A vegan lifestyles addresses three main issues – animals, the environment, and good health.
All animals used in the production of animal products, be it meat, eggs, dairy, leather or otherwise, are ultimately viewed as machines, here for our personal use. Each animal has their own welfare concerns; how they are treated in day to day life – the food they get, shelter and protection, the medical treatment received – and at the end of the day, when these animals have served their purpose, they are disposed of.
This also applies for vegetarian productions such as dairy and eggs. Vegetarian products are not no-kill products. Only 50% of cows and hens are born as females – the useful sex – and so 50% of animals born for these industries are killed at birth. Calves, the unwanted by-product of the dairy industry are either killed for veal, or as a direct waste product. Animals used in production have a greatly shortened life, and at a premature age when their output reduces, they are killed.
While ‘free range’ addresses some of the welfare issues, it does not solve all the issues. Animals raised in free range condition are still treated as machines. Not only is ‘free range’ a somewhat meaningless marketing term – many free range farms restrict their animals to such confined outdoor spaces they don’t receive the freedom you would imagine – so their welfare concerns are not addressed. The animals are still just units, and at birth some (half) of the units don’t meet specifications. When production declines, free range animals still suffer the same fate as others.
Talking about organic would just be repeating the above. Organically produced animal products are not any better, and can in some cases even be worse than conventional production means.
Animal production has a devastating impact on the environment. The UN reports that 18% of global greenhouse gases can be attributed to the animal sector. There are further effects through farm runoff polluting waterways, degradation of land, and destruction of forests for pasture or to grow food for animals.
In return for saving the animals and the environment, veganism rewards you with a healthy lifestyle. Removing animal products from the diet often makes one feel more energetic, and can even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.