Veganism is a way of living that excludes all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals. Veganism promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.
Roughly 60 billion land animals and over a trillion marine animals are used and killed as commodities per year, merely to satisfy human taste preferences.
This is needless, as plant-based food and drink alternatives are available in many areas around the world.
All animals have a right to life.
Animals are living beings seeking life and freedom, and avoiding harm and danger.
In every livestock system, no matter how high the welfare standards are supposed to be, animals will suffer.
Vegans believe killing is not justified.
Ultimately, humans take away life. Other animals do not ‘give up their life’ as some people believe – they have not given consent to be slaughtered. In over 95% of cases they are killed prematurely:
• Cows, for example, could live to well over 20 years of age, while on 'dairy' farms they are usually shot between 3-4 years of age when milk production is no longer considered 'profitable'. Cows bred for 'beef' meat are killed sooner.
• Broiler chicks are just 6 weeks old and grown too rapidly to sustain their own weight and heart when they are killed. Chickens could live to 10 years old.
• Pigs are slaughtered when they have reached a certain weight, which will be later in organic systems than in intensive farms, but they are typically killed between 4-6 months of age, while they could reach 15 years.
• Sheep can also live to 15 years but depending on whether they are slaughtered as lambs or later, they are shot and bled between 3-10 months of age.
• Every week 3,000 male calves are killed shortly after birth, usually within days, and over 40 million day-old chicks are killed each year, including those from organic farms. Males do not secrete bodily fluids destined for offspring (cow's milk), or lay eggs like hens do. Calves are either shot or exported alive to mainland European countries where they are kept in small pens to produce veal flesh - deprived of their mothers and their natural food (milk).
How does organic or free range farming compare?
Vegans agree with organic principles being more in harmony with nature. However, the intensity of human labor and other inputs makes organic products generally a less economically viable option for a large proportion of the population. Organic livestock numbers are a tiny fraction of total number of livestock, ranging from 0.8% for pigs to 3.6% for sheep, and organic farming trends have been declining for the past five years. The result is that about 98% of animal products sold in shops and (fast food) restaurants comes from intensive farming systems. Over 15% of the meat sold comes from animals who have not been stunned before slaughter (halal meat), which is often not honestly labelled as such.
In organic ‘dairy farming’, for example, calves may stay with their mothers for months, but no system is stress-proof. Separation may still occur at birth at some farms. Organic milk yield and disease prevalence is usually lower than in intensive systems. There, cows are continuously artificially inseminated; impregnated as many times as possible with only two to three months of non-pregnancy periods in between pregnancies; being milked for months including during pregnancy, and separated from her calf very soon after birth. Those systems cause stress, metabolic hunger, mastitis (udder infections) and lameness on a large scale.
During life on any farm, handling, transport and slaughter, animals will suffer and die. Free range is not the answer either; many lambs suffer from hypothermia in the field, for example, and many die. While the EU has banned the use of gestation crates for sows for the entire duration of pregnancy, these sow stalls are still allowed for some of the time. Pigs in organic systems have more space, but their lives are still cut short, just so that people can enjoy eating their flesh.
The EU has also banned intensive battery cages; however, ‘enriched’ cages cause just about as much suffering to laying hens as battery cages used to. In free range systems, many problems with aggressive behavior, injurious pecking, leg problems (e.g. broken bones) persist. Dairy and eggs are products of non-human animals who are caught up in systems causing cruelty and death to millions of other animals, just as eating meat is responsible for billions of lives lost. This is needless, as products derived from animals are unnecessary for humans to maintain health.
Vegans believe in a world in which humans do not exploit other animals, and would like to see farmers thrive without raising and killing animals.
We would like to see efforts, skills, knowledge and funds redirected into plant-based agriculture. Without subsidy the ‘dairy’, 'pork', lamb and 'beef' industries would already have collapsed. If subsidies are to be continued, they would be better invested in stock-free horticulture.
Veganism is about so much more than the food on our plate. Veganism means respect for all life.
Millions of other animals are kept in captive environments such as fur farms, zoos, safari parks, aviaries, breeding programs, circuses and other ‘entertainment’, in private homes and ‘collections’, and in laboratories.
The majority of mammals and bird species do not ‘thrive’ in captivity. They may ‘survive’ but all living beings have remarkable instincts and coping mechanisms to stay alive - there are many human examples too of horrific survival situations. That doesn’t mean quality of life is necessarily acceptable,let alone good.
Have you ever sat in awe listening to the amazing calls of different birds in a garden, park or nature reserve, watching them find food or enjoying them take flight?
Did you know that many birds in zoos, aviaries and falconries might never fly or be released in the wild again? Many birds in captivity had their wings clipped (called pinioning). One of the birds' most basic needs will never be fulfilled anymore. Mammals and fish who roam or swim thousands of miles are locked up in small enclosures for life.
There is no educational value in watching other animals in captivity, where they cannot display their natural behavior. Whether animals are taken from their natural habitat or bred in captivity, stress is inevitable. What you can do:
• Watch kingfishers dive into a stream, birds of prey hover in the air and massive flocks of starling sweep in the sky – isn’t that literally awesome?
• Watch nature documentaries or search for information and videos about other species online
• Learn more about successful reintroduction programmes such as sea eagles in Scotland, the Mauritius pink pigeon, and other successful conservation programmes
• Visit a natural history museum
• Read a good book about animal behaviour
Animals used in research and testing
Vegans do not wish to support cosmetics companies that have commissioned or conducted tests on other animal in the past.
Over a hundred million animals are used in research, testing, and education worldwide each year. The effectiveness of this research and testing is questionable, as many systematic cost benefit reviews have demonstrated. Research on other animals is also expensive, and can cause severe disease, pain and discomfort, as pain relief is frequently not applied. To acknowledge these facts, toxicological research now increasingly uses in vitro methods (using other animal or human cells or tissues), computer simulations and methods not reliant upon other animals.
More and more humane medical research methods are being developed. Certain charities fund research and testing on other animals, so make sure to check that organisations only support humane methods when considering making a donation.
Conscientious objection in education
Students in some schools, colleges and universities may conscientiously object to taking part in harmful animal use laboratory classes. The Vegan Society would like to see this become commonplace. No student should be forced to act against their beliefs for so-called 'education' purposes. The same learning objectives can equally be achieved through non-animal methods, and in several cases learning outcomes are superior due to the advantages offered by the use of alternative education methods.
In short - Veganism is the answer for a compassionate life.
The rights of other animals, people and the planet are deeply interconnected, and the solution is simple: going vegan means being compassionate, taking action for animals, and helping them the best way possible.