Ola Waagen/ CC-BY-NC-2.0 Everyone reaps benefits from people being vegan — the people, the environment and the animals.
People would be healthier. There are many controversial and contradictory health reports condemning processed meats (particularly red meat). Recent reports have claimed that red meat is a carcinogen, though these claims have neither been adopted by the 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines nor are accepted as fact yet. A more universal agreement is that Americans generally eat too much meat. A vegan diet tends to focus on vegetable dishes, whole grains and healthy protein options which lead to a balanced and healthy palate. Additionally, many popular junk food items such as burgers, hot dogs and wings contain meat, which vegan diets avoid. In fact, because of the dietary restrictions imposed by veganism, many vegans eat out less, which leads to healthier habits overall. Another benefit: Making the decision to go vegan requires research into a healthier diet, which raises personal awareness about healthy food choices.
The environment would be far better off. Sources estimate that livestock production is responsible for around 15 percent of all global gas emissions. According to the Chatham House Think Tank, this is the same as the amount due to all the cars in the world. Worldwatch published a report in 2009 claiming that 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the livestock industry. The actual number is probably between 15 and 50 percent, making the livestock industry a significant contributor to climate change worldwide. The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) published a graph showing that approximately 7.5 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted per half pound of beef, compared to less than a quarter pound of carbon dioxide per half pound of potatoes, apples and asparagus.
Greenhouse gas emission isn’t the only way the meat industry harms the planet. According to CNN, 50 to 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle farming. There is in fact an exorbitant amount of land devoted to livestock production. According to HSPH, only 10 percent of U.S. grain is produced for human consumption — the rest feeds livestock. According to statistics collected by the Worldwatch Institute, 56 million acres of American land are devoted to livestock, whereas only four million are used for vegetable production.
If you need another environmental reason, there’s also the question of water use. According to the Worldwatch Institute and a statistic published by Richard H. Schwartz, a standard diet takes 4,200 gallons of water per day, whereas a vegan diet uses only 300 gallons. To put this amount in perspective, taking a seven minute shower every day for a year would use 5,110 gallons of water.
Animals would suffer less. This is the stereotypical vegan justification but is also true to a large extent. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 99 percent of farm animals are raised in factory farms. Most animals are confined to very small spaces and not allowed outdoors or in their natural habitat. Conditions are frequently so terrible that diseases are rampant, which causes the animals to be pumped with antibiotics. Animals are often fed grain or other convenient foods that aren’t in their natural diets, making them unhealthy and uncomfortable in more ways. Some chickens grow so fat they can’t even stand. Standards may be different for humanely raised meat, but such products are not nearly as widespread as one might hope. In fact I almost never notice the “humane” label at the FFC.
... Just saying.