For the animals
Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan (as we've already seen), but for many it remains the key factor in their decision to change. Whether you simply love cute, fluffy animals or believe that all sentient creatures have a right to life and freedom, avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty. A more detailed overview on why being vegan demonstrates true compassion for animals can be found here.
For your health
More and more people are turning to a vegan diet for the health benefits: increased energy, younger looking skin, eternal youth; just some of the claims from enthusiastic plant eaters! Well, eternal youth might be a bit optimistic but there are certainly many scientifically-proven benefits to a vegan diet.
Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world's biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Tasty food and better health - what's not to love? For more information on living a healthy, vegan life, check out our nutrition section.
For the environment
From recycling our household rubbish to cycling to work, we're all aware of ways to live a greener life. Yet did you know that one of the most effective ways to lower your carbon footprint is to avoid animal products? Oh, and this goes way beyond the problem of cow flatulence!
Why is meat and dairy so bad for the environment?
The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment; from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. On the other hand, considerably lower quantities of crops and water are required to sustain a vegan diet, making the switch to veganism one of the easiest, most enjoyable and most effective ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Plus, you'll be ready for the Moon and Mars, as these future human colonies will be completely vegan due to the meagre resources on those worlds!
For developing countries
Few would argue that action is required on our part when it comes to helping people in developing countries. For the same reasons a vegan diet is good for the environment, plant-based living is a more sustainable way of feeding the human family. A plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet. With rising global food and water insecurity due to the ever-increasing world population, there's never been a better time to adopt a more sustainable way of living - and avoiding animal products is one of the simplest ways to start.
Why vegetarian isn't enough
The suffering caused by the dairy and egg industry is possibly less well publicised than the plight of factory farmed animals. The production of dairy products necessitates the death of countless male calves that are of no use to the dairy farmer, as well as the premature death of cows slaughtered when their milk production decreases. Similarly, in the egg industry, even 'ethical' or 'free range' eggs involve the killing of the unnecessary male chicks when just a day old, often being thrown alive into a shredder. These industries also contribute to the environmental impact of animal products, and take up valuable land.
It's tempting to want to believe that the meat we eat is ethical, that our 'food animals' have lived full, happy lives and that they have experienced no pain or fear at the slaughterhouse. Yet the sad truth is that all living creatures (even those labelled 'free range' or 'organic') fear death, just as we do. No matter how they are treated when alive, they all experience the same fear when it comes to slaughter.
The good news
The good news is there IS something we can do about it. Every time we shop or order food in a restaurant - every time we eat - we can choose to help these animals. Every time we make the switch from an animal product to a vegan one we are standing up for farmed animals everywhere. Going vegan is easier than ever before with veganism becoming increasingly mainstream as more and more people from all walks of life discover the benefits of living this way.
It's time to ask ourselves: if it is now possible to live a life that involves delicious food and drink; delivers better health; leaves a smaller carbon footprint; and avoids killing other creatures - then why don't we?