Do you think it’s impossible to care about more than one issue at a time?
First of all, humans are animals. We are one species among many in the animal kingdom, and we all share the ability to suffer. Humans have qualities that are distinct from other animals, but none of these differences are morally relevant to how we should treat others.
Humans have no biological need to consume the flesh and secretions of non-human animals, and yet 99% of the animals that humans exploit and kill are those sold as “food.” Of this 99%, the vast majority — 70 billion land animals — are animals that we artificially breed into this world only to confine them, mutilate them, and violently kill in their infancy or adolescence. Eliminating this enormous amount of animal suffering would simply mean choosing from the abundance of plant-based food. Order the veggie burger instead of the cow burger, the almond latte instead of the cow latte, and the vegan pizza instead of the one covered in suffering. It does not require that we shift any attention away from human problems.
The benefits of these food choices extends beyond farmed animals to the tens of millions of wild animals (and plants) whose habitats are destroyed for animal agriculture or who are exterminated to protect the profits of animal agriculture.
The animal agriculture industry is infamous for exploiting undocumented workers and creating an unsafe work environment. Choosing plant-based foods helps provide more jobs in plant-based agriculture and food processing.
According to A Well Fed World, eating animal flesh and secretions “reduces the amount of available food and increases the price of basic food staples” because “vast amounts of food are fed to animals to produce meat and other animal-based foods. Animals are extremely inefficient converters of food… that is, they eat much more food than they produce.” Becoming vegan helps humans with food security, which in turn reduces political and economic instability around the world.
Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of climate change, environmental destruction and global depletion of natural resources. The Worldwatch Institute noted that “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.”
A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that global adoption of a vegan diet could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, save 700 billion to 1 trillion dollars in healthcare costs, and save more than 8 million lives by the year 2050.
If you care about reducing human suffering and increasing human health and survival, then you need to go vegan.
Systems of oppression are all connected, stemming from similar false notions of superiority and a misguided belief that might makes right. We can and should work to challenge these ideas at their root. Helping one area of social justice — be it human justice, environmental justice or animal justice — advances all of them. The opposite is also true. Contributing to one injustice, like consuming animal flesh and secretions, also contributes to the exploitation of workers and the environment, climate change, world hunger, and political and economic instability.