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The Real Reasons to Go Vegan

The real reasons to go vegan are and should be similar to those which originally caused all of us to stop eating meat and go vegetarian.

In the Central Valley of California cows generate the same amount of fecal waste as a city of 21 million people, much of which goes untreated and pollutes waterways. 
Dairy products, like other animal products, are obtained through modern agribusiness and factory farming, and the issues of animal cruelty, eating higher rather than lower on the food chain, energy and environmental concerns are not avoided by switching from one commercially produced animal product to another. 
Regarding vegetarianism vs. veganism, vegetarians DO cause far less cruelty than meat-eaters, but a nonviolent philosophy carries greater weight from vegans.

A net user on AlterNet commented on August 22, 2009: 

"Of course it is impossible to source any 'humane cheese' or dairy --- In order to be economically viable the females must be kept constantly impregnated. This is a traumatic and painful procedure... The industry calls the restraining mechanism 'the rape rack'. 

"The cow also endures pain at birth as any animal does. Her calf is separated from her at only a few days/hours old. This causes immense distress as the milk was intended for her baby. Her baby depending on sex is either female and placed within the herd (if needed) or sent to slaughter immediately with undesirable male calves. 

"The 'lucky' male calves get to spend a few months in a dark box, fed an anemic diet then sent to slaughter. There is absolutely no way that 'humane dairy' can ever exist."

Can children be raised without cow's milk? YES! Half the world's population (blacks and Asians in particular) are lactose intolerant, and can't digest milk after infancy. Dr. Michael Klaper has written books on vegan nutrition, pregnancy, and childbirth, beginning with Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple from 1989.

How can we vegetarians tell the meat-eaters not to kill cows, etc. if we ourselves are killing cows? Even if we're killing the cows indirectly, will the meat-eaters take us seriously?

The meat-eaters, (and not the vegans!) especially, exactly, are ready to find fault with us in this regard: do we love all animals, or only some animals (e.g., cows) and not others? And if we really do love the cows, why do we contribute to their death and suffering just to drink their milk?
One of the first books I read on the subject of vegetarianism while in college was A Vegetarian Sourcebook by Keith Akers (1983). Describing the environmental damage caused by raising animals for food: topsoil erosion, deforestation, loss of groundwater, etc. as well as the economic inefficiency and waste of energy and resources in raising animals for food in an age of exploding human population growth, Keith Akers foreshadowed John Robbins' Diet for a New America (1987), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. 

In A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers writes:

"Using grasslands for livestock agriculture creates great environmental problems, which greatly limit its usefulness. Grazing systems require ten times more land than feedlot agriculture, in which animals are simply given feed grown on cropland. Grazing systems have to be extensive in order to avoid the catastrophic consequences of overgrazing--which renders a piece of land unsuitable for any purpose.

"Overgrazing and the consequent soil erosion are extremely serious problems worldwide. By the most conservative estimates, 60% of all U.S. rangelands are overgrazed, with billions of tons of soil lost each year. Overgrazing has also been the greatest cause of man-made deserts.

"Even if we grant grazing a role in a resource-efficient, ecologically stable agriculture, milk should be the end result, not beef. Milk provides over 50% of the protein and nearly four times the calories of beef, per unit of forage resources from grazing. 

"'When only forage is available, then egg, broiler and pork production are eliminated and only milk, beef, and lamb production are viable systems,' state David and Marcia Pimentel, scientists and authors of Food, Energy and Society. 'Of these three, milk production is the most efficient.'

"An ecologically stable, resource-efficient system of grazing animals for human food could not be anything faintly resembling today's livestock agriculture. It would be a smaller, decentralized, less intensive system of animal husbandry devoted to milk production."

This is what the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) say as well: an acre of land, a cow and a bull, and you're all set! The Vedas also warn that when a population is sinful, their land becomes a desert...and overgrazing does lead to topsoil erosion, which in turn leads to desertification. 

So it may be possible to have animal agriculture (devoted solely to milk production) on a small scale--like the Amish or Krishna Consciousness. Rural farm communities like Gita-nagari, New Talavan, and New Vrindavan. 

Environmental devastation, rather than abortion or war, is the most visible manifestation of the collective karma for killing animals by the billions. 

Vegan author John Robbins provides these points and facts in his Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987):

Half the water consumed in the U.S. irrigates land growing feed and fodder for livestock. The water that goes into a 1,000 lb. steer could float a destroyer. It takes 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, but 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of meat. If these costs weren't subsidized by the American taxpayers, the cheapest hamburger meat would be $35 per pound!  Subsidizing the California meat industry costs taxpayers $24 billion annually. Livestock producers are California's biggest consumers of water.
Huge amounts of water wash away livestock excrement. U.S. livestock produce twenty times as much excrement as the entire human population, creating sewage which is ten to several hundred times as concentrated as raw domestic sewage. Animal wastes cause thrice as much water pollution than does the U.S. human population; the meat industry causes thrice as much harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation's industries combined.

Meat producers, the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contribute to half the water pollution in the United States.  Every tax dollar the state doles out to livestock producers costs taxpayers over seven dollars in lost wages, higher living costs and reduced business income. Seventeen western states have enough water supplies to support economies and populations twice as large as the present.

Overgrazing of cattle leads to topsoil erosion, turning once-arable land into desert. We lose four million acres of topsoil each year and 85 percent of this loss is directly caused by raising livestock. To replace the soil we've lost, we're destroying our forests. Since 1967, the rate of deforestation in the U.S. has been one acre every five seconds. For each acre cleared in urbanization, seven are cleared for grazing or growing livestock feed.

One-third of all raw materials in the U.S. are consumed by the livestock industry and it takes thrice as much fossil fuel energy to produce meat than it does to produce plant foods. A report on the energy crisis in Scientific American warned: "The trends in meat consumption and energy consumption are on a collision course." 

"All Things Are Connected" is the concluding chapter to vegan author John Robbins' Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987) It begins with a quote from (reincarnationist) Christian mystic Edgar Cayce:

"Destiny, or karma, depends upon what the soul has done about what it has become aware of." 

John Robbins writes:

"At the present time, when most of us sit down to eat, we aren't very aware of how our food choices affect the world. We don't realize that in every Big Mac there is a piece of the tropical rainforests, and with every billion burgers sold another hundred species become extinct. We don't realize that in the sizzle of our steaks there is the suffering of animals, the mining of our topsoil, the slashing of our forests, the harming of our economy, and the eroding of our health. We don't hear in the sizzle the cry of the hungry millions who might otherwise be fed. We don't see the toxic poisons (pesticides) accumulating in the food chains, poisoning our children and our earth for generations to come.

"But once we become aware of the impact of our food choices, we can never really forget. Of course, we can push it all to the back of our minds, and we may need to do this, at times, to endure the enormity of what is involved.

"But the earth itself will remind us, as will our children, and the animals and the forests and the sky and the rivers, that we are part of this earth, and it is part of us. All things are deeply connected, and so the choices we make in our daily lives have enormous influence, not only on our own health and vitality, but also on the lives of other beings, and indeed on the destiny of life on earth.

"Thankfully, we have cause to be grateful--what's best for us personally is also best for other forms of life, and for the life support systems on which we all depend."

Back in 1987, on USENET (a nationwide computer network linking universities, think tanks, corporations, military bases, etc.), I argued for religious vegetarianism. Someone claimed humans are omnivores, saying we've been hunting since the days of the caveman, etc. I responded by quoting the anatomical comparisons found in The Higher Taste (the original 1983 edition) that humans are herbivores.

Dave Butler of Tektronix in Oregon (whose main claim to fame is having coined the pro-choice slogan "Not even close" in 1986) said that humans are not herbivores--the human body can't break down cellulose, the principal component of plant foods. Dave said further that historically mankind has been omnivorous, and then there's the problem of obtaining enough Vitamin B-12 on a vegan diet.

Miriam Nadel, a Jewish vegetarian in Southern California, listed examples of humans living primarily on plant foods, and said that as far as Vitamin B-12 is concerned, most vegetarians obtain their Vitamin B-12 through eggs and dairy products. 

"Exactly," responded Dave Butler. "And these are vegetarians--not herbivores."

I no longer make the argument (based on either the 1983 or the 2006 edition of The Higher Taste) that humans are herbivores. Rather, I argue we resemble the other primates (frugivores). We're designed to live mostly, if not entirely, upon plant foods. Yet everywhere I go, I encounter meat-eaters blindly quoting Dave Butler, like brainwashed zombies, saying "Exactly," as if we're still living in 1987! 

As Dave himself used say, "Silly is a state of mind. Stupid is a way of life."

Humans are not natural omnivores, either; admitting humans are natural omnivores (just to consume animal products. e.g., dairy, eggs, etc.) would be to play right into the hands of the meat-eaters. 

The real reasons to go vegan are and should be similar to those which originally caused all of us to stop eating meat and go vegetarian.

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