And will it still be sustainable?
We need to shift our entire economy to one that is plant-based and sustainable. And we have to do it now!
Humanity as we know it, has continuously been getting battered with a slew of pandemics, one after another since decades. A few of them nearly managed to wipe us off the face of the earth. But somehow, we’ve managed to survive and pass on our progeny to further plunder and destroy the planet for natural resources. Somewhere along the way during this journey, we got smarter, developed advanced tools and resources, and managed to outsmart the viruses. But not without taking some big hits on the way.
Not all pandemics arise from animal agriculture, and many of them were in fact, borne out of people living in unhygienic conditions for extended periods of time. A time where there were almost no advances in medical sciences and no cures for illnesses which are considered very mild or trivial in today’s age. Today, we possess all the knowledge and systems required to prevent the further occurrence of pandemics in the world. But we’ve gotten a bit too used to our extravagant lifestyles, and will have to jump through some pretty big hoops to undo all the damage that we’ve inflicted on the planet.
A few hard-hitting systemic (and behavioural) changes will have to be made in order to adhere to sustainable development goals and prevent the occurrence of future pandemics. They include transitioning:
From hard plastics to hemp plastic.
From soft plastics to natural cloth fiber.
From wood to Bamboo.
From dairy to plant-based drinks.
From meat to vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
From complicated medical procedures to preventive care.
From poultry to oil seeds.
From fossil fuels to biofuels.
From chemical based products to natural herbal products.
Along with many other such similar changes.
Time is running out. The capitalist system just doesn’t run on burnt forests and the charred remains of wildlife anymore. It runs on the broken backs of millions of lower income underpaid workers. It runs on the free services of housewives and underpaid women employees. It runs on the silenced voices of environmentalists, people of colour, and indigenous minorities. It runs on the tireless work of interns, NGO’s, and other freelance gig workers, who make a pittance compared to the ones with big name titles. It runs on the many having to get by on just a couple of dimes a day, so that the few can live lavishly everyday.
But most importantly, it runs on the broken souls of billions of animals languishing in slaughterhouses, awaiting their untimely deaths. It doesn’t matter what our ethnicity is, what are our occupations, or the organizations we work for. Many of us have been, and are still part of an industrial complex that’s used to breed, enslave, torture and murder billions of animals every year. All for the sake of taste, tradition and culture.
Alas, this need not be the case. We don’t have to keep living like this. It is a known fact, that most epidemics which have caused humanity great harm and distress originated from animals. Particularly from places where humans have confined them in massive abattoirs to raise them for food. This story is as old as the industrial revolution itself. It’s always either a wet market, an unhygienic animal holding facility, or hunted wild animal meat that’s acted as the starting point of major pandemics.
The problems with factory farming
Let’s all admit it. Growing animals for food is dirty business! You’re around filthy animal pens and cages all day. You have to feed them, clean them, make sure they don’t get sick, ensure they don’t kill each other out of boredom, collect the semen from the males to artificially impregnate the females, and finally when the time comes, do the deed.
There’s a reason why most of us don’t choose this line of work. But do you know who’s forced to ?
Underprivileged people living in ghettos.
People of colour.
Religious and ethnic minorities.
Lower caste people.
People desperate enough for a job.
Working inside abattoirs for hours together on a daily basis, especially on repetitive processes, has seen soaring work related fatalities over the years. Not to mention how emotionally bankrupt one has to be in the first place to work in such pathetic environments day in and day out.
And all for what? Just to keep malnutrition, starvation, and disease at bay? This industry pulls humanity down much more than it pushes it forward. It’s a net loss at the end of the day.
We are capable of doing much better than this. My friends keep retorting to my vegan way of life, explaining how it cannot be adopted by the masses, saying “meat is a cheap source of protein”, “meat, milk, and eggs help governments solve hunger and malnutrition on a large scale.” “It makes much more logistical sense to the govt to provide the masses with a potent source of nutrition(meat), than sourcing them from multiple plant foods.”
And while there might be a bit of truth to these statements, and current methods of food production may be logistically easy, it doesn’t take away from the fact that at the end of the day, more people are suffering the ill effects of an omnivorous diet, than the chunk of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the meat industry is one of the most dirtiest, unethical, and polluting industries on the planet. It doesn’t take away from the tremendous amount of cruelty, suffering, and torture an animal has to endure for a lifetime, just so a country can be free of hunger and malnutrition.
It’s also been proven time and again, that a worldwide shift to a vegan diet will not solely benefit humanity. It will also lead to a ten-fold reduction in greenhouse gases, the revival of ocean dead zones, the recuperation of agricultural land that was once deemed unfit for farming, the re-wilding of half the earths wild areas which have been bulldozed for animal agriculture, and a halving of all major lifestyle diseases afflicting people in developing and developed worlds equally.
Big gains ahead
But the most significant way in which humanity stands to benefit from a shift to a plant-based world, will be the complete elimination or reduction in the occurrence of zoonotic diseases.
In a vegan world, there will be very few, or no breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases to originate and spread among the human population, causing such large scale death and devastation. Wet markets and slaughterhouses will be a thing of the past. Every underprivileged person, village, and community will get just the nutrition they need, due to a more fair and equitable distribution of resources. They will also be healthier, since plant foods do not make us sick the way meat does. Governments will no longer have to heavily subsidize dairy plants, poultry units, and slaughterhouses to provide cheap food for the masses. And neither will there be a need for so many hospitals, as the rates of lifestyle diseases gradually decline.
Globally, there will be a drastic fall in many diseases which were initially spurred by increased globalization and widespread meat consumption, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. There will be a multi-fold reduction in the need for lifetime medication, hospitalizations, operations, and surgeries as more people start waking up to the palliative benefits of plant-based diets. Malnutrition, starvation, and hunger will be things of the past. Cesspools of urine and feces will no longer accumulate around slaughterhouses, physically and mentally disabling people living in nearby communities, as they will be replaced by wild forest, or agricultural land growing healthy organic food. Their toxic sludge won’t be entering our waterways and farmlands, polluting our underground aquifers, making the land unfit for farming, and forcing us to look for arable land elsewhere.
We will also see huge reductions in the amount of GHG’s present in the air, as methane and ammonia spewing dairy and poultry units will practically be non-existent. On the whole, humanity stands to gain much more than it would lose, in the interim, from a shift to a plant-based diet and economy. Big meat and dairy already foresees this, and have cleverly made investments in alternative meats, nut milks, and other plant-based alternatives to traditional food items.
As an increasing number of people from developing countries become more affluent and knowledgeable of world affairs, it will spur the growth of completely new demographic groups along with novel consumption patterns. It will be exciting to see what kind of innovation the plant-based space will see in the next couple of years, revolutionizing the way we treat the planet for our lifestyle needs and wants.
We have already become global nomads with an upwardly mobile population moving around the world 24/7, providing viruses capable of causing disease outbreaks a platform to spread across the world in an instant.
Must we even add animal agriculture into the mix?