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6 Mar 2017

LET'S TALK ABOUT ANIMALS

To keep a balance on my blog, I decided to post something more serious today. Not because I prefer these subjects over more fun posts or DIY's, but because I'm passionate about educating people on important subjects that really matter.
Today's post is about animals. Don't get your hopes up though, it's not going to be fun or cute. I'm talking about being environmentally and ethically responsible and health conscious.



I stopped eating meat about 7 months ago. I used to love eating meat, but I don't feel like I'm missing out on something now. Eating vegetarian or vegan allows you to try out new plant based foods and discover new flavours. I'm not completely vegan yet, you can read about that here.


This post is not about me trying to ‘convert’ you to veganism. I’m just going to talk about the reasons why I personally stopped supporting the animal farming industry. I’ll also talk about some general misconceptions about being vegetarian or vegan.


Okay, let me start with the misconceptions!

Meat is healthy and you need it to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

FALSE
Tons of research tells us that eating meat (red meat in particular) is linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease (high cholesterol).


But you do need meat for protein and iron.

FALSE
There is quite a bit of protein and iron in meat, that's true, but what a lot of people don't know is that there are so many plant based foods packed with protein and iron as well. For me, the health benefits of not eating meat far outweigh any benefit there might be of eating meat. Besides, natural protein is way better for your body than animal protein. Since I stopped eating meat, my hair and nails actually grow faster than they did before. That must mean something, right?


Eggs are a must in a healthy diet.

FALSE
I’m not going to lie about this, I haven’t found research that directly links eggs to diseases. So that’s a good thing, of course. I did find a Harvard article that states that eating eggs is in the middle of the health and heart disease risk spectre, with sugary and refined options being a lot worse and whole-grain, plant based choices being a lot better. I personally choose to stay away from eggs because I don’t like the taste of it, but also because of ethical reasons that I’ll explain a bit further in this post.


You need milk for calcium, right?

FALSE
Just like breast milk is meant for babies and infants, cow’s milk is meant for baby calves. Well, we (as adults) don’t drink breast milk, so why do people drink cow’s milk then? For calcium? For healthy bones? It’s a fact that cow’s milk contains calcium and vitamin D, but there are plenty of cheap, healthy, delicious and vegan replacements for these things. You don’t have to drink milk that is meant to help grow baby cows in order to be a healthy human. :) Besides, researchers have linked the consumption of dairy to cancers (mainly breast cancer) and acne.


But surely fish is necessary?

FALSE
A serving of fish now and then is considered to be good for you because of its omega-3’s and mercury. Little do most people know that eating up to three or more portions of fish per week actually leads to omega-3 and mercury levels that are way too high to be healthy. Again, my choice
not to eat fish has to do with ethical and environmental reasons.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let me explain my two main reasons why I stay away from animal products.


ENVIRONMENT


Greenhouse gases 


In high school, I used to think I was doing the environment a big favour because I went to school by bike, I printed double-sided, I just did all these little things that I believed were helping in any way. Little did I know that animal agriculture is actually the biggest contributor to global warming. 51% of all greenhouse gases come from livestock and their by-products, whereas only 13% (!) comes from transport! And remember, transport includes all cars, buses, boats, plains, … from all over the world. How did I not know that breeding animals is responsible for almost 4 times the greenhouse gases produced by transport?


Water


Did you know that 2500 gallons of water (or almost 10000 litre) is needed to produce one pound (450 grams) of beef? Or that 477 gallons of water (or almost 2000 litre) is needed for 8 eggs? And that you need 1000 gallons of water (3800 litre) to produce a single gallon (3.8 litre) of milk? That basically means that you could drink a thousand glasses of water for each glass of milk. You might not believe these numbers, I know I didn’t when I first read them. But once you look a bit further, it actually adds up. Those large amounts of water aren’t directly consumed by the animals themselves (I mean, a cow couldn’t possibly drink thousands of litres of water), but by the crops that are grown to feed the livestock.


Land
45% of all land on earth is occupied by livestock. That’s crazy, right? About 1.5 acres of rainforest is cut down every second. That is more than one American football field worth of rainforest, gone in a split second. 91% of this deforestation is for animal agriculture. Just so they can put cows or crops to feed the cows on it.


Oceans


For every pound of fish that is caught, 5 pounds of other marine life is caught unintendedly and thrown away as by-kill. That includes whales, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and other ocean species who get caught up in the nets of fishermen. What might be even scarier: it’s probable that by 2048, our oceans will be completely fishless. I can’t image being 51 years old, swimming in an ocean without sea life.


Other
Besides the things mentioned above, I haven’t even touched on the subject of wildlife distinction, waste and antibiotics. You can visit www.cowspiracy.com to learn more if you’re interested.



ANIMAL WELLBEING


All animals in factory farms don’t receive proper food, air or space and most never get to see daylight. (I’m talking about factory farms (where almost all meat and dairy comes from), not small family businesses.

Chickens
Unlike what you might think, chickens are remarkably smart animals. They can recognise each other’s faces out of a hundred other chickens. They also develop hierarchy in their ‘packs’ and are great problem-solvers.
Chickens in factory farms only get an average of 0,6 square foot (or 5,6 dm2) of space, that’s less (!) than an A4 piece of paper, which means they can’t ever stretch out their wings. Because it gets crowded so quickly, they become overly aggressive and start picking each other. To prevent that from happening, every chicken’s beak is painfully burnt or cut off without anaesthetics.

Broiler chickens (or meat chickens)
These chickens are raised for their meat and get given vitamins, hormones and antibiotics so that their body grows at an abnormal rate.

Layer hens (or egg-laying chickens)
Half of all new-born chicks are suffocated or ground up alive because they’re male and don’t serve of any function because they can’t lay eggs.
And what about free-range chickens? According to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), chickens are considered free-range if ‘the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.’ It is not stated when, where and how often they should be outside. That means that if a chicken gets to be outside for one minute each year, it’s still considered a free-range chicken. Something to think about, isn’t it?


Pigs
Just like chickens, pigs get really aggressive because of the lack of space to move around. To cope with that aggression, they start biting each other’s tails off. Many farmers choose to cut the tails off beforehand (without anaesthetics and through the bone).
Pigs are forced to give birth or hard concrete or metal floors. They’re also continuously impregnated until their body can’t cope any longer.


Cows
Just like the fate of chickens and pigs, the horns of cows are also cut off to prevent them from killing each other. The way cows are killed might actually be one of the cruellest. I’m not even brave enough to write it down, it’s that shocking. And on that note, I think I might end this post here.





It honestly breaks my heart. That's all I can say. And the worst part is, is our own fault. I know I said that this wasn’t going to be about me trying to convince you, but I do hope that you're inspired now. I hope that you'll reconsider. That you feel encouraged to change a life-long habit. That you’ll start living and eating more consciously. That does not mean becoming vegan straight away, that step is totally and only up to you. All I can do is share my knowledge and lifestyle choices.


Documentaries worth watching:
  • Cowspiracy (on Netflix) (about the environmental impact)
  • Forks over Knifes (on Netflix) (about the health concerns)
  • Earthlings (on YouTube and on Netflix in some countries) (about the animals)



Sources:

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