More individuals are deciding to move towards plant-based diets, partly because of widely spreading evidence that it’s healthier and more environmentally friendly.
But how does the decision to eat less animal meat, become a vegetarian, or become a vegan have a positive impact on animals or on the world?
A book entitled: “Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs” proposes that the number “95” is “the average number of animals” that are actually spared every year by the vegan diet of just one person. There are various sources estimating the average consumption of meat by each individual. USA Today had a story reporting that, based on the Vegetarian Calculator, every meat-eater consumes 7,000 animals and fish during their lifetime.
Can veganism, vegetarianism or a huge cutback on the consumption of animal meat truly have a global effect on animals, especially with the amount of hungry individuals worldwide who might be dependent on meat protein?
Three vegans/animal activists: Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, Alka Chandna of PETA and Paul Shapiro of the U.S. Humane Society were asked some questions via email regarding this matter.
The first question was whether or not they felt motivated or inspired when reflecting upon the amount of animals that survive each year, (and wouldn’t otherwise), because of their vegan diet.
Shapiro’s reply was that the issue is about supply and demand and that less demand should equal less supply. Eating less or no animal meat does not mean animals that would’ve otherwise been slaughtered will now be spared, it means animals that would have actually been bred specifically to suffer at factory farms won’t be bred and exploited by the meat trade.
Friedrich’s reply was that by removing the demand, animals are spared from unimaginable suffering. He is highly motivated by being able to live his values each time he sits down to a meal.
Chandna’s reply was not about the amount of animals spared but the suffering and misery she is choosing not to contribute to. She asserts that it was being informed about terrible factory farm conditions that made her choose a vegan diet. She is comfortable knowing that she is not paying for nor contributing to their methods of carrying out their slaughtering business with her actions.
Their answers highlight the views that “animal rescue” in itself is more about approaching the food system from another perspective than filling sanctuaries with spared-from-slaughter animals.
Next, they were asked what their response is to someone pointing out on a worldwide scale that veganism is not practical because individuals (including those in poverty) need to eat meat in order to survive.
Shapiro believes that whether that is or isn’t true, we as individuals (and Americans) “can only control ourselves.”
Friedrich asserts that no one in the U.S. has to consume meat to survive. Legumes and whole grains, which are both healthier and cheaper, would benefit our nation’s poor as well as the affluent. Also, on a more worldwide scale, the diverting of crops into food for animals causes starvation and increases crop costs.
Chandna pointed out that even poorer people can afford fresh vegetables and fruits, and poorer populations tend to eat legumes and grains, not meat products. The amount of resources spent on the production of animal products proves that relying on foods derived from animals is actually a causative to inequality.
The views of these three help to enlighten the impact that our diet choices can have on animal well-being.