If everyone stopped
eating animal products, what would happen to all the animals?
First of all, this scenario is
unrealistic. It’s virtually impossible that everyone in the world would
adopt a veg diet overnight. However, if in a couple of decades, the
world’s population decided to stop eating animals, the meat industry
would have plenty of time to adjust. After all, as a multi-billion
dollar business, factory farms know very well how to balance out supply
and demand. Domesticated animals are bred for food; without a demand
for animal products, there would be a significant reduction in the
number of cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and fish bred for consumption
in the world. Since less land would be used for raising animals, more
land could revert back to its natural state, leading to greater
Animals kill other
animals for food, right? I mean, aren’t we natural carnivores?
Thousands of years ago, meat might
have been necessary for our survival, but western society has evolved
tremendously since those days of the hunter-gatherers. Most of us no
longer hunt our food for survival. Animals raised for consumption
nowadays have no opportunity to run away or escape their unfulfilling,
brutally horrendous lives on a
factory farm. There is no glory or fairness left in raising
and killing a domestic animal for convenience. Luckily, in today’s
American society every nutrient found
in animal products can be easily found from plant-based sources in any
supermarket. In fact, our digestive systems find it easier to digest
plant matter than meat. Carnivores have very short digestive tracts
compared to humans. This facilitates their meat digestion; in contrast,
meat takes a long time to pass through our intestines, increasing the
likelihood of intestinal blockage and other digestive troubles.
How do you deal with
cravings for animal products?
Most of us have been raised in
meat-eating households and have incorporated eating animal flesh into
our lives unquestioningly. This means that abstaining from consuming
animal products may mean not only a change in your diet, but a change
in your very lifestyle. Because of this, feel free to be gradual about
phasing animal products out of your meals. The important thing is to
remain honest about your emotions and stay focused on your goals and
why you choose to pursue them. If, for instance, you feel a craving for
bacon, acknowledge this and try to work with it. Why not make yourself
or another delicious veggie recipe?
If this is not feasible, consider why you are choosing not to eat pork
in the first place. Is it for health reasons? Environmental? Ethical?
Whatever the reasoning, consider how eating pork would make you feel in
relation to achieving your goals. If you do give in to your cravings,
please remember that we are all human, and therefore, fallible. Think
about why you “messed up” in the first place and how you can avoid
doing so again in the future. The bright side is that after awhile of
not eating meat, your tastes will change. With a
little perseverance, cravings for animal products will become a thing
of the past.
What about all those
soy and processed foods vegetarians eat? Aren’t those really bad for
Soy is one of the most
controversial foods out there, billed both as a wonder food and as an
environmental danger. Both claims have some validity to them. Soy can
for your body if consumed in moderation. However, 85% of soy
grown in this country is genetically modified, and
most of it is owned by only a few very powerful corporations. It’s
sprayed with pesticides and limits biodiversity, making it very
destructive for the environment. That being said, 59%
of soy grown in this country goes to feed
animals raised for consumption. The rest is mainly
pressed for its oil and put into a myriad
of products , including biodiesel, candles, soaps, chips,
cosmetics, inks, plastics, and clothing. Very little soy is actually
used in foods marketed specifically for vegetarians. The environmental impact of a
veg diet that includes soy is very small in comparison to one that
includes meat regularly.
As for processed foods, unless you
are a raw locavore, everyone’s food must travel thousands of miles and
go through a lot of processing before it ends up on our plates. This
wastes immense amounts of natural resources (water, petroleum, etc). It
is up to you as an individual to decide how environmentally sustainable
your meals are. That being said, there are plenty of other sources of protein
besides soy and processed meat- and dairy-replacers available to
someone who chooses not to consume animal products. Neither of these
are integral to a healthy veg diet.
What should I know
about veg nutrition?
Dietetic Association recently stated in 2009 that
“…appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or
vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide
health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during
all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy,
childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
For more information about where
to get your nutrients from a veg diet, please visit our Nutrition section. For more
detailed information on how to balance your diet, please visit veganhealth.org
How do I know if
something’s really free of animal products?
Unfortunately in this country
there are no strict guidelines for labeling food as vegan- or
vegetarian-friendly. However, some companies do choose to include this
information near their ingredients list. Raw DC
has a list of symbols that denote that a product is veg friendly. For a
list of animal-derived ingredients, please see Happy
Cow's list of animal derived ingredients.
As a side note, many sugars and alcoholic
beverages are processed using animal ingredients.
For a list of animal-product free sugars, click here
. For a list of animal-product free beers and wines, visit barnivore.com .
Isn’t a veg diet
more expensive than one that includes animal products?
Well, that all depends. Mock meat
and dairy products tend to be on the pricier side, but on the other
hand, they keep longer than their traditional counterparts. However,
you do not need veggie dogs and soy creamer to get the nutrients you
need to stay healthy. If you still wish to buy mock meats and dairy,
there are several low-cost options for these. TVP and nutritional
yeast, for instance, can be readily purchased at any natural foods
market in bulk for little money. Homemade versions of dairy-free cheese
and sauces can be much cheaper than store-bought versions if made in
large quantities. A carefully-planned veg diet can actually be very inexpensive.
Lilly drew up a great (albeit cheeky) cost
comparison between a vegan and an omnivorous diet, and came up with a
vegan grocery list that totaled less than $30 a week!