More than just animals

By Klay Rutherford

Several months ago, I made a practically overnight transition from omnivore to vegan. This decision resulted from a fate-like week that included watching documentaries addressing the environmental and ethical concerns of eating animal products.

Ultimately, I made the decision to go vegan the same week after having a kidney stone and being told that cutting out dairy and drastically reducing meat consumption could help prevent a future one— if you’ve had a kidney stone, you know you’ll do whatever it takes.

This decision led me down a path I never thought I’d find myself on, but I can confidently say that going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

As a vegan I’ve become very active in the animal rights movement, adding to an already existing passion for human rights activism, ranging from marriage and gender equality to racial justice.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey, but there’s one idea I’ve come to live by and embrace: Veganism is a human rights issue. So, while I think you should care about nonhuman animals, if you don’t, there are many other reasons to go vegan.

Virtually all scientists agree that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and is the greatest threat to human existence. A study by Worldwatch Institute found that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

A global shift to a vegan diet is crucial to the future of our planet. People all over the world are already feeling the real effects of climate change, including low-elevation countries such as Bangladesh or island nations like Tuvalu, where many have been displaced due to increased storm severity or rising sea levels.

If you’re an environmentalist, or if you consider yourself a voice for the disempowered people feeling the worst effects of the global crisis we face, vegan is the way to go. If you think climate change is a hoax, perhaps you care about world hunger. Over one billion people on the planet suffer from chronic hunger. While humans all across the globe are literally starving to death, huge amounts of land and water are used to grow food for livestock, the same livestock that take enormous amounts of land to raise.

Some livestock consume up to ten pounds of grain for every pound of edible flesh it supplies when slaughtered. Eating plants directly, rather than through the artificially-created food chain, is much more efficient, less resource-intensive, and the only way to end world hunger.

If that’s not enough, the animal agriculture industry relies on the exploitation of workers for profit. These workers, often undocumented immigrants who have little legal protection, are paid extremely low wages to work in slaughterhouses or processing centers—jobs often considered the most dangerous in the United States.

The industry makes it nearly impossible to unionize, which suppresses workers’ voices. Nonhuman animals aren’t the only ones abused in the industry.

The industry’s manipulative advertisements allow for the continuation of global epidemics of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, all of which could be drastically reduced or possibly cured by switching to a plant-based diet.

If these advertisements showed the truth about the links between diseases and consuming animal products, going vegan would be a no-brainer.

Vegan activists commonly ask meat eaters if their taste buds are more important than animal rights. This is a legitimate question in its own right.

But with this information, one has to ask, are your taste buds more important than human rights?