This World Vegan Day, we’re asking everyone to go vegan for 24 hours. This is a simple yet powerful decision, to show the world we can live without animal products and make a positive change for millions of species on the brink of extinction due to industrialised animal agriculture.
We’ve compiled this list to help answer some of the most common questions about veganism before World Vegan Day on Friday 1 November.
1. What is veganism?
Vegans don't eat, wear or use anything from animals - whether from land (meat, dairy, eggs, honey, shellac, leather, fur, etc) or water (fish, prawns, crab, lobster, etc). Vegans also exclude, as far as is practicable, all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty.
Vegans try and avoid contributing to all forms of animal suffering. It includes the food we eat, the products we buy and even the clothes we wear. It is more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle that minimises suffering and aims to be as sustainable as possible.
2. Can you get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet?
Most definitely! There has been a tonne of research into vegan diets which shows that not only can you be healthy on a vegan diet, it’s actually healthier than an animal-products based diet.
Plants have all the nutrients we need to eat a balanced and healthy diet, without any of the carcinogenic properties of meat and much less saturated fat. Vegans should take a B12 supplement at least and research the foods they should be eating, as we don’t get B12 from animal products – animals are often injected with B12, so we need to take the supplement ourselves via a spray or tablet. Visit Viva! Health for more information regarding health on a vegan diet.
3. But didn’t we evolve to eat meat?
This is a common misconception. During hunter-gatherer times, humans would have only eaten meat on the rare occasion they successful hunted, and would mainly sustain themselves on plants, nuts and berries.
This can be seen in our digestive systems and mouth shapes which have evolved differently to carnivorous animals. We have longer guts – allowing us to digest lots of plant materials – and our teeth are not designed to tear flesh or hold struggling prey.
This is why humans cook meat before eating it and why we’re no good at munching uncooked bones. As for our sharp teeth, gorillas are entirely vegan – as are almost all primates – and yet have far longer and sharper canine teeth than human beings!
4. Other animals eat meat, why shouldn’t we?
We’ve evolved to have a conscience that allows us to have empathy for other beings than ourselves. While other animals have to eat for survival, humans can survive on a vegan diet, rendering eating animals totally unnecessary. We know no animal wants to die, so killing an animal for no reason is very different than an animal killing on instinct.
Secondly, the way humans currently farm animals causes immense suffering destroys the habitats of wild animals causing a mass extinction and is responsible for the current climate emergency. The animal agriculture industry is driven by money, not necessity, and is causing immense suffering to billions of animals. Can industrialised animal farming really be compared to an animal acting on instinct?
5. Some animals are bred to be eaten. Why is this wrong?
No animal wants to die. Whether an animal has been reared for food or not, they all have a strong survival instinct, so to kill them for food is to deny them their most basic right: the right to live.
All animals can think, feel and experience emotions. Does it make a right to cause an animal suffering for their entire life before slaughtering them, just because the animal was bred into this system?
Additionally, industrialised animal agriculture threatens millions of species who are on the brink of extinction, not just those killed for food. Animal agriculture is behind the climate crisis we are currently in. The industry produces more greenhouse gasses than all the trains, planes, cars, busses and boats in the world. Wild animals are left without homes as climate change alters their habitats beyond recognition, while others’ homes are burned to the ground to make room for livestock.
6. I heard soya is causing rainforest destruction, won’t this only get worse if more people go vegan?
This argument is brought up a lot at the moment due to the destruction of the Amazon. Rainforests are being destroyed and thousands of animals are left without shelter or food all so we can grow soya. If more people go vegan, won’t the demand for soya go up even more?
Well, not quite. Currently, almost 70 per cent of the soy grown in South America is fed to livestock, and 90 per cent of Amazon's destruction is to grow more animal feed or create grazing room for farmed animals.
This is an extremely land-intensive way to produce food. If everyone went vegan, we would need less land as more people would be consuming high protein soy and other plant-based foods, rather than feeding high protein foods to animals and eating them.
This would mean we need to clear less land to grow soya and graze animals, so going vegan would reduce the habitat destruction occurring in the Amazon and around the world.
7. OK, so what’s wrong with fish?
Studies show that fish feel pain and avoid suffering the same as all animals. Fishing techniques such as the traditional fishing hook are therefore very painful for the fish, as is suffocating them to death.
Additionally, overfishing is causing immense damage to the world’s largest and most delicate ecosystems – our oceans. Up to 90 per cent of fish populations have been depleted from the oceans, with bottom-sea trawlers decimating everything in their path. And this level of destruction isn’t even just for our food. Almost 70 per cent of wild fish that are made into non-food products is used to feed farmed fish and livestock, with each tonne of farmed salmon eating three tonnes of wild-caught fish – clearly, this is not sustainable.
8. Don’t you think we should focus on human rights issues before fighting for animal rights?
Veganism is often portrayed as solely an animal rights movement, but there are many aspects of veganism that tackle human rights problems as well.
World hunger, climate change affecting the world’s poorest and farmer exploitation are all tackled through veganism. And by consuming animal products, we allow for these problems to worsen.
We could feed 4 billion more people if we switched to a vegan diet, rather than feeding these same crops to animals for the most privileged to indulge in. We could also limit the climate crisis which is going to disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people, as developing countries are at higher risk of destruction and don’t have money to relocate to safer places. Additionally, farmers are severely underpaid for their work in some parts of the world. By switching to a plant-based diet, there will be less intensive demands for farmers to maximise productivity, as we can feed more people with fewer crops, so they will be less exploited.