VEGGIE & VEGAN
Veggie Month : The heart of the matter
Every March, Animal Aid concentrates on its annual promotion of vegetarianism, known as Veggie Month. We do so because a meat-free diet is at the heart of our overall campaign, combining an anti-cruelty message with the more positive promotion of a compassionate way of life.
The reason we push the 'go veggie' message so passionately is because it really is the quickest, easiest and most immediate way that an individual can demonstrate opposition to animal suffering. The idea is simple: stop eating animals and you save their lives. And we are talking about millions and millions of lives.
In the UK alone, more than 900 million animals are slaughtered for food annually. That's 2.5 million a day, 100,000 an hour, 1,700 a minute, 30 per second. Not only are their deaths at the slaughterhouse a terrifying, violent experience, they usually follow lives filled with pain, frustration and discomfort inside crowded and dirty sheds on factory farms.
Additionally, the number of fish killed globally each year is impossible to assess accurately. In the UK, fish farming is second only to broiler farming in terms of numbers - more fish are bred and killed than pigs, sheep and cattle combined. The number of fish killed at sea, however, is so unquantifiable that it is measured only in tonnes. The average meat-eater will consume 2000 animals in his or her lifetime, and (very approximately) half a tonne of fish - at a rough estimate, about 2,000.
Vegetarianism - the rational choice
Perhaps in the past there was a certain stigma attached to being vegetarian. It would conjure up preconceived ideas of kaftans and sandals and provoke ridicule at the thought that brown rice, lentils and lettuce leaves were all that "they" ever ate. Nowadays, with thousands of people going veggie each week, it is so mainstream that even fast food chains have a veggie burger on their menus.
For the majority of vegetarians, the most compelling reasons for giving up meat are the welfare of animals and/or the health benefits. Meat and dairy products are laden with saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, both known to be major contributory factors towards heart disease and stroke. Cutting out animal products lowers the chances of contracting these diseases and is also acknowledged as beneficial in the fight against some major cancers.
According to established authorities such as the American Dietetic Association:
"Appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases... A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients [protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids, and iodine]... Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence... Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer."
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2003;103:748-765.
There are also important environmental reasons for going veggie. A plant-based diet makes much better use of the planet's precious resources. It takes 3,500 litres of water to produce 1kg of chicken meat and 100,000 litres for every kilo of beef, compared with 500 litres per kg of potatoes or 1910 litres for every kilo of rice. A hectare of crops will feed up to ten times as many people as a hectare of land used to graze livestock. In a world of dwindling resources, vegetarianism is the only rational diet.
Every little bit helps
There are a number of stages along the way to a completely animal-free diet, and taking any step in the right direction helps. Although we encourage veganism, we aren't here to tell people how to live their lives, and it is up to each individual to decide. Our task is to offer advice and support along the way. Most importantly, we can demonstrate that eliminating meat and/or dairy products is not all about self-sacrifice. On the contrary, it offers the possibility of enriching your life with the satisfaction of knowing that you are no longer supporting barbaric industries and that animals are not being killed in your name. And, of course, there is the additional bonus that you may well add years of healthy living to your life. Having said that we want to encourage any measures that might reduce animal suffering, we nonetheless hope that we can persuade anyone subscribing to the "I only eat chicken and fish" philosophy to reconsider. More than 800 million chickens and 70 million fish are farmed for food, and one chicken breast or portion of cod at the chip shop equates to one animal dying unnecessarily for a person's dinner. Red meat may be regarded as the worst "baddie" from a health viewpoint, but nor are chicken or fish necessary for a balanced diet.
First steps to an animal-friendly future
If going vegetarian sounds daunting, start by making simple changes. Leave the ham off your pizza and have mushrooms instead; try a salad and houmous sandwich instead of tuna and mayo; swap your chicken tikka masala for a vegetable biriyani. Have one veggie dinner a week and you'll be saving lives. Step it up to one meat-free day a week, then two and then three - until you're happy to have had your last meaty meal. If you are partial to a fried breakfast and can't bear the thought of never eating a BLT again, don't panic: veggie sausages are so delicious some meat-eaters prefer them, and the smell of sizzling Veggie Rashers (fake bacon) is so like the real thing that you'll find yourself checking the packet, just to make sure.
Vegan - the V word!
Let's talk about that other "v" word. Going vegan is not such a big deal. It's not about joining a weird cult and you won't stick out like a sore thu