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There are a number of reasons to celebrate National Vegetarian Week and to consider switching to a vegetarian diet.

One of the most important ethical reasons worth considering is how going vegetarian is actually one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact. By switching to a vegetarian diet you can take practical steps toward helping to combat climate change and a broad range of sustainability issues.

On top of that, going vegetarian is both a compassionate choice for animals and a direct statement against the unethical nature of intensive mass industrial animal rearing. According to the Vegetarian Society for example, in the UK alone over 2.5 million land animals are slaughtered daily and 600,000 tonnes of fish are killed each year, and not usually in a very ethical manner:

– ‘70% of pigs reared in the UK are farmed intensively, often forced to live in over-crowded sheds that do not allow them to express natural behaviours, and raise their young in farrowing crates that are so small that sows cannot even turn around or suckle their piglets’.

– ‘Birds that are factory farmed are forced to live in large, crowded, windowless sheds with tens of thousands of others, often fed steroids and other growth hormones so that they grow three times faster than they would naturally’.

– Industrial fishing practices are destroying fragile eco-systems and wiping out whole populations of sea creatures. 19% of major commercial marine fish stocks monitored by the FAO are overexploited, 8% are depleted and 1% ranked as recovering from depletion. 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises are killed every year as ‘by-catch’ of the fishing industries.

While the inhumane nature of factory farming sees ‘calves having to endure castration, disbudding and dehorning, and increasing numbers of beef cattle housed in small pens without bedding, livestock farming is responsible for almost 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions from human-related activities’:

– ‘Cows and sheep are responsible for 37% of the total methane generated by human activity’

In addition, by switching to a vegetarian diet you are also assisting in sustainability efforts such as in the conservation of land and resources.

It is estimated for example that ‘30% of the earth’s entire land surface (70% of all agricultural land) is used for rearing farmed animals, and that a typical meat eater’s diet requires up to 2.5 times the amount of land compared to a vegetarian diet’. Likewise, the amount of water required ‘to produce 1 kilo of beef varies from 13,000 litres up to 100,000 litres, while the water required to produce a kilo of wheat is somewhere between 1,000-2,000 litres’. It is also estimated that ‘the UK currently imports around 40% of its food, and that by purchasing only local produce one can reduce their food footprint by 57%’, which represents a significant cut in a person’s food miles (and the amount of fossil fuels used).

This is only a small snapshot of the overall statistics and research that links diet, farming, environmental impact and climate change. For more information, we recommend visiting the Vegetarian Society website.

It’s also worth considering that while we might make an ethical decision to switch to a vegetarian diet due to the social and environmental reasons outlined above, it remains to be said that not all vegetarian brands are owned by companies that share the same ethical commitments. Manufacturers may provide vegetarian alternatives, while supporting unsustainable business practice, deforestation, or other non-animal friendly and environmentally detrimental practices. The number of hidden animal products in some vegetarian foods is also a real concern, while issues regarding use of pesticides, agricultural methods, and human labour need to also be considered when it comes to purchasing vegetarian products. That is why we recommend that you check out our latest ethical research on vegetarian companies and brands.

Courtesy of Vegetarian Society

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