Sometimes people express to me some interest in going vegan and ask me why I’m vegan. I explain the reasons.
I might start with health. I point to many of the diseases that afflict our population: heart disease, obesity, autoimmune conditions, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension; you can reduce tremendously, in some cases effectively to zero, your risk of developing all these diseases by eating a low-fat, whole foods vegan diet.
Then I might talk about climate and the environment. With any honest accounting, animal agriculture is far and away the leading cause of climate change. Industrial fishing destroys the oceans, while grazing is responsible for vast amounts of deforestation, with the cleared land then degraded by the farmed animals. We therefore sequester far less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we would with healthy forests and healthy oceans. As a species, we dedicate 37% of the earth’s land surface to the grazing that ultimately serves only to produce the diseases listed above. The meat industry’s alternative to grazing, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), is an environmental nightmare.
I might point out, too, that the whole system of creating animal foods is based on violence. The cruelty to animals is unimaginable—pigs are kept in crates for their whole lives, unable to even turn around; chickens are debeaked with a hot blade and kept in airless, ammonia- laced shelters, tens of thousands of them on top of each other in giant dark sheds; turkeys are bred to be so fat they can’t walk. The cruelty extends to people who work in the industry: children (undocumented immigrants) are employed in our meatpacking plants, in the most dangerous jobs in America. We learn about that only when intrepid journalists catch the industry violating child labor and immigration laws; the industry then pays a minor fine that is simply a small cost of doing business.
Let’s not forget pandemics: virtually all pandemics, including covid, can be traced to the unnatural crowding of animals that is the requirement of the industry devoted to breeding, housing, and slaughtering them.
And then there’s antibiotic resistance: given the prolific use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, we are certainly breeding the superbugs that will all but guarantee that in the future, we won’t have effective antibiotics.
There’s also the prolific water use involved: animal agriculture wastes one-third of all freshwater in the world.
And there’s food poisoning, tied directly to animal agriculture because animal foods are the filthiest foods you can eat. Even when you hear about a recall of lettuce contaminated with e coli, that’s because the lettuce farm is downstream from a cattle or pig or chicken operation. E coli comes from the colon of an animal; lettuce doesn’t have a colon, last I checked.
So I explain all my reasons to sympathetic listeners and they say, “Gee, Glen, you make a lot of good points. The vegan diet is definitely better for our health, and for the environment--I’m a big environmentalist. And then there’s the climate, you’re right, I’m so worried about the climate! And oh, my God, the animals, I feel so bad for the animals—you know me, I’m a big animal lover. So you know what I’m going to do? Yes, I’m really going to do this—I’m going to try Meatless Mondays!”
You have to admire the strength of conviction of these eco-warriors. They’re willing to eat like a human being for one day a week. And what a wonderful approach this could be towards solving of all our society’s problems. All we need is one day a week to behave decently, and we can eradicate one ill after another.
For example, we have a terrible crime problem in our country. Some cities have alarming murder rates. It’s time we start practicing Don’t Shoot Anybody Tuesdays.
On Wednesdays, let’s strengthen marriages and families all over America. We simply have too many broken homes. Let’s institute Faithful Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, I’d like to ask all husbands in America to hold the hands of their spouses, look them in the eyes, and
take the vow: “From now on, honey, I will never cheat on you on Wednesdays.” That should really help to cement countless marriages.
On Thursdays, let’s get ambitious. I would look to the nation’s gardeners to help us out with Turn Off the Damn Leaf Blower Thursdays. One day a week with no leaf blowers. It will be a blessing for our suburbs.
On Fridays, let’s turn to our politicians to institute Graft-Free Fridays. Surely we can ask our elected representatives to avoid committing graft right before the start of the weekend? They can do it if they try.
Let’s have Spam-free Saturdays—no spam emails, no spam phone calls. Whoever is in charge of the spam business, all we ask is that you give us a break on Saturdays. How hard could that be?
Finally, on Sundays, let’s make flying more fun with Civil Aviation Sundays. No kicking the seat of the person in front of you, or leaning all the way back into the lunch tray of the person behind you, or getting in any fistfights or threatening to open any doors of the aircraft while in flight. Just on Sundays. After all, it’s a day of peace.
The problem with Meatless Mondays, you see, is that it makes it seem difficult to not eat dead animals seven days a week. It’s not difficult at all. In fact, it’s just as easy as not shooting people seven days a week.
Do any meat-eaters really practice Meatless Mondays, and take it seriously? Can you imagine this dialogue:
“Hey, want to go out for a pepperoni pizza?”
“Sorry, I can’t. It’s a matter of principle—it’s Monday. I can go tomorrow.”
Anytime someone tells you he’s doing Meatless Mondays, call him up three Mondays later and ask him what he had for lunch.
“Roast beef. Yeah, I know it’s Monday, but I didn’t mean every Monday, I meant some Mondays. Like whenever February 29 lands on a Monday, I’m in.”
There’s nothing hard about eating human food seven days a week. Let’s get real, folks. Going meatless isn’t hard. Make the decision to do it, then stick to the plan. The benefits will keep rolling in. We can all do this, and we can thereby save our health and our environment and our climate.
I think we all know, deep down, what the truly hard part is. The hard part is Thursdays, dealing with the leaf blowers. You’d have to be a little bit naive to be optimistic about that.