Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Animal Suffering & Compassion

"You can judge a nation, and its moral progress, by the way it treats its animals." - Mohandas Gandhi

About 95% of all animals killed in North America are killed for food every year. In Canada, over 1.5 million animals are killed for their flesh each and every day. The majority of them live and die in factory farms, where their suffering is hidden from most of us.

Anyone who shares their home with a cat or a dog knows that these animals have feelings; they experience joy and fear, and retreat from pain. A chicken doesn't feel any less pain than a cat, a dog, a cow, or for that matter, a human being.

We've been conditioned however, to view food animals as commodities instead of living, feeling beings and throughout our history, we have justified our exploitation of other animals as necessary, if not kind.

But today, as our knowledge of animals and nutrition increases, and with the abundance and variety of healthy, meat-free foods available, there really is no excuse. As Franz Kakfa said, "Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore."

When we begin to look at animals as individuals rather than products, we see that they are just as vulnerable as we are and therefore equally deserving of compassion and respect.
  • age at which dairy calves from factory farms are taken from their mothers: less than 24 hours
  • percentage of dairy calves taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth: 90%
  • pigs raised in total confinement factories (where they never see the light of day until being trucked to slaughter): 65 million
  • percentage of pigs that have pneumonia at time of slaughter: 70%
  • amount of veterinary care a farmed pig receives every four months: 12 minutes
  • percentage of commercial laying hens that spend their lives in 18 by 20 inch wire cages with at least six other birds: 99%
  • U.S. broiler chickens killed in 2004: more than 9 billion
  • percentage of U.S. fish catch thrown away each year: 22%

    “Do we, as humans, having an ability to reason and to communicate abstract ideas verbally and in writing, and to form ethical and moral judgments using the accumulated knowledge of the ages, have the right to take the lives of other sentient organisms, particularly when we are not forced to do so by hunger or dietary need, but rather do so for the somewhat frivolous reason that we like the taste of meat?” - Peter Cheeke, PhD, Contemporary Issues in Animal Agriculture

World Hunger

According to Bread for the World Institute's 2005 Report, 852 million people around the world are suffering from hunger and it is estimated that over 20 million people will die this year as a result of malnutrition.

Part of the problem is that governments of developing nations choose animal agriculture over plant crops because selling livestock food to wealthier nations is more profitable than growing fruits, vegetables and grains that could feed local people.

Since far more land is needed to raise food animals than to grow plant crops, less land is available for local farmers to grow their own food. If crops grown for livestock production were instead used for human consumption, over 10 times more people could be fed.

In North America, livestock consumes over 80% of the corn and over 95% of the oats grown. And while one acre of land produces 165 pounds of beef, that same acre can produce approximately 20,000 pounds of potatoes.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, if people reduced their meat intake by just 10%, there would be 12 million more tons of grain available each year. This reduction would be enough to feed the world’s hungry.
  • acres of U.S. land producing hay for livestock: 56 million
  • acres of U.S. land producing vegetables for humans: 4 million
  • amount of land needed to feed a pure vegetarian for a year: 1/6 of an acre
  • amount of land needed to feed a meat-eater for a year: 3 1/4 acres (or about 20 times as much)

"It now seems plain that [a vegan diet] is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue." - The Guardian

The Environment

Livestock production is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. According to a 2006 United Nations report,

“Climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race. The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.”

The rainforests pay a heavy price too. We need oxygen to survive, and rainforests provide us with much of that oxygen. Still, about one-third of all rainforest destruction is to provide grazing land for beef cattle.

Animals that are raised for food produce 13 billion tons of waste every year, which is 100 times more toxic than human waste. Along with pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals in feed crop runoff, waste from industrial farms is washed into our streams, rivers and lakes.

Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is far less demanding on the Earth's resources.
  • amount of water needed to produce one pound of steak: 2,500 gallons
  • amount of water needed to produce one pound of lettuce, wheat, tomatoes or potatoes: 25 gallons or less
  • amount of excrement produced by farmed animals: 130 times more than humans
  • amount of water pollution caused by livestock production: 10 times that of the human population

"Yet, as environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent 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." - Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

Human Health

Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans are not only healthier than non-vegetarians; they're also less likely to be obese or suffer a heart attack.

According to The China Study, the most comprehensive study on nutrition ever conducted, people who eat animal-based foods increase their risk of certain cancers (including breast cancer), diabetes, coronary heart disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, kidney disease, macular degeneration and cataracts (eye problems), Alzheimer's and dementia.

Vegans, on the other hand, tend to consume less fat, more fiber, and their cholesterol levels are usually lower than their meat-eating counterparts. And vegans can get all the protein (and calcium) they need from plant sources.

“The human body has no more need for cows’ milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk or giraffes’ milk.” - Michael Klaper, MD, author of Vegan Nutrition: Pure & Simple

"Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer." - The American Heart Association

What is Veganism?

Veganism, coined in 1944, is a philosophy and way of living that seeks to exclude, as much as possible, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

It also promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.

In dietary terms veganism denotes the practice of avoiding all products derived wholly or partly from animals. While some people may become vegetarians strictly for the health benefits, most people become vegan to promote peace and compassion while reducing suffering.

Why veganism?

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." - Albert Einstein

Choosing a vegan lifestyle is the single-most important thing you can do to help yourself, your fellow human beings, the animals and the planet, and while going vegetarian reduces a great amount of suffering and death for animals that are killed for their flesh, millions of other animals, such as dairy cows and egg-laying chickens, suffer in large factory farms.

As Gary Francione explains, "There is no morally significant difference between meat and dairy or between meat and fish. There is as much (if not more) suffering in a glass of milk as in a pound of steak."

This is because dairy cows tend to live longer than beef cows and dairy cows are confined to the miseries and horrors of factory farms. Once their usefulness is over, they too are slaughtered. A person who goes vegan helps reduce their suffering and death as well.

Our Core Beliefs

WHEREAS millions of sentient beings are needlessly slaughtered each and every day for food; and

WHEREAS a vegan diet is just as healthy, if not healthier, than a meat-centered diet; and

WHEREAS food that is currently fed to animals could instead be used to feed the world’s hungry; and

WHEREAS the raising of animals for food is a major cause of land degradation, water shortage, air pollution and global warming,

We, The Vegan Party of Canada, assert that the transformation to a vegan lifestyle is the most important decision anyone can make.

We also believe that Canadians are by nature kind and caring, and that once properly informed, they will choose compassion over selfishness, common sense over tradition, and peace over violence.

“Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way… but you can never say again that you did not know.” - William Wilburforce, 1759-1833

About Us

The Vegan Party of Canada is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to raising public awareness about veganism in order to reduce animal suffering, improve human health, eliminate world hunger and protect the environment.