Does Eating Vegan Food Really Make a Difference?

Does Eating Vegan Food Really Make a Difference?

  • Sarah Von Alt
  • Sarah Von Alt

There’s no question that it is sometimes difficult to see the impact our choices have on others. This is certainly the case with farmed animals, who are kept out of sight, generally in remote, rural locations. This distance makes it easy to forget the misery and deprivation animals suffer at factory farms (which is why undercover investigations exposing abuse are so important). In fact, farmed animals are easily the most abused animals on the planet. From the moment they are born, they are subjected to cruelties that few of us can even imagine, including extreme confinement and mutilations without painkillers.

But after discovering the horrific abuse faced by billions of animals each year, many people still wonder whether eating vegan food will really make a difference. And the short answer is yes. People have much more power to change things than they realize. When we stop buying meat and other animal products, the demand decreases and in turn, farmers breed fewer animals. In addition, the growing number of vegans, vegetarians, and meat reducers helps expand the availability of plant-based options at national chains—making it easier for others to follow suit.

But that’s just the beginning. Here are a few more ways that vegans are changing the world:

• Protecting the Planet

Animal excrement and other agricultural runoff from large-scale farms has polluted nearly one-third of rivers in the U.S. By eating vegan foods, we withdraw our support of an industry that wastes and pollutes our precious resources.

Arguably the most important environmental issue of our time, climate change threatens our very existence on the planet. By ditching meat and other animal products, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

• Helping Endangered Species

What does meat have to do with extinction? More than you may think. In addition to its negative impact on global climate, animal agriculture significantly contributes to habitat loss, threatening the existence of thousands of species. In Tanzania, for instance, cows are depleting topsoil and destroying natural vegetation at an alarming rate. This poses a serious problem for native animals, including elephants, zebras, and rhinos.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, reducing meat consumption is one of the best ways to save endangered species.

• Taking a Stand for Wild Animals

Every year millions of wild animals, including bears, coyotes, and foxes, are killed because they are perceived as a threat to livestock. In the United States alone, roughly 2 million wild animals are killed each year.

And it’s not just land animals. According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, more than 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises die every year as a result of being caught in fishing gear and nets. The commercial fishing industry also kills countless non-target species of fish, turtles, and other marine animals.

• Protecting the Rainforest

Raising animals for food requires a lot of land. A 2010 report by the United Nations states that over one-third of the earth’s landmass is used for animal agriculture. Between 1990 and 2005, beef production was responsible for 71 percent of the deforestation in South America.

According to the World Bank, livestock is culpable for nearly 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction. In Brazil, the world’s second-largest beef producer after the U.S., 80 percent of the forests have been destroyed due to beef production. Farmers have decimated millions of acres across South America for both grazing land and the production of soy, most of which is used to feed livestock.

• Taking a Stand for Workers

While it’s certainly true that animals pay the ultimate price, factory farm workers are exposed to numerous workplace hazards, often causing respiratory illness, PTSD, and infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Just last year, a report revealed that on average one Tyson employee a month is injured by equipment and loses a finger or limb.

And because many farmworkers are undocumented and fear deportation, they have no voice for speaking out against their working conditions or the atrocities they are forced to commit every day.

Factory farms, and the widespread problems they create, are simply out of step with the values most people hold. By eating vegan, we’re working toward a less violent, more compassionate, and more sustainable world. Your choices do make a difference.

Ready to make the switch? Click here for delicious vegan recipes, meal ideas, and helpful tips.