Ahimsa: The Solution without Animal Suffering
A Scientific and Spiritual View — III
In part I of this series of articles we saw that most scientists agree that all vertebrates, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish are to a certain extent conscious, have feelings and can suffer pain. Spiritually, evidence strongly suggests that animals have a soul, often a group soul, but there are certainly animals that have already been individualised. And there are clear indications for reincarnation of animals, as appears from conversations with these animals.
In part II we learnt that we cannot ignore a single animal species in the ecosystem. If we think that at least some of the insects can be exterminated and therefore use a lot of plant protection products, this will eventually turn against us. Insects are an essential part of biodiversity. In today’s intensive livestock farming, animals are used as machines producing animal flesh, milk, and eggs, and are often treated that way. In the light of today’s knowledge, this is no longer acceptable.
Our current diet, based on himsa, or violence, against the animal kingdom, has negatively influenced people’s thinking; it has become more violent than the thinking of vegetarians. Our animal flesh and dairy production are reminiscent of human slavery history. In addition, intensive livestock farming makes a major contribution to global warming. It is inevitable that we have to give animals rights based on their own nature and capabilities. Avoiding any flesh, eggs, and dairy products is the best way to reduce animal suffering associated with intensive livestock farming and its environmental impact on the planet.
A plant-based lifestyle does not have to be boring (Photo: Depositphotos)
Should we all be vegan?
That would be the best choice for the planet and our health. However, it would be an illusion, at least in the short term. Yet it would have a huge impact on the world if we all became vegan. Look at the consequences of choosing to eat animal flesh and dairy products:
• 70–75 billion (1 billion = 1,000 million) animals, mainly cattle, pigs, and chickens, are bred, brutally treated, and killed for the flesh and dairy products that people consume every year.
• 2.7 trillion (1 trillion = 1,000 billion) fish and other marine animals are killed for human consumption, 40% of which are just caught and thrown away (being the wrong kind or size) and should not be killed at all. Fish also have feelings.
• Food production is responsible for more than 25% of global CO2 emissions, the vast majority of which, up to 80%, is caused by livestock farming.
• The consumption of flesh and dairy products accounts for 83% of the global use of agricultural land.
• 50 million hectares of forest have been cleared in the last ten years. 80% of this is for industrial agriculture, primarily in- tended for growing livestock feed, palm oil, and cocoa.
Large deforestations are taking place on the planet at a rapid pace, especially for industrial agriculture (Photo: Depositphotos)
Is a vegan diet healthy?
When people switch to a vegan diet, those around them may worry about whether vegans will get enough protein and other necessary nutrients. The question is whether this is justified. Should it not be the vegans who worry, in the case of flesh- eaters, whether the latter are eating in a healthy enough manner?
The fact is that the vast majority of the studies carried out show that a vegan diet has more fibre, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, folic acid and vitamins A, C, and E than the standard omnivorous diet .
Scientists are generally of the opinion that a vegan diet reduces the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancer . This is partly due to not eating flesh or processed foods. In addition, vegans often eat foods that appear to have a protective effect against cancer, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruit.
However, there is also a limitation. Vegans can build up a vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin is mainly taken from animal products such as flesh, dairy and fish. B12 is important for converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy, and it also helps protect your brain cells. To avoid this deficiency, it is re- commended to eat sea vegetables such as several types of algae like kelp, nori, and others, fermented vegetarian foods such as coconut milk yogurt, and other vitamin B12 supplements.
Many nuts, legumes and fruits protect the body against diseases (Photo: Depositphotos)
Can we feed the world population without animal protein?
In 2050, the UN expects the Earth to hold 9.7 billion residents. That is three billion more than the 2019 population. These three billion extra mouths will not only have to be fed, but many of the cur- rent residents will adjust their eating habits due to their increased prosperity. That means a disproportionately greater flesh and dairy consumption than is currently the case, because flesh and dairy in countries where relatively little animal food is currently eaten (think of India, China, and Brazil) are seen as luxury products, and if one can afford it one will want to eat that too. If development continues at its current rate — with a growing world population, rising prosperity, and consequently the demand for more food — then we run the risk of much further exceeding the current Earth’s capacity.
With all the associated risks — sea levels rising, forests disappearing, bio- diversity crumbling, both on land and in water bodies — ecosystems are brought out of balance, putting at risk natural cycles of vital importance for humans. If we do nothing, the environmental impact of food production will increase by another 50 to 90% by 2050, writes a group of renowned international scientists in a recent article in the journal Nature. This will exceed the limits of our planet . Thus the current consumption of animal flesh and dairy products is a recipe for disaster.
Animal flesh and dairy are not efficient for feeding the world’s population. Converting from cattle feed to flesh is largely inefficient. For example, only 3% of vegetable calories are converted into calories in beef, a nutritional loss of 97%. The yield is better for other meats, but still only 20% for chicken, the best-scoring piece of flesh. In addition, due to the high flesh consumption, protein intake in North America, Europe and Australia is 70% higher than is healthy for us.
In short, our current nutrition strategy, with a lot of animal proteins, cannot last. Change is necessary. As Albert Einstein proclaimed: “The World will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Doing nothing also makes you responsible for what happens.
Doing nothing also makes you responsible for what happens (source: [A])
If we start growing food for people in the arable land that is now used for growing cattle feed, we can grow food for many more people.
1. Feeding vegetable protein directly to humans is much more efficient, at least with a factor of 1 in 6, because animals on average use 6 kilos of vegetable protein to produce one kilo of animal protein.
2. Far more agricultural land is available for food, as 83% of the current global use of agricultural land is now used for live- stock farming, which can then be used directly to grow crops to feed people.
Fruits and vegetables are grown on agricultural land in order to produce food, directly for people and not through the intermediary of the animal (Photos: Depositphotos)
Of course, it is not just about proteins, there is a lot of room to grow all kinds of vegetables and fruit. We will even be able to choose only the richest agricultural lands, and we can make the poorer soils available for planting the 1,200 billion trees needed to reverse a significant part of the climate impact . An additional advantage of this combination is that many trees absorb CO2, thus enabling the climate objectives of a maximum of one and a half degrees of warming and, on the other hand, the emission of greenhouse gases by livestock farming completely disappears; thus two issues get resolved at the same time.
Many people are left with the question of whether we can farm without animal manure. That question can also be answered positively. Agriculture based on rock flour and seaweed preparations is possible, and we can completely omit all animal manure.
Is the ideology of carnism correct?
Carnism, as defined by Wikipedia, is the prevailing ideology that conditions people to justify the consumption of animal products, in particular flesh from certain animals. We are therefore conditioned to eat flesh and dairy products because our culture has always done so. Most of us were raised with dairy and flesh and we were taught that it was necessary for our health. At the same time, we have learned that we must treat our pets well, and we do — they are often our friends.
So how can we treat the farm animals brutally, kick them, beat them, imprison them in far-too-small cages in which they can hardly move, fatten them up so that they can hardly walk, remove their young as soon as they are born and kill them even though they are perfectly healthy (young roosters are being chopped or gassed, young bulls are being slaughtered, all as residual products), and much more? This is possible because our ideology allows this; we consider it normal, necessary, and natural.
But if we realize that this is an ideology, just like veganism, a belief system, then we can change it too. Earlier parts of this article have clearly shown that there is no need to eat flesh and dairy products, either for our health (to the contrary, actually) or to have enough nutrition or protein. We can thrive without animal products. So, is the only reason we continue to eat flesh and dairy just that we like it so much? How is that justifiable, if you think about all the animal suffering we cause?
Here is a part of a conversation that animal interpreter Eddy Mulder had with a cow:
Mulder: Cow, can we talk?
Cow: Yes, what do you want? (A bit surly, not really benevolent)
M: I will introduce myself . . .
C: I don’t know if I can tell you much, but just ask.
M: What was life like on the farm or in the farming industry?
C: I was a farm cow. We were 60– 80 cows in a cowshed, where we all had our permanent place, with hardly any movement. That was very annoying, nothing to do, and usually just standing, which caused pain in our hooves and joints. So, then we used to lie down. But lying down and getting up again was very difficult and painful. In fact, my joints always hurt and that was not pleasant.
M: How was the milking?
C: I didn’t like it, but at least we did get some attention from people. This person was usually nice, they’d often pet me if I behaved and stood still neatly. But sometimes my joints hurt so much that I couldn’t stand still and then I got hit on my bones and that hurt too.
M: What was it like to become pregnant?
C: Getting pregnant was no fun, but once I had endured it, I was allowed to spend a while in a meadow with other cows. By the time I got my young one, I went back inside. Then I got my own shed where I could move. It was fun, I had something to do, I could take care of it, sniff it and lick it. But never for long, my young one was taken away and I never saw it again. I was put in the cowshed again, another place in the same shed and moreover, I missed my young. Even greater boredom came back with the joint pains. Not nice at all.
M: What was it like when you were taken to the slaughter?
C: I don’t really want to talk about that.
The cow Eddy Mulder talked to (Photo: Depositphotos)
The international panel of climate researchers from the United Nations (IPCC) issued a report in August 2019 in which they wrote, among other things, that a more plant-based diet should be used to curb global climate change. Agricultural use for animals has a much greater impact on the climate compared to agricultural use for plants . The World Wildlife Fund responds: “Our current food system is the greatest threat to Nature worldwide. By turning to Nature-friendly agriculture, consuming more plant-based foods instead of flesh and dairy, and combating food wastage, we can make a major contribution to solving the global climate crisis.”.
What are the alternatives for farmers?
If the whole world were to eat vegan, what would happen to farmers who keep animals? Many farmers once started live- stock farming out of love for their animals. There are wonderful stories from farmers who started out of idealism and really wanted to give and continue to give the animals the best possible life. Still they have trouble with the livestock industry. They have to make the choice at some point to bring their animals to slaughter. That is difficult, especially if you are locked up in a system that requires you to produce flesh. You can take good care of your pigs and give them a beautiful life; yet there will come a time when the pig has to go to be slaughtered. More and more farmers have a guilty conscience about this.
The good thing is that a whole movement has started that supports farmers to make the transition from cattle to agricultural farming. The United States, Canada, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, and Israel are countries where movements have started to support farmers in this enormous transition, and with success. It helps them with their conscience and they happily go through life growing vegetables, even without using animal manure, because it is possible.
There are no alternatives to the horrible animal abuse places that we know today are found in many countries — the intensive livestock farming. Only the removal of these animal factories is a solution.
Which alternatives to flesh are out there?
It would be an illusion to assume that suddenly no one eats flesh anymore. After all, there are still people who shoot a lion or an elephant for fun and proudly pose on Facebook. These “creatures” will continue to eat animal flesh at all costs. Unfortunately, the costs will be accordingly high for them.
But for all good-natured people who do care about animal suffering, human health, and global ecology, and who feel responsible for what they do to animals and the world as a whole, there are good alternatives. There are many flesh substitutes that are based on soy, coconut, corn or other vegetable products, with names like “Beyond Meat”, “Impossible Burger”, a meatless burger that can bleed like a beef, and so on. Real hamburger experts can hardly distinguish between the two, and some opt for the vegan variant, that is how delicious these burgers are. However, some of these imitations have been over-processed and are not so good for human health.
Many substitutes for real meat and dairy products can be found on the internet. More and more supermarkets also offer vegan varieties. (source: [B])
In addition, there are also many alternatives for the people who miss dairy: coconut, soy, almond, oat, and, recently, even banana milk, and so forth. For the cheese lovers among us, who can hardly do without their daily slice, there are now more and more non-dairy alternatives that have a decent to good taste. These are based on coconut fat, potato flour, or nuts and even include specific types such as camembert, blue cheese, and so on.
In a few years, there will be cultured meat on the market, real meat that has been grown from stem cells of the relevant animal that was not killed for it. The same applies to leather products or other products for which, until now, an animal was used and therefore also killed. Developments are moving very fast and the expectations of venture investors in these products are very high. Think about it: the current method of producing flesh and dairy products through an enormous amount of animal suffering, land use, and negative environmental impacts cannot be sustained. If there are alternative products to real flesh, to which most of these object- ions do not apply, you have a world product.
Alternatives are being developed for animal tests that give much better results than using cultured cells from the test animal.
There are many misunderstandings about vegans and how delicious it can be (source: [C])
Times are changing, how long until we get there?
An unmistakable proportion of young people are opting for a vegan lifestyle. There are not many figures, but in 2010 there were 67 million vegans in the world and that number is growing rapidly, going by the interest on Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
• Search results from Google Trends show a worldwide increase in interest in veganism between 2004 and 2018. Top countries are Israel, Australia, Canada, Austria, and New Zealand.
• In the United States, there has been a 600% increase in the number of people who identify themselves as vegan over the last three years. In the United Kingdom this is 350% compared to 10 years ago.
• A vegetable-based diet is increasing in popularity in Asia. The Chinese government has published new dietary guidelines that encourage the population of 1.3 billion people to reduce their flesh consumption by 50%.
Scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute concluded in 2011 that an opinion that is supported by 10% of the people in the group can quickly turn into a group opinion, because a point arises where an opinion, way of life or philosophy suddenly becomes “cool”, and everyone wants to belong to this group. A completely different study by Dr Ian Pearson, a refined futurologist who was proven right in 85% of his prognostications, showed that it takes about 30 years for an idea that was considered impossible to become reality. This applies to broad social changes that were first dismissed and in which, in the end, almost everyone participated. Thanks to social media, this trend can now be accelerated. So there is hope.
Because of my research in writing this series of articles, things have changed for me too. I thought I was doing well as a vegetarian. But that is far from the truth. Of course, it is nice that in theory no animals have to die for our food, but in practice it is different. Milk is taken from the cow, milk intended for her calves. If the calf is a bull, that is a pity, it is a residual product that is often killed immediately or first beaten as a crate calf and then killed. Chickens lay eggs, but as soon as a rooster emerges from the egg, it becomes a residual product and is destroyed. By eating dairy and cheese, people contribute almost as much to animal suffering as when they eat flesh. I had no choice but to draw my own conclusions, and became a vegan.◊
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