden Rule:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Then there’s Luke 6:36: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
The religions below all share the idea of the Golden Rule despite calling it something else. No matter what your beliefs are, you can certainly relate to these ideas of non-violence.
Still, as mentioned above, many Christians follow a meat-based diet as there is nothing specifically rejecting the idea of abstaining from eating meat.
In fact, in Leviticus 11:1-47, it is expressly detailed on which parts of the animal are acceptable to eat.
The first precept of Buddhism says that the deliberate killing of man or animal is forbidden. This is why veganism and vegetarianism is so prevalent in Buddhist cultures.
With that said, not all monks or practitioners of Buddhism follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. With Buddhism, it is forbidden to be involved in the direct killing of an animal.
If someone is served animal meat that was not expressly killed for that person then the practitioner is still following Buddha Law.
Centering around the idea of karma and non-violence, Hinduism does not promote the killing of animals. What’s more, if this is done, it is believed that karma will come full circle to balance the wrong that was committed.
Still, like Buddhism, not all Hindus are vegan or vegetarian. It is a popular way of living as being a vegetarian or vegan helps to ensure minimal harm to living things.
However, many Hindus eat meat. This may be due to a lack of options, economic conditions, and limited availability. When Hindus must eat meat, it is common for them to request a painless death.
Jainism is based around non-violence, which means that the harm and murder of animals is strictly forbidden.
However, different sects of Jainism may allow for the consumption of some animal products, with the knowledge that the animal was not harmed.
For example, some sects of Jainism consume cow’s milk but, again, the cow must not be harmed during the milking process.
Veganism is an effective, safe, and beneficial way to change your health and the world at large. Best of all, you no longer have to play a guessing game when it comes to veganism. There are thousands of books, websites, and sources of information for you to get started.
What’s more, there are a variety of types of vegan diets so you’ll be sure to find one that suits you. In fact, we have compiled 12 of the most popular vegan diets to try.
- Steinfeld, Henning. "Livestock's Long Shadow." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO of the UN, 29 Nov. 2006.
- Hammer, Tobin J., Noah Fierer, Bess Hardwick, Asko Simojoki, Eleanor Slade, Juhani Taponen, Heidi Viljanen, and Tomas Roslin. "Treating Cattle with Antibiotics Affects Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Microbiota in Dung and Dung Beetles." Proc. R. Soc. B. The Royal Society, 25 May 2016.
- "Notes from Underground EPA Region 9 Source Water and Underground Pollution Newsletter." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, Oct. 2001.
- Jha, Alok. "Carbon Emissions Fuelled by High Rates of Obesity." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 19 Apr. 2009.