Millions of North Americans identify themselves as vegetarian or vegan. A vegetarian is someone who enjoys a plant-based diet. A vegan is a vegetarian — one who avoids eating the flesh of any living animals and other products taken from other animals (milk, eggs, cheese, honey and so forth) — and also embraces a lifestyle of respect for all sentient beings. That respect factors into clothing decisions and selections of “cruelty-free” cleaners and toiletries, and so forth. Thus, while “vegetarian” may describe a diet, “vegan” embodies a lifestyle — an ethical commitment to live, as far as possible, in harmony with the planet and all its inhabitants.
As vegans, we have the benefit of a sixty-year tradition, with all the nutritional knowledge that brings; and of course, much of it depends on learning from cultures with centuries of tradition before us. The term “vegan” was coined in the 1940s by Vegan Society founding member Donald Watson, who derived it from the first three and last two letters of vegetarian “because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.”
The modern shift to vegetarianism reflects the discoveries by people in all walks of life that the carnivorous lifestyle exacerbates world hunger, is linked with various forms of disease, and involves odious customs in terms of our use of other animals.
As an organization of people devoted to ending the exploitation of animals, Friends of Animals believes strongly that it is our responsibility to cultivate in our personal lives what we would like to see reflected in the world around us. We are people of various ages, ethnicities, upbringings, and professional backgrounds; all share a common sense of responsibility for the most vulnerable.
We at Friends of Animals oppose the use of animals for human consumption. Campaigns to make the public believe that the grisly business of turning fish, birds, and mammals into food can be done in a “humane” fashion send the wrong message. Whether nonhuman animals are reared intensively or “free-range,” their lives are completely controlled, and profit is what matters most to those who own them. Ostensible improvements pushed by some welfare-oriented animal advocacy groups do not alleviate animals’ suffering; they are geared to assuage our own consciences so that people continue to eat animals, thinking that somebody else has addressed the morality issue.
Moreover, “improved animal welfare” simply cannot work in a world of six billion people. More space allotted to raise animals for the wealthy to eat does not improve the overall welfare of nonhuman animals throughout the world. Instead, it continues to flaunt the image of people eating other animals as a sign of affluence and well-being.
Friends of Animals takes a stance of abolition, not amelioration. Reasons for becoming vegetarian extend beyond the logistics of factory farming; they involve broadening our moral community beyond humanity and acting upon our knowledge that other sentient animals have an interest in not being treated as commodities.
Did You Know?
Vegetarianism goes back thousands of years. The term “vegetarian” was first used in 1847 in England.
The American Dietetic Association has stated: “Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer.” The Association has specifically confirmed the health benefits of a vegan diet
The idea of humane farming, where sentient beings are involved, is a myth. Even at the small family farm, painful procedures are routine, profit is the goal, and male calves are simply veal.
“Traditional” farming is now only possible for the wealthy. Most grain grown in poorer regions is consumed by humans directly. For each average 8-ounce steak — with all the grain and costs it represents in total — we could fill the plates of 45 people eating grains. (Source: VegFam.)
Over 1/3 of the raw materials and fossil fuels consumed in the U.S. are now used in agriculture that uses non-human animals. This means our diet plays a key role in the issue of global warming.
Producing 1 hamburger patty uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles; and animal agriculture pollutes more water than all other industrial sources combined.
And as for deforestation to create grazing land, each vegetarian saves an acre of trees per year, which leaves animals their natural habitat and is a key to preserving the earth’s atmosphere.
Each vegan spares more lives each year than most of the best sanctuaries anywhere in the world.