Why Go Vegan
Why Go Vegan? There are so many reasons to go vegan!
I like to say to people:
Don't ask me why I am vegan, ask yourself why you aren't !
At the basis of many people's interpretation of veganism lies the so-called "anti-speciesism"
The term speciesism was first used in the 1970’s to describe discrimination against nonhuman animals.
Many different definitions have been proposed since then. Speciesism is complex, and it can be useful to look at it from different perspectives — psychological, philosophical, and sociological.
Discrimination is based on judging others not for who they are but for what they are not. The lives and experiences of nonhuman animals are usually considered less important than those of human beings simply because they are not like humans. Yet nonhuman animals have emotional lives and feel pain, pleasure, fear and joy. Devaluing their lives simply because they don’t have some characteristics that most humans have is discrimination.
Every characteristic and circumstance that is used to discriminate against nonhuman animals — such as lack of rationality, language ability, social connections — also applies to some humans. Yet we don’t use those things to measure the worth of humans. Adult humans who can reason, infants, the cognitively disabled and orphans are all considered equally valuable. The reason we try not to harm other humans is because they can feel and suffer.
The most common manifestation of speciesist discrimination is moral anthropocentrism, which is the devaluation of the interests of those who don’t belong to the human species.
But speciesism includes favouring some nonhuman species over others. For example, usually greater moral consideration is given to dogs than pigs, simply because dogs belong to a certain species and pigs do not.
The sociological perspective views speciesism as an ideology and a social problem rather than as prejudice or discrimination. This most closely parallels the way other isms, like racism and sexism, are usually viewed currently. It views speciesist discrimination as an important outgrowth of an ideology that normalises the devaluation of nonhuman animals.
Definitions of Speciesism
The term speciesism was coined by psychologist Richard Ryder in 1973.
“I use the word ‘speciesism’ to describe the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against other species … Speciesism is discrimination, and like all discrimination it overlooks or underestimates the similarities between the discriminator and those discriminated against.”
He never precisely defined it, but it has often been interpreted to mean discrimination against nonhuman animals based on species membership alone. Since then, many others have proposed their own definitions of speciesism. Some have defined it as discrimination against all nonhuman animals, or discrimination based on species membership alone. Some of the more widely used definitions were critiqued by Joan Dunayer in her book, Speciesism. She points out that such definitions may allow for equal moral consideration for some animals, such as mammals and birds, or animals with higher cognitive functions, while still discriminating against others. She offers the following definition:
“A failure, in attitude or or practice, to accord any nonhuman being equal consideration and respect.”
There are (at least) three ways of looking at speciesism:
Psychological: individually held prejudice
Prejudice is primarily a psychological term. It refers to an individual’s belief and can provide a justification for discriminating against others. There was a time when racism was considered a psychological disorder, but now racism and other “isms” like sexism, heterosexism and speciesism are more often viewed in a wider social context. Sometimes the term cultural prejudice is used to refer to a socially shared prejudice that is embedded in a culture and its institutions.
Moral philosophy considers the morality of actions and looks at speciesism in terms of whether or not speciesist actions (discrimination) are justified. The determination that speciesism is unjustified would be true whether there were prejudice involved or not.
The definitions used by philosophers are most often based on Richard Ryder’s view of speciesism, which is usually narrowly interpreted to include only discrimination based on species membership alone. Moral philosopher Oscar Horta defends the following broader definition, which includes any discrimination against nonhuman animals, whether the discrimination is based on species membership or not.
Speciesism is discrimination against those who are not classified as belonging to one or more particular species.
According to this definition, trying to justify unequal consideration of other animals because they are not smart in the way humans are or because they don’t have relationships with humans is speciesism, even if an appeal to species membership is never made.
Sociological: shared ideology
Currently the “isms” including racism, sexism, heterosexism and speciesism are most often looked at from a sociological perspective, which sees them as shared belief systems that give rise to and reinforce prejudices and legitimate discrimination. Sociologist David Nibert defines an ideology this way:
“An ideology is a set of socially shared beliefs that legitimates an existing or desired social order.”
Sociologists may look at what social forces work to suppress the natural empathy people feel and make the oppression of others seem normal, natural, and sometimes even to the benefit of the oppressed. But they no longer look for the causes of oppression in individual beliefs, attitudes and actions. They tend to view prejudice (an individual attitude) and discrimination (such as mistreatment) as outgrowths of oppressive ideologies. Prejudice and discrimination support and perpetuate the ideologies, but do not cause them.
Speciesism is an ideology (a set of beliefs) that makes discrimination against the members of other species seem normal and natural. From our education and social experiences we learn to see human characteristics and abilities as the ideal standard against which all others are measured. It’s so embedded in our culture and in our thinking that it seems natural and inevitable to discriminate against other animals. But when we really try to justify it, we can’t. The value of nonhuman animals does not depend on how similar they are to humans any more than the value of women is dependent on how similar they are to men or the value of people of color is dependent on how similar they are to white people.
These three approaches to understanding speciesism are complementary.
What Speciesism Looks Like:
-Some species are favored over others
-Nonhuman animals are commodities
-Property rights are more important than preventing animal cruelty
-Trivial human interests matter more than the wellbeing of other animals
-Conflicts of interest are ignored
-The greatest source of suffering in the world is overlooked
Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan, but for many it remains the key factor in their decision to go vegan and stay vegan. Having emotional attachments with animals may form part of that reason, while many believe that all sentient creatures have a right to life and freedom. Specifics aside, avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere. A more detailed overview on why being vegan demonstrates true compassion for animals can be found here.
Vegan for your health
More and more people are turning to a vegan diet for the health benefits: increased energy, younger looking skin and eternal youth are just some of the claims from enthusiastic plant eaters. Well, eternal youth might be a bit optimistic, but there are certainly many scientifically proven benefits to vegan living when compared to the average western diet.
Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world's biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Check out our fully referenced article on health and the vegan diet here. For more information on living a healthy, vegan life, our nutrition section will be able to help.
Vegan for the environment
From recycling our household rubbish to cycling to work, we're all aware of ways to live a greener life. One of the most effective things an individual can do to lower their carbon footprint is to avoid all animal products. This goes way beyond the problem of cow flatulence!
Why is meat and dairy so bad for the environment?
The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment - from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves. On the other hand, considerably lower quantities of crops and water are required to sustain a vegan diet, making the switch to veganism one of the easiest, most enjoyable and most effective ways to reduce our impact on the environment. For more on how veganism is the way forward for the environment, see our environment section.
Vegan for people
Just like veganism is the sustainable option when it comes to looking after our planet, plant-based living is also a more sustainable way of feeding the human family. A plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet. With rising global food and water insecurity due to a myriad of environmental and socio-economic problems, there's never been a better time to adopt a more sustainable way of living. Avoiding animal products is not just one of the simplest ways an individual can reduce the strain on food as well as other resources, it's the simplest way to take a stand against inefficient food systems which disproportionately affects the poorest people all over the world. Read more here on how vegan diets can help people.
Why vegetarian isn't enough
The suffering caused by the dairy and egg industry is possibly less well publicised than the plight of factory farmed animals. The production of dairy products necessitates the death of countless male calves that are of no use to the dairy farmer, as well as the premature death of cows slaughtered when their milk production decreases. Similarly, in the egg industry, even 'ethical' or 'free range' eggs involve the killing of the 'unnecessary' male chicks when just a day old.
It's tempting to want to believe that the meat we eat is ethical, that our 'food animals' have lived full, happy lives and that they have experienced no pain or fear at the slaughterhouse. Yet the sad truth is that all living creatures (even those labelled 'free range' or 'organic') fear death, just as we do. No matter how they are treated when alive, they all experience the same fear when it comes to slaughter.
The good news
The good news is there IS something we can do about it. Every time we shop or order food in a restaurant - every time we eat - we can choose to help these animals. Every time we make the switch from an animal product to a vegan one we are standing up for farmed animals everywhere. Going vegan is easier than ever before with veganism becoming increasingly mainstream as more and more people from all walks of life discover the benefits of living this way.
It's time to ask ourselves: if it is now possible to live a life that involves delicious food and drink, delivers better health, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and avoids killing other creatures - then why don't we?
With thanks to the amazing vegan friends at Veganism.com. Their website is an amazing source for vegan related information, and should get a visit form all of you good vegans and pre-vegans :)