If you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know that one of my greatest passions is how leading a vegan lifestyle can have a hugely positive impact on the planet, its people and the animals with whom we share it. Veganism is kinda my thing – alongside ethical fashion, less wasteful living and general sustainable shenanigans, I’m all about that plant-based life and dedicate my blog and social platform to promoting it in a positive, inclusive way.
Since going vegan in 2015, my motivation for changing my lifestyle – and sticking to it – has shifted. As I’ve learned more about the different ways animal agriculture affects our world, my perspective on why it is so important that we reduce our consumption of animal products has changed in one particular way: animal welfare is no longer my driving force. I am vegan – but not just for the animals.
It’s hard to put that in words – I worry about how it makes me come across. Perhaps it makes me seem like I don’t really get what veganism is about. I care deeply about animal welfare and am invested in making lifestyle choices which do not contribute to their mistreatment, but my advocacy now focuses mainly on environmental issues – it’s where my heart lies.
It’s all one big, horrible circle.
The impact the meat industry has on the environment encompasses animal welfare and humanitarian issues. The effects of climate change are inextricably linked to animal welfare: the demand for meat results in animals being reared in vast numbers, creating gases that are hugely damaging to the environment. Equally, environmental issues will have (and are already having) a detrimental effect on human beings, particularly those in developing regions. This is not even to mention the fact that the bulk of food being grown (causing devastation to the environment) is being used to feed animals reared for meat, when it could be stretched much further feeding humans. It’s all one big, horrible circle.
Despite this, the overwhelming message coming out of the vegan movement is one against animal cruelty. This message – often promoted using highly emotive language and insensitive comparisons – is an important one, but I can’t help feeling like it is hit and miss when it comes to its primary purpose: convincing omnivores to give plant-based eating a go. I’m sure there are a great number of people out there who became vegetarian overnight after seeing horrifying slaughterhouse footage or watching Earthlings, but is an equal amount of the population unable to connect with animal suffering, turned off by the aggressive and exclusionary methods of activism which are rife within the community?
I can’t help but wonder if we might see even more people switch to plant-based living for the long-term if we were more vocal about the environmental and humanitarian implications of eating animal products. I ran a poll for non-vegans on Twitter which returned interesting results: 52% of the 367 people who voted claim that animal welfare is the main reason they’d consider giving up meat, with 33% citing environmental concerns and just 7% humanitarian crises. On the surface it would seem (provided the results are accurate) that the majority of omnivores would be motivated to make the change by concerns for animal welfare. But could this result also mean that there simply isn’t enough information out there for people to access about how animal agriculture affects, well, us?
I am part of the problem – I could be using my platform more wisely, to promote resources and spread information about the ways veganism can help alleviate humanitarian issues. This is something I want to be better at: you have my word that I’ll try. I don’t want to take away from the very necessary discussion around animal rights – though I’ll never stop talking about how we can make those discussions more compassionate and inclusive – but I can no longer ignore my desire to shout about the very pressing issues facing the planet and its people. I invite you to join me in this cause.