Veganism is simply about what you eat. As you delve more into what veganism is all about, you find that it embraces a whole host of ideas, all of which are easily incorporated into the world’s major religions and belief structures. Being vegan is about making a decision to live ethically, in tune with nature, and by becoming vegan your ecological footprint is greatly reduced.
We routinely treat farm animals in a way that we would never consider treating pet animals, or animals from endangered species, yet farm animals each have their own distinct intelligence and personality. Some animal species, such as pigs, are extremely intelligent – more so than dogs or cats – yet our society has conditioned us to believe that farmed animals are not worth of our consideration, love or respect. They are described as “units” and “stock” in the farming trade, and are penned, castrated, branded, impregnated, and finally transported and slaughtered in a manner which is both truly horrific and that does no credit to our own species.
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated” – Mahatma Gandhi
If Gandhi was right when he made the above statement, then one really must ask the question – is the Western World civilized? When we have made such travesties of certain species that they can no longer mate without assistance (turkeys), and their skeletal system can no longer support the huge amount of muscle and fat weight they have been genetically modified to gain (hens, commonly known as “broilers”), we must ask ourselves – are we moving towards civilization or away from it?
“The water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a destroyer” – “The Browning of America,” Newsweek, February 22, 1981,
p.26 (as cited in “Diet For A New America”, John Robbins)
There is no doubt that modern factory farming methods are adept at gaining the greatest amount of animal-derived produce at the lowest financial cost. Western societies are producing more animal produce than ever before, and at a cheaper dollar cost than ever before.
What are the real costs of factory farming?
- Epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and stroke prevalent in Western societies as a direct result of such an animal-derived diet.
- Soil erosion, land degradation, salinification.
- Pollution of waterways with vast amounts of sewerage from factory farms and hen batteries.
- The rapid depletion of subterranean water supplies.
- Degradation of waterway banks by hoofed stock.
- Consumption of vast amounts of water in the production of animal produce.
- Suffering and death of millions of animals daily in the production of a needlessly wasteful, unhealthy and highly-fatted animal-based diet.
In many ways, veganism can be seen as environmentalism put into practice at an everyday level. As Erik Marcus points out in his insightful book, Vegan: The New Ethics Of Eating, it is clear that while the earth can indeed support six billion people, ultimately we are faced with a finite amount of resources: land, clean water, fresh air.
The fact is, a vegan lifestyle is far less detrimental to the earth’s resources than is the current western meat-centered lifestyle. For example, more than 38 per cent of the world’s grain goes to feeding livestock (Erik Marcus,Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, p.164) – and, as Marcus points out;
If humans, especially in developed countries, moved towards more vegetable protein diets rather than their present diets, which are high in animal protein foods, a substantial amount of grain would become available for direct human consumption.
Animal protein is an extremely inefficient way to produce usable protein. Estimates vary from a feed conversion ratio of 4:1 to 30:1, depending on the protein source, the methods of livestock rearing in question, and the methods of crop growth, but it is certain that plant protein is by far the more efficient means of producing protein for human consumption (Ray Herren, The Science of Animal Agriculture, Albany: Denmar Publishers, 1994, p.76).
Ethically speaking, it is not only wasteful to pursue an animal-centered diet, but detrimental to the environment.
Veganism and Religion
The ethics of veganism tie in closely with the ethics of most of the world’s major religions, and the practice of veganism is complementary to the teachings of many of the world’s great prophets and religious teachers.
“A son of the Buddha shall not eat the flesh of any sentient beings. If he eats their flesh, he shall cut off great compassion, as well as the seed of Buddhahood within him.” – From the Fan-wang-jing text.
The Buddha recommended that men should not wear silk, leather boots, furs, or down …and not consume milk, cream, or butter. Only then, he argued, can people truly transcend this world. He argued that both physically and mentally one must avoid the bodies and the by-products of beings, by neither wearing them or eating them. [SOURCE: The Buddhist Diet by Michael Ohlsson]
Put simply, “Blessed Are The Merciful.”
“Jesus’ message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals live miserable lives and die violent, bloody deaths. Jesus mandates kindness, mercy, compassion, and love for all God’s creation.”
[SOURCE: Jesus Was A Vegetarian]
The message of veganism – namely, respect for other creatures, consideration for the planet, the belief in the sanctity of life – ties in closely with the ethics of Christianity.
“How can he practice true compassion who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh? Greater than a thousand ghee offerings consumed in sacrificial fires is not to sacrifice and consume any living creature. – The Tirukural.
Ahimsa, the law of non-injury, is the Hindu’s first duty in fulfillment of his religious obligations to God and God’s creation as defined by Vedic scripture. Hindu tradition states that all of our actions (including our choice of food) have karmic consequences. By involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, even indirectly by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused.
“The beautiful religion of Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God’s creation. The Qur’an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals.”
Thanks to Westernized factory-farming methods that are used in many parts of the world, animals suffer hideously in the industries that kill them to produce meat, milk, and eggs. These products not only bring pain and suffering to the animals themselves, they are also implicated in a variety of human diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The intensive production of animals for food is also extremely damaging to the environment.
[SOURCE: Islamic Concerns] It is quite clear from the above that veganism is an acceptable way of life for devout Muslims.
“There is no difference between the worry of a human mother and an animal mother for their offspring. A mother’s love does not derive from the intellect but from the emotions, in animals just as in humans.”
– Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides).
The following are excerpts from “Vegetarianism: A Spiritual Imperative” by Richard Schwartz:
Proverbs 12:10 states, “The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal.” In Judaism, one who is unnecessarily cruel to animals cannot be regarded as a righteous individual.”
Many great Jewish heroes were chosen because they showed kindness to animals. Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders (Exodus Rabbah 2:2).
Rebecca was judged suitable to be Isaac’s wife because of her kindness in providing water to the camels of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant. There are many Torah laws involving compassion to animals. An ox is not to be muzzled when threshing in a field of corn (Deuteronomy 25:4).
A farmer should not plow with an ox and an ass together (so that the weaker animal would not suffer pain in trying to keep up with the stronger one) (Deuteronomy 22:10).
Animals, as well as people, are to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:10).
The importance of this verse is indicated by its inclusion in the Ten Commandments and its recitation as part of kiddush (sanctification ceremony using wine or grape juice) on Sabbath mornings.
“An it Harm None, Do As You Will.”
According to the Wiccan Rede, Wiccans are instructed to harm none. The teaching does not specify that Wiccans must harm no other human, but that Wiccans must regard all creatures as worthy of their respect and consideration. In the treatment of animals, Wiccans are instructed by the Rede to harm none, and to act in all things according to their conscience.