The Sustainable Way
Curiosity and a spark of interest may be nudging you to dip your toes into the world of veganism. Here are four reasons why we believe that going vegan can help you embark on a wholesome lifestyle that impacts you and beyond.
Meat and Cancer
According to an article by The Guardian in 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report that classified meat in carcinogens groups; which are evaluated based on studies showing the risks of cancer when exposed to humans. The report categorised red meat in Group 2A carcinogens ("probably causes cancer") and processed meat in Group 1 carcinogens ("causes cancer"). To put this into perspective, Group 1 carcinogens include cigarettes and alcohol as well - two common vices that are known to cause certain cancers. So, to clear things up: yes, an extended diet high in meat is not helping you live longer.
The Milk Myth
"We need milk for calcium to build strong bones and meat for protein to grow big and healthy."
Raised on this flawed belief, many of us did not know that drinking cow’s milk strips protein away from your bones, leaving us with an actual calcium deficit when we consume cow’s milk. Vivian Goldschmidt explained that animal protein, including milk, acidifies the body pH which triggers a biological correction to neutralise the damaging acidic protein. Since the human bones contain the highest concentration of calcium, an excellent acid neutraliser, our bodies sacrifice bone density to protect the kidneys and urinary tract because the latter is essential to survival.
Alongside the fact that 65% of the human population has some form of lactose intolerance, modern milking cows are often given antibiotics and injected with a genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to artificially increase milk production. As a result, consuming dairy manipulates our hormones and have been linked to an increased risk of developing prostate and ovarian cancer.
Another concern that seems to surface very often is protein intake. According to Kris Gunnars, a nutrition researcher from Healthline, an average male adult is required to consume about 56g of protein daily, while an average female adult needs about 46g. Most of us hit at least half of our required protein intake by lunchtime, vegan or not.
What we need to look out for is overconsumption of protein, especially when it comes from animal sources. The extra protein that is not used by the body puts a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver. High protein and meat intakes are chock full of saturated fat and cholesterol. Thus, such diets may be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. On the flipside, vegans on average have way lower cholesterol than meat eaters, and risks of inflammation are lower by 1/3. Vegan diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole foods also enjoy lower risks of high blood pressure and hypertension.
We are told to turn off the lights whenever we exit a room, refrain from leaving the tap running, and reduce our use of paper whenever we can. Unbeknownst to us, the most significant contributor to global warming is found right on our plates.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, the meat and dairy industry is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases emissions; more exhaust than that of cars, trucks, boats, and aeroplanes combined. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of deforestation and responsible for 80% of the cleared land. For instance, a single pound of beef on average takes 1800 gallons of water to produce. That huge water footprint is primarily due to the tremendous amount of water needed to grow the grass, forage and feed that a cattle eat over its lifetime.
Additionally, large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture palm oil plantations. Food products that contain palm oil are instant noodles, bread, ice cream, margarine and even our childhood favourite snack - OREOS.
The deforestation of critical habitats has led to a devastating effect on a vast number of plant and wildlife species, including many endangered species, including rhinos, elephants, tigers and thousands of Orang Utans in Asia. Fortunately, many companies have pledged to stop patronising products that contain palm oil and finding sustainable alternatives for their daily necessities.
The Human Rights Watch reported that systematic human rights violations are ingrained in the meat and dairy industry. Furthermore, slaughterhouse and factory farm workers have one of the highest rates of PTSD, anxiety and depression, which can be attributed to the nature of their work.
Investigations by The Guardian in 2016 found that there is a massive “prawn slavery” in Thailand. People are kidnapped onto fishing boats, where they spend their entire lives under the threat of being killed if they stop working or attempt to escape. The Thai government estimates that about 300,000 people work in its fishing industry; 90% of whom are unprotected migrants who are at risk of being trafficked.
A video exposé by PETA revealed the dangerous and inhumane practices of the leather tanning industry in Bangladesh, leading to an estimated 90% of people who work with leather to die before the age of 50. Local children as young as 11, who are paid as little as 50 cents a day, also work in some tanneries without any gloves, boots, or masks. Due to constant exposure to toxic hazards used to process leather, many workers, including children, suffer from severe skin discolouration. The problem expands when toxins from factories enter the streams which flow into nearby communities, poisoning people who live there.
Most dog owners will agree that their pets are capable of feelings and consciousness. However, the concept of sentience is not just exclusive to dogs. It also extends to the millions of animals including dogs, cats, rabbits and birds that are being forced to endure cruel lab practices every year - a regulation that we would not allow our pets to go through. That includes inhaling substances or have chemicals injected into their bodies for various tests. These animals are then subjected to further monitoring and testing so that researchers can look at the effects on their tissues and organs - most do not survive this practice.
Based on PETA's database, there are now more than 3400 companies that have pledged to ditch animal testing and are committed to producing innoxious, efficient and high-quality beauty, household and cleaning products. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the severity of such ruthless practices that more are vouching to shop more consciously.
The truth is, the motivation behind veganism is rarely centred around one single factor and are often intersectional. There are tons of amazing vegan alternatives to all the food we loved growing up, less the detrimental repercussions. Going vegan now is easier than ever before!
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Written by: Alicia Sim
Edited by: Stephanie Wong & Jaslyn Goh