Despite growing awareness of the ethical and environmental implications of animal exploitation, the dialogue of our society continues to revolve around just about anything other than the need to change our eating habits. Ironically, it may well be that the survival of our species, and perhaps even life as we know it, is dependent upon learning the very lessons of empathy, responsibility and self-control that the vegan ideal embodies, and that our society seems so reluctant to embrace.
With our society and our world within sight of a major breakdown from resource scarcity and subsequent geopolitical conflict, it has become crucial that we face up to the need for a radical shift – in behavior and beliefs. Drastic, sweeping changes are needed, and this fundamental shift in society’s values must begin with each one of us.
No matter how strong the current opposition, it will soon have to be accepted that the vegan solution is our hope for the future, as it contains the power to address, all at once, the many different yet interconnected issues – from the environmental devastation we are causing, to the global pandemic of violence. These crises are crippling our civilization and threaten not only our survival, but the survival of the many other species that populate the planet.
Making the transition toward a vegan way of life is the single-most important investment an individual can make in the future of our planet and our civilization. By becoming vegan, each of us can lessen our ecological footprint more than with any other personal change, as well as take our health into our own hands, work toward eliminating world hunger, rediscover our connection with the other animals with whom we share our world, and make a powerful personal contribution toward the beginning of peace on earth.
The world stands at a turning point. We simply cannot go on as if our old ways can continue to sustain us. As environmentalist John Grant states in The Green Marketing Manifesto, “Our lifestyles need to change beyond recognition.” (Emphasis in original.)
As industrialization expands ever further – now including large Asian populations – it brings with it the excesses of animal agriculture. Resource depletion, pollution, species extinction, and global warming are increasing at an alarming rate, and we currently run the risk of driving into collapse the essential life-preserving systems of the planet itself.
Our appetite for flesh and for the products that come from the bodies of animals, combined with our growing human population, has caused us to create systems of animal ‘farming’ that are not only completely unsustainable in the long-term, but are also immediately damaging to many of the natural eco-systems that we depend on, including rainforests, rivers, oceans, grasslands, marshes, and even the atmosphere.
Despite assertions to the contrary, even ‘free-range’ or ‘grass-fed’ animal farming is destructive to the natural environment. For more information, please see Free-Range is not the Answer.
Livestock’s Long Shadow, the now well-known report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, stated that “livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
Around a third of the land on this planet is involved in livestock production, according to the FAO, which also estimates that animal agriculture generates nearly a fifth (18%) of the world’s greenhouse gases – more than all transportation. Animal agriculture also requires enormous amounts of water and energy, and ever-increasing quantities of soy, corn, and other grains, leading to the destruction of vast tracts of rainforests. Agriculture in the United States – a large percentage of which serves the demand for animal products – contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
For too long, the environmental movement has emphasized small lifestyle changes, without addressing the core issues behind the problems, mistakenly teaching people that it is possible to ‘make a difference’ without making substantial changes in one’s personal behavior. This is where the vegan solution contains the power to revitalize the environmental movement, because it embodies exactly what is required to inspire the necessary change: a revival and restoration of our core ethical values.
The global environmental crisis and the global humanitarian crisis offer us a wealth of opportunities. They are opportunities for change, for conscious evolution of ourselves, which is something we humans collectively resist as much as anything. Changing oneself requires an admission that something in us needs to change, and that is a challenge for anyone. But the rewards of making such a change are profound. The keys to a new world of safety and plenty are at our fingertips. What we must do is to embrace and encourage the evolution of values that will illuminate our choices and show us a peaceful and prosperous way forward.