Why I became a vegan – and why you should, too


Animal farming is remorselessly destroying our planet.

In early October, I surprised my family, friends and colleagues by announcing that I had become a vegan.

Up until then, I wasn’t even vegetarian. I loved sausages, I ate chicken several times a week and I couldn’t imagine living without cheese. I have, of course, known for a long time that animal farming is a nasty business. Like everyone, I have seen those distressing pictures of the conditions endured by poultry, cattle and pigs in factory farms. Yet somehow I was able to put those images to the back of my mind when buying, ordering and eating food.

I have also long been convinced that a meat-heavy diet is bad for us, and that it is linked to many of the health problems of the developed world: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so on. But it was rather like when I was a smoker. I accepted the evidence that smoking causes cancer, emphysema and many other chronic conditions, and always had the sense that one day I would give up. But I kept delaying the inevitable. It was not until I was 47, by which time I had been smoking for more than 30 years, that I did finally stop.

And now I have given up eating animal products. What prompted this, however, was not concern for my health. Neither was it concern for animal welfare. It was, rather, something that I had not thought much about before: the devastating environmental effects of animal farming. It started with an article in the Guardian about a WWF report that drew attention to the huge scale of the damage inflicted on the planet by the production of food for farm animals. The study found that “60 per cent of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets”. The UK food supply alone, it states, “is directly linked to the extinction of an estimated 33 species at home and abroad”.

I knew that animal farming was cruel, and I knew it was making us unhealthy, but I did not know that it was destroying our planet. I started reading more about the environmental effects of animal farming and, by the end of the following day, I had decided to give up meat, eggs and dairy.

Becoming vegan is, I am now convinced, the best thing any individual can do to help our environment. Animal farming is inflicting damage on a scale that simply cannot be allowed to continue. For example, it is a major contributor to climate change, emitting more greenhouse gases than all the cars, planes and ships in the world put together. And the gases in question are mostly methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are far more damaging than carbon dioxide. Several recent studies have come to the conclusion that the only way the EU can achieve its emissions targets is through a substantial move away from a meat-based diet.

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