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Arguments For and Against Veganism

FOR Veganism

  • ANIMAL WELFARE: Eating meat requires the death of a living being. Eating dairy usually involves animals being separated from their children, causing distress to both mother and calf. Dairy cattle frequently develop bovine mastitis (a painful infection and inflammation of the udders), and factory farmed animals are kept in cramped conditions and pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones in order to maximise profit. Unlike wild animals, humans do not require meat to survive (and definitely not dairy products from other animals). Eating meat is a choice and, as moral actors, the correct choice is surely to give up meat and dairy.
  • ENVIRONMENT: When cows eat grass, microbes in their gut break down their meal and produce methane. This methane (a greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere via the magic of cow burps and farts, making livestock farming one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Factor in deforestation from land clearance, biodiversity loss, and air and water pollution, and animal agriculture is terrible for the environment.
  • HEALTH: Vegan diets tend to be rich in foods that have proven health benefits: fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans and pulses. A vegan diet is typically higher in fibre, and lower in cholesterol, protein, calcium and salt compared to a non-vegan diet. Research suggests that vegans may have a lower risk of heart disease than non-vegans. It is true that vegans need to supplement their diets with B12, but this is easy to do (e.g. via yeast extracts such as Marmite).

AGAINST Veganism

  • NATURE: Humans (and our ancestors) have eaten meat for an estimated 2.6 million years. In fact, scientists argue that animal protein was vital for helping early hominids develop larger brains, meaning that humans likely wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for eating meat. We evolved to have meat as part of our diets. Animals eat meat and it would be cruel to prevent them from doing so. Well, guess what? Humans are animals too, and meat is a natural part of our diets.
  • CULTURE: Food is a central part of all human cultures. And, around the world, people celebrate their cultures by cooking meat dishes. If the world went vegan, we would lose iconic cultural traditions such as bolognese sauce, tandoori chicken, sashimi, currywurst, and Peking duck.
  • HEALTH: A balanced diet is a healthy diet. Eating moderate amounts of fish, meat, and dairy alongside fruit, vegetables and pulses gives us all the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other things we need to stay healthy. Research does suggest that vegans have a lower risk of heart disease, but that same research also indicates they have a higher risk of strokes (possibly due to B12 deficiency), and it’s unclear whether the supposed health benefits of veganism are anyway less about diet and more about broader lifestyle (e.g. vegans tend to exercise more, be non-smokers, not drink to excess, be more moderate in what they consume, etc.).

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