Adopting a Vegan Diet for Humanitarian Reasons

People choose a vegan diet usually for
ethical, health or environmental reasons. These are all valid reasons
and I expect that most people justify their plant-based diet on the
basis of either animal welfare or animal rights. However, not
everyone is receptive to the idea of valuing animals because they are
sentient or because they have the right not be harmed, exploited or
treated as our property. Many people cling to the idea that for the
sake of our enjoyment, convenience or pleasure, it is fine to consume
animal products, even if an industry of slaughter necessarily

Well, for those who think that the only
benefits that matter are those that apply to humans, I still believe
that the vegan diet benefits humans in a number of ways, without
resorting to any arguments for animal rights. For those convinced of
the prejudice that only humans matter, it is worth pointing out that
a plant-based diet can give health benefits to humans, it could help
to protect the planet (which is useful to us) and it could help
alleviate human suffering by increasing our amount of resources.

For those interested in the health
benefits of a vegan diet, I’d say the documentary Forks Over
is definitely worth
watching. It’s basically a summed up version of the book
China Study
. The documentary,
based on the findings of Colin T. Campbell that an animal-based diet
leads to health issues, features doctors who treat problems such as
high cholesterol and diabetes with a vegan diet. Other people
featured on the documentary include patients who have avoided the
impending risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as the athlete
Mac Danzig who says a vegan diet has boosted his MMA career by
allowing him to recover more quickly from workouts. 


those who aren’t persuaded by animal rights as a reason to switch to
veganism, the benefits of cutting out animal protein from your diet
and adding in plant protein might persuade you instead. According to
Colin T. Campbell, as well as nutritionists such as Caldwell
B. Esselstyn, a vegan diet is an effective way to reduce the risk of (and even
eliminate) obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases (such as Multiple Sclerosis) and
possibly even prevent various cancers from forming. If this is true, then a vegan diet could
potentially help to reduce government costs for treating these

study with the animal protein caesin (from milk) on rats found that
by removing this protein from their diet, cancer tumours could be
eliminated. Whether this study is transferable to humans is uncertain
and it is also uncertain whether what is true for caesin is true for
all animal protein. But, if it is possible a vegan diet can go
towards reducing the risk of cancer it should be considered – it is
certainly true, as Campbell points out, that people with a more
plant-based diet (and therefore less animal-protein based diet) have
lower rates of cancer, such as those living in rural China. In any
case, research the benefits of the vegan diet for yourself, try it
out, if you do notice these benefits then carry on with it.

It has
been well established that the meat, dairy and egg industries, and
the intensive farming that goes along with it, are major contributors
to environmental damage. The meat industry alone goes towards
producing 5% of global CO2 emissions, 40% of methane emissions
(imagine all those cows farting…) and 40% of nitrous oxides. The
combined effect of the meat, dairy and egg industries, though, means
that the intensive farming of animals is the second largest
contributor to environmental damage. 


practice of these industries, through greenhouse emissions, leads to
the destruction of the ozone layer. The Amazon rainforest is torn
down to make room for pasture, lakes and rivers are polluted with
waste and soil becomes eroded, leading to a loss of nutrients. These
facts have been confirmed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO) of the United Nations, as well as by numerous governmental and
non-governmental environmental agencies. 

 Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

those who are only concerned about the well-being of people, the
effect of animal agribusiness on the environment might not alarm you.
But it should. After all, the increasing emission of greenhouse gases
could eventually destroy the ozone layer, sending ecosystems and
weather systems into chaos. This could eventually backfire on us
since, as modern ecology as taught us, ecosystems are delicate and
the sudden disappearance of a species could have a knock-on effect on

If the
ozone layer completely disappeared, conditions may become too hot in
some places, making it impossible to live there. Following this would
be a rapid increase in sea-levels due to polar ice-sheets melting.
Other freak weather events could include an increase in hurricanes
and tornadoes (we have seen this already) and this would definitely
threaten our existence. So, although it may be important to preserve
ecosystems and protect the environment for its own sake, it is
probably more important we do it for our own sake, since if we don’t, if we carry on
financing animal agriculture that is, we will be threatening
ourselves and future generations of people.

not everyone cares that much about their health or about the
environment, but many people are very charitable by nature, they
believe global human poverty should be prevented. The fundamental
problem facing poverty-striken countries, such as those in Central
Africa, is a lack of resources. The most important being food and
water of course. The global population is increasing. It now stands
at around 7 billion, but it is estimated that by the year 2060 this
could rise to 9.5 billion, due to the exponential rise in population.
Back in 1968 Paul R. Ehlrlich in his book
The Population
had already warned that if
the population goes on increasing it will result in mass-starvation.
This is essentially what we are seeing now. 


As it
stands, the crops that feed everyone on this planet covers just 4% of
the Earth’s usable surface. Whereas the amount of the Earth’s surface
we use for animal pastureland accounts for 30%. By the way, this
amount of pastureland is for meat production alone, this doesn’t even
include the amount of land needed to intensively farm cows for milk
or hens for their eggs. It definitely seems then that we are wasting
the use of our Earth’s surface. We would do much better to grow
crops, instead of farming animals, since this would create larger
amounts of resources which could satisfy the existing global
population and possibly the increases we will see as well.

livestock so we can eventually feed on them is not an effective, or
even a moral, way to make use of the resources we have. 90% of
the protein, 99% of the carbohydrate, and 100% of the fiber value of
grain is wasted by cycling it through livestock. Current estimates
also suggest that 64% of the US grain crop is fed to livestock. Why
go to all this trouble to feed livestock, when these resources could
be saved and go towards feeding the hungry around the world?

those who are concerned about global human suffering, they should
recognise that by keeping animal agriculture in business, resources
are being wasted in order to satisfy the diet of First World
countries, at the expense of countries which are undergoing dangerous
shortages of food and water. The elimination of the meat industry
alone would go towards freeing up land to grow crops for people who
are starving. We should really be working towards this scenario since
the amount of usable land on Earth is rapidly decreasing.



  1. Anonymous
    July 25, 2015 / 9:33 am

    hi Sam, i realise this is an old post (ahead of the curve!) but are there any figures for how many human lives a vegan saves per year, like there are for non-human lives? i guess the good news is that since you wrote this the Effective Altruism movement has been born and they have animal welfare as one of their concerns…

    • October 11, 2015 / 9:30 am

      The math is pretty simple.16 pounds of Grain a pound of meat. 3 pounds of grain a pound of dairy.10 bottles of baby formula for each bottle of beer. feeds a small village. One day at a time

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