Have you ever heard people claim that vegans care more about animals than about people? It’s a common but unfortunate opinion that is based on the assumption that people choose to eat plant-based food only because they care about saving animals – and that they care more about the welfare of farmed animals than they do about the wellbeing of human beings. We would like to challenge this view and clarify that a plant-based diet can go a long way towards contributing to a safer and more beautiful world for people. Here are five reasons why a plant-based diet is central to social justice:
1. Save people by taking action against climate change
Climate change does not only cause the disappearance of vulnerable plant and animal species; it also kills people. There are already 400,000 extra deaths per year, due to unsuccessful harvests, heat stress, flooding and the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue – all of which can be attributed to climate change. This number is expected to rise to 600,000 per year in 2030. Livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. That is 58,000 to 87,000 deaths per year, due to meat and dairy consumption.
2. Help solve world hunger
Every year, 7.7 million people die of hunger. Although there is enough agricultural land available, its usage is unfairly distributed: a lot of valuable arable land is used for the production of biofuel, and for the livestock industry. If we used all agricultural land directly to grow plant-based food for human consumption, we could feed 4 billion more people.
3. Fighting antibiotic resistance
Bacteria become increasingly resistant to antibiotics and every year, 700,000 people die of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. By 2050, the number of deaths caused by antibiotic resistance could reach as much as 10 million.
One of the primary sources of this problem is the high usage of antibiotics in livestock farming, from which it enters the human food system, i.e. the production of meat, milk, and eggs. As much as 70% of antibiotics worldwide are used for cattle. Ensuring a lower demand for animal products can therefore save millions of lives, by reducing the incidence of infectious diseases from antibiotic resistance.
4. Preventing new diseases
Livestock farming is a hotbed for new pathogens that can pass from animal to animal, or from animal to human. Just think of the epidemics that caused waves of panic such as bird flu and swine fever. The bird flu was responsible for 826 human infections between 2003 and 2015, of whom 440 died. We could prevent these kinds of disease outbreaks (and worse) in the future simply by eating plants instead of animals.
5. Improve your own life expectancy
Lastly, plant-based food can improve your own life expectancy by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. If everyone adopted a plant-based diet, mortality from these diseases could be reduced by 10% by 2050 (this amounts to 8 million deaths every year).
In addition to saving human lives, you can also save a lot of animals by choosing to eat more plants. Find out more about the meat, dairy and egg industries and how you can have a positive impact on animals by adopting a plant-based diet.