A Call to Environmentalists

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.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


gary richard jo Thompson

All the hurting must be stopped,we cant carry on like this,1st if everyone would slow down a wittle bit surely we would go on for longer,2nd stop hurting things all the time,3rd bring back the love coz i dont experience it no more,peace to all!!!!!!!!!

Johnathan S.
Johnathan S8 years ago

Dear Ward,

a little over a week ago I posted my opinion on this topic, saying how many proteins that we require come from animals and animal by products. You however responded saying that vegans have found methods of attaining these proteins without having to consume animals, and actually have sources providing this. I find this very interesting and if you would still be willing to show me them, I would greatly appreciate it.

Meredith D.
Meredith D8 years ago

And PLEASE stop telling me I'm making excuses for myself; I've repeatedly said I eat vegetarian at my own house, and order veggie alternatives at restaurants. You are demonizing me for no reason except that I admit I eat meat when I'm at my parents house. They would've bought and cooked it either way, so my actions wouldn't save anyone, they'd just be rude for not eating what was generously shared with me. What you call my "lust for flesh" is a simple desire not to cause problems with the family when I'm home visiting. I go right back to being vegetarian when I come home. And if you don't see the difference between that and someone who eats a Big Mac for lunch and chicken wings for dinner, then you are an idiot. There are a lot of people out there trying to do better, trying to do the best they can, and you keep telling them their efforts are meaningless. Say it enough times and they'll believe it, and stop making the effort entirely. What's better: a bunch of people trying to consume as little meat as possible who buy organic and free-range? or a bunch of fast food junkies who don't care? Your anger at people for being imperfect (as we ALL are, even your oh-so-righteous self) is alienating the very people who you want to draw in. Please stop raging at people. You're making enemies for your cause by treating people like garbage.

Meredith D.
Meredith D8 years ago

Ward, unless you live or work in the inner city you have no idea how bad it is. There are fast food joints EVERYWHERE and only one grocery for miles around, which doesn't sell anything organic. Neither do the numerous corner stores. Every single product has some form of animal product in it, except vegetables. And forget about vegetarian alternatives; the only source of protein for miles around is meat. The families of the kids I work with don't have the money to take a train downtown, let alone shop at Whole Foods. As for where they're using their food stamps, how the hell would you know? And besides, just because the corner store considers something "food" and accepts stamps for it, doesn't mean it has any health value. And the food they give them in school is nauseating, even if it is the vegetarian alternative (there is no such thing as a vegan school lunch) it isn't healthy. That's why there's an obesity/diabetic epidemic in the inner city. Don't dismiss this with your usual lack of tact. Please think for just a minute if there is a way we can help these people without shouting "go vegan" since they really can't. Not unless a program is started to help them, like a weekly farmers market or something. So get off your high horse and help make vegan food available in the ghetto for food stamp prices. Then I'll take you seriously. Now you just look like a blowhard.

Sir Walk F.
Sir Walk F8 years ago

Anyone here who is Vegan and has any real agriculture experience, please feel free to PM me.

Because, based on Angels above blog entry, and many of the comments here, it seems quite apparent we have a bunch of urban environmentalists who dont really get the big picture at all.

Golden Gibson-rees
Golden Gibson8 years ago

Angel sets the story straight with this clear concise argument for why any real environmentalist has to become a vegan.

Angel Flinn
Angel Flinn8 years ago

In case anyone is still reading, I have a new suggestion for those who have experienced difficulty in trying to change their diet to a vegan one.

NB: In my experience, most people have no problem switching to a vegan diet. In fact, most people will experience health *improvements* from eliminating animal products.

This is only intended to be directed at those who *believe* in the values of veganism, but have found that the diet has not worked for them.

My suggestion is this:

1) With or without the help of a physician/dietician/nutritionist whose advice you trust, determine what would be the absolute minimum amount of animal product you could eat, to remain in good health.

2) Eliminate *all* other animal products from your diet, including trace ingredients such as in processed foods, breads, etc.

3) Eliminate *all* other animal products from the rest of your life, including leather, wool, silk, down, and all non-vegan toiletries and cosmetics.

In this way, you will be able to maintain your health while eliminating everything in your life that is a product of animal suffering that you do not deem absolutely necessary to your health.

John C.
John Carbonaro8 years ago

Even if humans want to claim special skills that are different from other earthlings, that would not necessarily provide any bridge of logic as to how that would translate into a justification for exploitation.

Eagles aren't 'superior' to humans in flying skills, simply because humans have no flying skills at all. Each bird has it's own set of flying skills to meet it's own needs.
Each animal has a set of capacities to assist it in it's ability to flourish. Many animals have the capacity/flexiblity to adapt past their 'niche'. Scientists once surgically removed the inner eyelid of a kind of lizard. This lizard would not have otherwise ever lost this eyelid in nature, yet it grew back, thus trancending its 'evolution', it's place.

We are all capable of evolving and we can develop our own sets of capacities to a superior level. Our capacity to exist in this world, that acknowledges interdependance without subjugation, without 'claims' on other lives, may be reachable if we can grasp it in time.

Ward C.
Ward C.8 years ago

...and before the laco-ovos chime in on this, there's not a single solitary shred of difference between exploiting a hen for her eggs or exploiting her for her flesh.

There's not a shred of difference between exploiting a dairy cow for her flesh or exploiting her for her milk.

These animals will be killed when we're done using them as egg and milk producing machines, and you already know that.

There's no fundamental difference between killing a human unnecessarily today, tomorrow or next week. That human still ends up dead, for no justifiable reason whatsoever.

The same applies to any other animal we use for food.

John C.
John Carbonaro8 years ago

...not doing the animal any favors.
Let me clarify that humans need to depend on/use nature to flourish, but we can accomplish that without specifically targeting sentient others as the source for our sustanence. Vegans, like everyone, can always do more, get better at living cruelty free. Animals obviously suffer and express in various ways their wish to live out their one cosmological life in this universe. Why deny them?