People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including conscience, health, ethics and even family tradition. Veganism has become increasingly popular, while research has been providing support regarding multiple benefits of a plant-based diet. Animals, humans, and the environment all benefit from it. Below are the ten most important reasons to turn to veganism.
Vegan diets provide significant amounts of several vital nutrients such as minerals (iron, calcium, etc.), vitamins, protein, and so on. Moreover, plant-based foods contain lots of fiber and are rich in antioxidants, while being low in saturated fat. This renders veganism ideal for fighting the majority of chronic conditions of the modern era, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
A lot of today’s chronic diseases can be traced back to obesity. Vegan diets are highly effective for people wanting to shed off excess weight. When you remove dairy and meat from your daily diet, your saturated fat intake goes down. Research shows that overweight people that switch to a vegetarian diet low in fat may lose up to 24 pounds in the first year alone.
Numerous studies have shown that vegans live longer than meat eaters by a large margin. Vegetarians and vegans live 3 to 6 years longer on average than their meat-eating counterparts. Switching to veganism from the typical American diet can result in a life extension of over 13 years.
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are packed with cholesterol. By taking them out of your daily eating plan, you remove all the dietary cholesterol in one strike. Switching to a well-balanced vegan diet is your best bet to avoid cardiovascular disease, the chronic condition that is responsible for more than 1 million deaths per year in America alone.
Veggies and fruits are rich in several phytochemical compounds that bolster your body’s immune defenses. When your immune system is fed with the antioxidants and nutrients that come with a vegan diet, it becomes stronger – defeating conditions like cancer.
There are several meat-borne illnesses that you steer clear of when you abstain from meat. Approximately 76 million people come down every year with a food-borne illness, of whom around 325 thousand end up in the hospital and almost 5 thousand die. The vast majority of these cases can be attributed to seafood, poultry, and meat.
Your diet greatly affects the way you look. Most vegans enjoy a natural glow in their skin, and that’s not just by luck; fruits and veggies are behind this phenomenon. Removing meat from your daily eating habits cuts down blemishes, body odor, and foul breath. What’s more, your nails and hair also thrive on a vegan diet.
The evidence is clear that no-meat diets drastically reduce environmental destruction. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Animal agriculture has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. What’s more, a significant amount of fossil fuel is consumed during transportation and processing of meat and dairy products, loading the atmosphere with unneeded carbon dioxide. The meat industry is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans.
Vegan diets do much more good than just keeping you healthy and protecting the environment; your wallet will thank you too. Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat on average per year, making up for 10% of their total food budget. By replacing meat with plant-based food, your annual food budget will go down by approximately 4 thousand dollars.
Peace Of Mind
To be truly healthy, you need to be truly conscious. You will achieve peace of mind when you realize that you are protecting the planet and other sentient beings by simply resisting the urge to satisfy your gluttony!
Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another. After they are hatched, the devoted mother dotes over her brood, teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies. Male chickens (called roosters) are most famous for greeting each sunrise with loud crows, often acting as alarm clocks for farmers.
Chickens are fascinating creatures. They have more bones in their necks than giraffes, yet they have no teeth. They swallow their food whole and use a part of their stomach called the gizzard to grind it up. Chickens actually have many similarities to humans: the majority are right-footed (just as most humans are right-handed), they see a similar color range, and they love to watch television. Many also enjoy classical music, preferring the faster symphonies to the slower ones.
Having a private nest in which to lay eggs is extremely important to hens. The desire is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest. The nest-building process is fascinating. A hen will first scratch a shallow hole in the ground, then reach out to pick up twigs and leaves, which she drops onto her back. After she has gathered some material, she'll settle back in the hole and let the material fall off around the rim. She will continue to do this until her nest is completed.
As highly social animals, chickens can bond very closely to other animals, including humans. They will fight to protect their family and will mourn when a loved one is lost. When they have bonded with a human, chickens will often jump into his or her lap to get a massage that they enjoy fully with their eyes closed, giving every indication of being in ecstasy.
"It's just a chicken" is a retort heard often when concern for the welfare of chickens is exhibited. This comment reflects just how misunderstood these animals are. Chickens are just as deserving of our respect and compassion as are all other animals.
The food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming, according to experts.
Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem.
The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet. However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet.
The average American drives 8,322 miles by car annually, emitting 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide, depending on the vehicle model and fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, Americans also consume an average of 3,774 calories of food each day.
Energy used for food production accounts for a large percentage of fossil fuel use. And the burning of these fossil fuels emits three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide per person. That alone amounts to approximately one-third the average greenhouse-gas emissions of personal transportation. But livestock production and associated animal waste also emit greenhouse gases not associated with fossil-fuel combustion, primarily methane and nitrous oxide.
An example would be manure lagoons that are associated with large-scale pork production. Those emit a lot of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. While methane and nitrous oxide are relatively rare compared with carbon dioxide, they are--molecule for molecule--far more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. A single pound of methane, for example, has the same greenhouse effect as approximately 50 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Vegan diets are the most energy-efficient. Fish and red meat are the least efficient. Research also indicates that plant-based diets are healthier for people, as well as for the planet.
It’s starting to become common knowledge that animal agriculture is damaging our environment. While more people are switching to a vegan diet, and studies are being conducted that show the environmental impact, the world is waking up to the the link between environmental damage and animal agriculture.
Animal Agriculture Contributes To Air Pollution
While it may seem shocking, animal agriculture produces significantly more greenhouse gases than all of the traffic in the world combined. Spouting out huge percentages of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, the industry is leaving behind pollutants known to remain in the atmosphere for more than 100 years. Then there is the issue of animal waste which produces toxic levels of methane and ammonia, which leads to climate change as well as acid rain.
Livestock animals produce toxic excrement from the high levels of antibiotics and hormones they are given. Factory farming is responsible for 18% of CO2 greenhouse emissions and 64% of ammonia which creates acid rain.
Cows and sheep account for 37% of the total methane generated. Cows alone produce approximately 120lbs of manure per day, as many as 20 to 40 humans. And their manure produces about 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Methane is 25 to 100 times more damaging than CO2.
The overpopulation of animals in factory farms creates unmanageable amounts of waste which is collected in cesspools. It is either sprayed on fields or left to sit. The toxic fumes from the pools are emitted into the air and harm the environment – causing health issues to the people living in those areas.
Animal Agriculture Pollutes Water
In addition to the pollution of the air we breathe, animal agriculture is also destroying our waterways. Aside from the animal excrement itself, there are also hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals running off into rivers, lakes, streams and our drinkable water. These practices are also causing dead zones in the oceans, rivers and lakes, leaving patches of underwater habitats with very low oxygen and causing marine life to die.
Animal agriculture is also using up our valuable water supplies. In the US 55% of water is consumed by animal agriculture, while only 5% is used by households. 1 cow drinks up to 50 gallons of water per day. It takes 683 gallons of H2O to make 1 gallon of milk. 2,400 gallons of water are used to make 1lb of beef. 477 gallons are needed to produce 1lb of eggs, and 900 gallons are used in the process of making cheese.
Animal Agriculture Takes Up Too Much Land
Animal agriculture takes up over 40% of the planet. Whole communities around the world have been displaced in order to make room for factory farms.
56 million acres of land are used to feed factory farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters. 70% of the grain grown in the US is used to feed farmed animals. It takes 10lbs of grain to produce 1lb of meat.
Animal Agriculture Destroys Ecosystems
Livestock factories lead to deforestation. As much as 80% of the Amazon Rainforest has already been destroyed and is now occupied by pastures and feed crops. Tropical deforestation and forest clearing have adverse consequences that contribute to biodiversity loss.
Nearly two thirds of land on our planet was once covered by grasslands, but much of these magnificent ecosystems have been lost to farming. The result is a catastrophic reduction of critical wildlife habitat. Remaining grasslands cover about half of African lands, while less than 4 percent of prairies survive in the United States.
Animal Agriculture Is Destroying Our Soil
Unlike sustainable farming systems that work harmoniously with the natural environment by rotating crops to help replace nutrients, unsustainable industrial farming uses one crop that is not rotated which leads to loss of soil fertility. Low soil fertility causes farms to continuously move from place to place which leads to deforestation and rapid growth in weeds.
The use of herbicides to combat weeds and pesticides to eliminate insects both harms the soil fertility and ultimately contaminates our water sources through runoff. Land based factory farming has caused more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world.
What You Can Do
For the the health of our planet and the future of its animals, agriculture must shift from animal production to providing vegetable based food sources. Reducing the devastation caused by animal factory farming begins with you. Choosing to buy vegan, 100% plant-based food and products is an easy way to help save the planet while also reducing the suffering of an animals.
According to a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs perform as well or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees, our closest human relatives, in addition to other primates.
The article reviews pigs’ full range of abilities by detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas examined by the article include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.
Scientists have concluded that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.” For example, pigs:
have excellent long-term memories;
are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of desired objects;
can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects;
love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals;
live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another;
cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as perspective-taking and tactical deception;
can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees;
can use a mirror to find hidden food;
exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual.
Scientists have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans.
Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud. Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.
Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.
When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.
Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.
Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.
Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.
When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.
Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.
Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.
Peacocks, also known as peafowl, are medium sized birds most closely related to pheasants. Peacocks inhabit warm climates of the Southern Hemisphere. All peacocks are believed to have originated in Asia, but they now inhabit Africa and parts of Australia. They are most common in India. Peacocks live in deserts, dry savannas, forests and dense foliage areas.
There are three main types of peacock, the Indian peacock, the African Congo peacock and the Green peacock. All three peacock species are known for the elaborately colored feathers and tales of male peacocks. Female peacocks are dull brown.
The giant tail feathers of male peacocks, called coverts, spread out in a distinctive train of over 60 percent of the peacock’s body length. It has vibrant eye shaped markings of blue, red, gold and other colors. Microscopic, crystal-like structures in the feathers reflect different wavelengths of light creating the bright, fluorescent colors.
The train of a peacock is used for mating and defense. Male peacocks attract female peacocks by showing off this array of elaborate feathers. When threatened, they also fan their tails out in order to look larger and intimidating. When the peacock quivers his feathers, they emit a low-frequency sound inaudible to humans. The peacock can change the sound to communicate different messages. Male peacocks shed their train each year after mating season.
Despite their giant tail feathers peacocks are able to fly, though they do not fly very far. When in danger, peacocks fly up into trees. They also spend nights in trees. Peacocks can also run quickly.
Male peacocks are called peacocks, while female peacocks are called peahens. Male peacocks are usually about twice the size of female peacocks. Male peacocks look especially larger than female peacocks when displaying their plumage (feathers). When male peacocks are not displaying, their tail feathers, called trains, drag behind them.
Peacocks are omnivores, feeding on plants, seeds, flower heads, insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They are known for their snake-fighting abilities.
Peacocks are social birds, but very aggressive towards invaders of their territories. They often play together, especially under the sunlight. Playing peacocks always follow one direction. Peacocks usually travel in groups of up to 10 peacocks.
Peacocks are one of the loudest animals on earth, calling out to each other during the morning and late evening. Peacocks make meowing sounds when it is going to rain. They also make alarm calls when they sense danger. Male peacocks sing to attract female peacocks.
During the mating season, male peacocks mate with up to six different female peacocks. Peahen lay 4 to 8 brown eggs. Mother peacocks incubate the eggs. Peacock babies hatch following an incubation period of about one month. Mother peacocks take care of the peacock chicks without assistance from the father peacock. Male peachicks do not begin to grow their trains until they are about 3 years old.
Peacocks have numerous natural predators, including dogs, cats, raccoons, tigers and the mongoose.
Peacocks live 20 years or more in the wild.
THREATS TO PEACOCKS
Peacocks are threatened due to habitat loss, smuggling, hunting and predation. Peacock populations are declining. Congo peafowl is a vulnerable species, and the Green peafowl is an endangered species.
The poaching of peacocks for their feathers is one of the main reasons peacock populations have decreased by more than 50 percent.
Peacocks face habitat loss like most bird species, causing them to have fewer sources of food, shelter and water. Mining, timber harvesting, animal agriculture, acquisition of their eggs, and hunting are all contributing to reduced numbers of peacocks.
Peacocks are also victims of the pet trade and animal entertainment industry.
The grunts made by pigs vary depending on the pig’s personality and can convey important information about the welfare of this highly social species, new research has found.
Scientists specializing in animal behavior and welfare devised an experiment to investigate the relationship between personality and the rate of grunting in pigs. They also examined the effect different quality living conditions had on these vocalizations.
The study involved 72 male and female juvenile pigs. Half were housed in spacious ‘enriched’ pens with straw bedding, while the other half were kept in more compact ‘barren’ pens with partially slatted concrete floors, which adhered to UK welfare requirements.
To get a measure of the pigs’ personalities, the researchers conducted two tests: a social isolation test and a novel object test. Each pig spent three minutes in social isolation, and five minutes in a pen with a large white bucket or an orange traffic cone they had not previously encountered. Their behavior, including vocalizations, were observed. These tests were repeated two weeks later, allowing the researchers to determine if the pigs’ responses were repeatable – the defining characteristic of personality (also known as ‘coping style’ in animals).
They also recorded the frequency of grunts they made by counting the number of grunts produced per minute of the test, and investigated the effect different quality environments had on the sounds made.
The study indicated that pigs with more proactive personality types produced grunts at a higher rate than the more reactive animals. The study also found that male pigs (but not females) kept in the lower-quality conditions made fewer grunts compared with those housed in the enriched environment, suggesting greater susceptibility among male pigs to environmental factors.
The results add to evidence that acoustic signaling indicates personality in pigs. This may have had far reaching consequences in shaping the evolution of social behaviors, the researchers believe. The findings also suggest personality needs to be kept in mind when using vocalization as a measure of the animals’ welfare status.
Principal investigator, Dr Lisa Collins, a specialist in animal health, behavior and welfare epidemiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “The domestic pig is a highly social and vocal species which uses acoustic signals in a variety of ways; maintaining contact with other group members while foraging, parent–offspring communication, or to signal if they are distressed. The sounds they make convey a wide range of information such as the emotional, motivational and physiological state of the animal. For example, squeals are produced when pigs feel fear, and may be either alerting others to their situation or offering assurance. Grunts occur in all contexts, but are typical of foraging to let other members of the group know where they are.”
Most Americans don’t know the true meaning of food labels like “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “grass fed” and falsely believe that farm animals are protected by laws or independent oversight, according to the results of a national survey released by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®).
The survey also showed that, despite their misconceptions, approximately three quarters of consumers surveyed are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are paying more attention than they were five years ago to food labels that indicate how those animals were raised.
Key findings of the survey:
There are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare: For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term “free-range” ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of “free-range” for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined.
Consumers are confused about how animal welfare is monitored on farms: Nearly half of those surveyed believe that an independent inspector verifies the health and welfare of animals living on most farms. Actually there is no independent inspection or oversight of animal welfare on the vast majority of farms – a fact that sparked concern in three quarters of survey takers.
Consumers are willing to pay more for products from farms that were audited to higher welfare standards, and desire more options: Sixty-seven percent of consumers say they are likely to buy meat, eggs and dairy products bearing a welfare certification label with meaningful standards, even if it meant paying a higher price for those products. In addition, 75 percent of consumers would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy.
There are now over 9 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which exist in inhumane factory-like facilities. Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately.
But buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products does not reduce animal exploitation. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food. It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting animals.
A worldwide switch to diets that rely more on fruits and vegetables, and less on meat, dairy and eggs, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, save up to 8 million lives, and save $1.5 trillion.
Extensive research by the University of Oxford, combing through reams of data from the UN Food and Agriculture Association, the World Health Organization, and countless studies, has resulted in crucial findings suggesting our eating habits must change...and must change radically.
Agriculture is responsible for over one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions; 80 percent from animal agriculture. Animal based diets are also the cause of numerous health problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Plant-based diets not only improve health, they have huge environmental benefits.
If every human on the planet switched to a plant-based diet – refraining from eating meat, dairy, honey, and other animal-sourced foods – greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture in 2050 would fall by more than half compared to 2005/2007 levels. If humans don't change their dietary habits, greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture will be 51 percent higher in 2050. Population growth and increased wealth is causing mass expansion of animal agriculture.
Just by following international healthy dietary guidelines, 2050 emissions from agriculture would be only 7 percent higher than current levels. These healthy dietary guidelines stress less red meat, which is greenhouse-gas-intensive, and more low-greenhouse-gas vegetables and fruits. If everyone switched to a vegetarian diet, which includes eating dairy and eggs but not meat, emissions would be reduced by 44 percent. A world vegan diet offers the best environmental benefits, decreasing emissions by a whopping 55 percent.
Health benefits of a vegetarian world would be staggering. Lower rates of cancer, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke result from ecologically friendly, plant-based diets. The healthy diet scenario would result in 5.1 million fewer deaths per year worldwide; the vegetarian diet would save 7.3 million lives a year; and veganism would save 8.1 million lives annually.
In addition to health and environmental benefits, vegan and vegetarian diets save money too. Lots of money. The savings in health costs alone is $735 billion US per year if everyone switched to a healthy diet; $973 billion if everyone became vegetarian; and an incredible $1 trillion or more if everyone went vegan. Emissions savings would add up to $234 billion US annually in the healthy diet scenario; $511 billion annually for the vegetarian diet; and $570 billion every year for the vegan diet.
While all three diet scenarios would improve the environment, health, and the economy, only worldwide veganism can save the planet from global climate disaster.
Scientists believe the tipping point for climate disaster is a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions enough to stop this from happening can only be accomplished through worldwide veganism. While a world vegan diet on its own would not hold the Earth below the 2-degree threshold, combined with other conservation efforts enough emissions could be reduced to avoid climate disaster.
Averting environmental disaster requires more than just technological changes. Animal based diets are responsible for the world's greatest health burdens and more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture contributes to air pollution, pollutes water, takes up too much land, destroys ecosystems, and is destroying our soil. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets is critical in averting climate disaster. Projected benefits should encourage individuals, industries, and global leaders to act decisively to make sure that what we eat preserves our environment and our health.
Consumers who avoid meat for ethical and/or health reasons often still consider dairy foods nutritious and humane. But products made from cow's milk are far from "natural" for humans and anything but humane for cows and their calves.
Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who, unlike human babies, will double their weight in 47 days (as opposed to 180 days for humans), grow four stomachs, and weigh 1,100-1,200 pounds within two years. Cow's milk contains about three times as much protein as human milk and almost 50 percent more fat.
No other species besides humans drinks milk beyond infancy, and no other species drinks the milk of another species (except domestic cats and dogs, who are taught the habit by humans). After four years of age, most people develop lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the carbohydrate lactose (found in milk), because they no longer synthesize the digestive enzyme lactase. Lactose-intolerant people who drink milk can experience stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
In addition to being an unnatural food for humans, cow's milk, like other dairy products, is unhealthful. Dr. John A. McDougall calls dairy foods "liquid meat" because their nutritional contents are so similar. Rich in fat and cholesterol, dairy products, including cheese, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and whey (found in many margarines and baked goods), contribute to the development of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke our nation's three deadliest killers. Robert Cohen, author of Milk: The Deadly Poison, estimates that, by the time the average American is 50, he or she has consumed from dairy foods the same amount of cholesterol found in 1 million slices of bacon. Perhaps most surprisingly, the consumption of dairy foods has also been linked to osteoporosis--the very disease milk is supposed to prevent.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease characterized by low bone mass and deteriorating bone tissue. Contrary to the protestations of the dairy industry, this bone loss is not halted or prevented by an increased calcium intake so much as by a drop in protein consumption. Indeed, after studying the diets of 78,000 American women over a 12-year period, researchers at Harvard University concluded that "it is unlikely that high consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium during midlife will confer substantial protective effects against hip or forearm fractures"; participants in the study who consumed more than 450 milligrams of calcium from dairy foods per day actually doubled their risk of hip fractures. Foods high in animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, leach calcium from the body in order to buffer the acidic byproducts that result from the breaking down of the excess protein; this causes a net loss of calcium. Societies with little or no consumption of dairy products and animal protein show a low incidence of osteoporosis. Furthermore, Dr. McDougall notes, "Calcium deficiency caused by an insufficient amount of calcium in the diet is not known to occur in humans."
Other illnesses are also more prevalent among those who consume significant amounts of dairy products than among vegans. Ninety percent of asthma patients who were put on a completely vegetarian diet (without meat, eggs, or dairy products) experienced great improvements in the frequency and severity of their attacks. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, milk is the leading cause of food allergies in children, causing symptoms as diverse as runny noses, ear problems, muscle fatigue, and headaches. Dairy foods have also been implicated in congestive heart failure, neonatal tetany, tonsil enlargement, ulcerative colitis, Hodgkin's disease, and respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal problems.
At least half of the 10 million cows kept for milk in the United States live on factory farms in conditions that cause tremendous suffering to the animals. They do not spend hours grazing in fields but live crowded into concrete-floored milking pens or barns, where they are milked two or three times a day by machines.
Milking machines often cause cuts and injuries that would not occur were a person to do the milking. These injuries encourage the development of mastitis, a painful bacterial infection. More than 20 different types of bacteria cause the infection, which is easily spread from one cow to another and which, if left unchecked, can cause death.
In some cases, milking machines even give cows electric shocks due to stray voltage, causing them considerable discomfort, fear, and impaired immunity and sometimes leading to death. A single farm can lose several hundred cows to shocks from stray voltage.
Large dairy farms also have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment. For example, in California, which produces one-fifth of the country's total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds--perhaps thousands--of square miles of underground water, rivers, and streams. Each of the state's more than 1 million cows excretes 120 pounds of waste every day equal to that of two dozen people.
Cows on today's farms live only about four to five years, as opposed to the life expectancy of 20-25 years enjoyed by cows of an earlier era. To keep the animals at high levels of productivity, dairy farmers keep them constantly pregnant through the use of artificial insemination. Farmers also use an array of drugs, including bovine growth hormone (BGH); prostaglandin, which is used to bring a cow into heat whenever the farmer wants to have her inseminated; antibiotics; and even tranquilizers, in order to influence the productivity and behavior of the cows.
Many of the country's dairy cows are routinely injected with BGH, which manufacturers say increases a cow's production by 20 percent. That's not all BGH increases. According to the government warning that, by law, must accompany packages of the Monsanto company's BGH, the use of this hormone "has been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus" and may increase the number of cows afflicted with mastitis. The increased rates of infections in cows have led to an increase in the use of antibiotics at a time when scientists say the overuse of antibiotics has caused more and more strains of bacteria to become drug-resistant. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, warns that higher infection rates in cows also mean more pus in the milk people drink.
Some researchers also worry about the long-term effects of consuming milk from BGH-treated cows. For example, Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, believes such milk could increase the risk of some types of cancer in humans.
Perhaps the greatest pain suffered by cows in the dairy industry is the repeated loss of their young. Female calves may join the ranks of the milk producers, but the males are generally taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and sold at auction either for the notorious veal industry or to beef producers. If the calf is killed when young, his fourth stomach is also used in cheese-making; it contains rennin, an enzyme used to curdle (or coagulate) milk to turn it into cheese. Rennet, from whose membrane rennin is an extract, can also be used in this process. It is possible to make rennetless cheese (available at health food stores), but the close connection between the dairy, veal, and leather industries makes it cheaper for cheese producers to use calf parts than a vegetable-derived enzyme.
Within 60 days, the cow will be impregnated again. For about seven months of her next nine-month pregnancy, the cow will continue to be milked for the fluid meant for her older calf. A typical factory-farmed dairy cow will give birth three or four times in her short life. When her milk production wanes, she is sent to slaughter, most likely to be ground up into fast-food burgers.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Reduce or eliminate milk and dairy products from your diet.
What could be more romantic than a leisurely carriage ride on a warm summer evening?
In the late 1980s, Whitey, a nine-year-old gelding, collapsed while pulling a carriage during a summer heat wave in New York City. A passing nurse gave Whitey an IV saline solution, and sympathetic police officers sprayed him with cool water for two hours. Eventually Whitey managed to get back on his feet. Another carriage horse, Misty, died from apparent heat exhaustion during the same heat wave. Despite the national attention that was focused on the carriage horse industry after Whitey's collapse--and the outrage of romantics everywhere--little has changed for the horses.
Many horses who end up pulling carriages through city streets are "breakdowns" from harness racing tracks. Standardbreds are often trained to race by being tethered to the back of a truck that drives increasingly faster, so carriage horse operators consider these horses "street savvy." But standardbreds are much smaller and lighter than traditional "draft horses" and are not accustomed to pulling heavy loads. Many other carriage horses are breakdowns from Amish farming communities. Regardless of their source, most horses, as veterinarian Holly Cheever points out, "enter the carriage horse trade with a legacy of previous injuries and debility." When horses can no longer pull heavy carriages, they are sold to rendering plants or dog food companies.
HARD & HARSH CONDITIONS
Even for healthy horses, a carriage ride is not an easy trip. Most cities have only minimal regulations governing working conditions for carriage horses, and these regulations are rarely enforced. Carriage horse operators know all the loopholes in their city's laws. An officer with the Canadian SPCA has said, "[I]f regulations state that a horse can work for nine consecutive hours, but [fail] to say within a 24-hour period, [drivers will] work the horse for nine hours, give the horse an hour or two of rest, then come back on the road." As a result, many horses work 12 or more hours a day, often in extreme weather conditions.
As in the case of Misty, weather conditions sometimes prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to bitter cold and scorching heat. Carriage Operators of North America, a trade organization to which only a small percentage of carriage horse operators belong, says horses may work if the temperature is nine degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heat stress can die in just a few hours. Some cities outlaw carriage rides when the temperature reaches a certain degree, but often the official weather bureau reading does not accurately reflect the temperature on the streets. A study published by Cornell University, for example, found that the air temperature recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the actual asphalt temperature. And the New York City Department of Transportation found that asphalt surfaces can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
INJURIES & ACCIDENTS
Horses and heavy city traffic can also be a deadly mix. Despite carriage horse operators' claims, most horses are not comfortable working among cars and trucks, and many accidents, injuries, and even deaths--to horses and humans--have been caused by horses becoming "spooked" in traffic. According to Cheever, it is normal for horses to "react to threatening situations with panic and flight." A survey of national carriage horse accidents revealed that 85 percent of all accidents were the result of an animal spooking. Seventy percent of the time there was a human injury, and 22 percent of the time there was a human death. The survey also found that in New York City, which has the highest carriage horse accident rate in the country, 98 percent of the horses who "spooked" became injured.
Injuries and fatalities resulting from collisions between cars and carriage horses have occurred in almost every city that allows carriage rides, including Cincinnati, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; and Houston, Texas.
SMOKE & EXHAUST
The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are also dangerous for horses. In a study by veterinarian Jeffie Roszel, "tracheal washes and samples from respiratory secretions of these horses showed enormous lung damage, the same kind of damage you would expect from a heavy smoker." Horses' nostrils are usually only 3 to 3 1/2 feet above street level, so these animals are "truly ... living a nose-to-tailpipe existence."
ABUSE & NEGLECT
Carriage horses also routinely suffer at the hands of poorly trained drivers. Because they are constantly walking and standing on hard streets, "lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable" in carriage horses, says Cheever. "The problems are worsened by the inexperience of the gross majority of the owners and drivers, who are either incapable of recognizing lameness or are unwilling to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service for a few days." Many drivers don't know how to fasten harnesses correctly, and either leave straps so loose they rub and chafe the horse's skin, or buckle the straps so tightly they pinch. And few horses are fitted with new horseshoes as often as is needed. Conditions for carriage horses aren't much better when the horses are off the streets.
Raids on carriage horse stables have exposed stalls with no hay or other bedding, stall floors covered with urine and manure, poor ventilation in the stables, and horses who had no free access to water. Many stables have stacked floors--like parking garages--with steep ramps leading from one floor to the next. The floors in one stable were so rotten, they often gave way under the weight of the horses, repeatedly causing animals to break their legs. In 1991, two horses owned by a carriage horse operator in New York died after being fed bad hay.
Not surprisingly, carriage horse operators view attempts to regulate their industry--through stipulations on where and how long horses can work, temperature restrictions, and mandatory veterinary care--as economic threats. One carriage horse operator in Charleston, S.C., even said,"[L]egislation is ridiculous."
In her classic novel, Black Beauty, Anna Sewell wrote, "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt." People around the world agree and are increasingly recognizing that it's the carriage horse industry--not just the horses--who are taking them for a ride.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Don't patronize the carriage horse industry.
Educate others about carriage horses.
Pressure from concerned residents has resulted in bans on carriage horses in a growing number of cities. Educate your local officials on the issue.
The average consumer may not be aware of the suffering of billions of birds raised for meat and egg production in the United States each year. Billions of "broiler" chickens and "egg" chickens, and millions turkeys, are killed for food each year. In addition, millions of birds die as a result of disease, injury and during transportation.
Egg-laying hens in the United States number more than 459 million. Of these millions of birds, 97% are confined to "battery" cages, tiny cages roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or 6 birds are crammed into each cage, and the cages are stacked in tall tiers. As many as 50,000 to 125,000 battery hens, in sheds with minimal light, strain to produce 250 eggs per year, ten times the number of eggs they would produce in the wild.
Battery cage confinement does not allow birds to turn around or take part in any other natural behavior, such as preening, dust bathing, and foraging for food. Prolonged forced confinement causes unnatural behaviors such as cannibalism and increases the incidence of disease and injury. Laying hens are also forced to live in a polluted environment due to toxic feed ingredients, accumulated feces, and excretory ammonia fumes. A successful battery system relies heavily on antibiotics that are routinely administered to laying hens to decrease the incidence of disease among these immune-repressed birds.
Battery hens often die in their cages as the result of disease or injury. Those who survive but stop producing adequately are considered "spent" hens and are sent to slaughter to be used for human and animal food. Male chicks are of no value to egg producers. Each year more than 200 million male chicks are killed or left to die after hatching.
Egg-producing birds that are not confined to battery cages seldom fare much better. Eggs labeled "Cage Free" or "Free Range" simply mean that the birds are not confined to battery cages, not necessarily that the hens are allowed a more natural existence. Neither guarantees that they have adequate space to move around, or that they are allowed outdoors to roam about and forage or dust bathe.
Molting is the natural process of shedding old feathers and the growth of new feathers. Molting initiates a new egg-laying cycle. The natural molting process takes about four months to complete. However, on factory farms, poultry producers induce starvation to control egg production in laying hens (eggs for human consumption) and breeding hens (eggs that hatch into birds used for meat or egg production) to reduce the molting period to one to two months. Performed to increase farm profits, this "forced molting" is extremely stressful to hens. Forced molting methods include food and water deprivation, medications and simulated light and dark cycles. A Poultry Science report found that forced molting in combination with a Salmonella infection created an actual disease state in tested hens. Salmonella infection can be passed on to consumers through egg consumption.
Debeaking is a painful procedure whereby the bird's sensitive beak is sliced off with a hot blade. Poultry meat and egg producers that use battery cages and crowded floor systems remove one-half to two-thirds of the birds' beaks to discourage cannibalistic pecking, a behavior that occurs when birds are kept in close confinement with no regard for their natural behaviors. Behavioral studies indicate that debeaked birds are often unable to eat, drink, and preen properly. They also exhibit behaviors associated with chronic pain and depression.
Toe-clipping is the amputation of a bird's toes just behind the claw. This painful procedure is performed to reduce claw-related injuries on factory farms.
Genetic engineering of broiler chickens and turkeys often results in a bird too heavy to stand or walk. They suffer from pain in their legs and sores on their feet that are induced by their extreme, unnatural size. Kept in polluted dark sheds with as many as 25,000 birds per shed, these birds suffer many of the same ailments as battery hens, such as being debeaked and being forced to live in a toxic environment. Thousands of these birds never make it to slaughter -- they will die while still on the farm from injuries, disease or their inability to reach food and water.
Millions of birds die during the loading of trucks and while en route to slaughter. These sensitive birds, often in very poor physical condition, are grabbed by their legs and thrown into densely packed cages to be transported by truck to slaughterhouses that are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many die from shock, injury, and suffocation in the process.
The U.S. Federal Humane Slaughter Act does not apply to poultry, meaning that there is no federal law that requires birds to be stunned prior to slaughter. This allows for diversity in commercial poultry slaughter approaches and stunning equipment. When slaughterhouses do use stunning equipment, lack of regulation often results in birds allowed to raise their heads prior to reaching the water bath stunner and therefore not adequately stunned. Problems also exist in neck-cutting equipment, which may result in prolonged and extreme pain caused by necks improperly cut during the killing process.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Decrease or eliminate foods containing poultry products from your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses a vegetarian diet.
Avoiding pesticides is the reason why some people prefer organic food. Many believe that to be ecologically responsible food should be grown naturally. For others, the most important factor is the reassurance that the crop harvesting process did not expose farm workers to dangerous toxins. For many vegans, their main reason is to ensure that no chemical substances were used to grow their food that could cause the suffering and deaths of animals. However, at least for the time being, the majority of the food currently offered to consumers comes from a production system where animal exploitation – direct or indirect – is the standard, regardless of it being organic or not.
To keep growing crops, organic farmers need to return organic matter and minerals to the soil, like all farmers do. To avoid using chemical fertilizing agents, organic farmers often opt for animal products such as manure, blood, and fish and bone meal to restore the mineral content of the soil, which tends to deplete due to farming. Many of them use a rotation system known as ‘crop and livestock,' where the animals themselves are being exploited. Whenever animals or animal derivatives are used, it presupposes exploitation of animals.
Veganic farming (also termed “vegan-organic”) is based on the belief that having animals exploited or killed is not a prerequisite to growing food. Veganic farmers abstain from using synthetic chemical products, GMOs, slaughterhouse-originating byproducts or animal manures. The point that nonhuman animals are a required component of organic farming is moot: commercial farmers, individual farmers, even farms sponsored by the government have been growing their crops without using animals or their derivatives for years.
In an 11-year study of veganic farming, where no animal manures were used to support crop yields, it was shown that competing insects and diseases posed no significant problems. Three different rotations of roots and cereals were used throughout the study. When animal manures would normally be used, farmers employed legume-derived green manures with nitrogen-replenishing properties instead.
This study altered the perception of what it is to shift to organic farming. In the past, going organic meant replacing synthetic fertilizers with live animals; now, it is possible to shift to organic farming without needing to purchase and maintain livestock. As a consequence, a growing number of conventional farmers are shifting to veganic farming, which is good news for the environment as well as for nonhuman animals.
Passing materials through animals to enrich the soil is an unnecessary process. From a physiological point of view, the only thing this process achieves is to waste energy which hinders its efficiency and sustainability as a food producing method. After all, there is nothing more in manure than the grains or grass already growing on the farm, simply passed through the animal’s digestive system.
That doesn’t mean that vegan organic farmers don’t watch for diseases and competing organisms – all farmers do. They do so, however, by completely avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers or animals and their byproducts, choosing to help the soil develop a natural resistance. Veganic farming revolves around feeding the soil, which will, in turn, feed the crops.
To keep the ground fertile, veganic farmers may use compost made from plant-derived material. They also employ crop rotation. This contradicts conventional farming, which is based on monoculture, the practice of growing single crops over extended areas of farmland. As time passes, monoculture has the tendency to reduce output and foster disease. It also results in land devaluation for a varied population of animals. On the other hand, vegan organic farmers enhance biodiversity ensuring a healthy balance of insects, predators, and useful organisms. By making sure that plant life and wintering animals have ample habitat, the natural balance is maintained for years to come providing for many growing seasons, as well as respecting the lives of other organisms that share their land with us.
Composts used by vegan organic farmers and gardeners may come from grass cuttings, vegetable peelings, spent hops, old hay, garden waste, comfrey, ramial, and even seaweed. This compost is supplemented with green manures. These are plants that are grown and then cut down, either to be mixed with the soil or left on it to decompose naturally.
Welcoming biodiversity and using disintegrating plant materials to grow crops is not a new concept. It’s where natural growth is based. Look at the forest, for example; its fertility is based on plants accumulating on the surface, without soil manipulation and the use of added animal manure. It was common knowledge among the ranks of early farmers. In fact, an entire period existed when no animal derivatives or animal manure was used for farming of any kind.
An added benefit of avoiding the use of animals and their byproducts in modern farming practices is significant savings in fossil-fuels that are consumed in order to transport manure between places. Also, if no animals are present, maintaining vast pasture areas becomes obsolete, which means that these areas can become forests again. That is a win-win situation for animals, who also get their natural habitat back, besides not being exploited for our own purposes.
Our food is closely connected with the natural world. In cases where we can choose, opting for particular farming techniques will undoubtedly affect animals' – human and nonhuman alike – survival in terms of food, space, and environmental health. For this reason, the support of organic farming has always been of great importance for the diligent consumer. Supporting vegan organics takes that diligence a critical step ahead.
Swimming gracefully across a pond or waddling comically across the land, ducks are a common feature of the landscape of most of America. There are statues devoted to them in a park in Boston, and every year that city holds a parade for the Bostonian ducklings. Walt Disney created the sputtering Donald Duck, and Warner Brothers followed with a less feisty, yet still speech-impaired, Daffy Duck.
Ducks are very social animals. Males and females sometimes live in pairs or together with their ducklings. They communicate both vocally and with body language. At other times ducks spend much of their time—during both day and night—in larger groups.
The domestic duck has a normal life span of ten years. By contrast, a pair of geese will get together to raise a family and, for the most part, will stay together the rest of their lives (up to 25 years), raising new families each year.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of geese is that they form a giant "V" across the sky. This amazing trick actually helps each bird fly further than if flying alone. When a goose falls out of formation, she will feel the drag and move quickly back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of her. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into formation leaving another goose in the front position. They even honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Geese have very strong affections for others in their group (known as a gaggle). If one in the gaggle gets sick, wounded, or shot, a couple of others may drop out of formation and follow the ailing goose down to help and protect him. They try to stay with the disabled goose until he dies or is able to fly again, then they catch up with the group or launch out with another formation.
Much of a goose's time is spent foraging for food, most of which is obtained by grazing. They honk loudly and can stretch their long necks out to great length when scared or threatened.
Ducks and geese are wild animals, but they have domesticated counterparts who are raised for their eggs and meat, down and feathers. They're less commonly known as farm animals, yet they can certainly fall within this category.
When people think of goats, they often think of a clothesline-munching vagrant. Goats and sheep, however, are more often the source of clothing than the consumers of it. The fibers that become textiles—wool and cashmere, among many other types—are shorn from these animals.
Sheep and goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head-butt.
Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."
Like goats, sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Goats and sheep deserve the same love and compassion from humans that they show to each other.
In veganic gardening, manures and animal products are avoided, along with chemicals and toxic sprays. It is the same as avoiding consuming animal products in the vegan lifestyle; fertilizers such as bone and blood meal, fish emulsion, sludge from slaughterhouses, and manures are obtained from companies that enslave and exploit sentient creatures. Moreover, veganic gardening is a healthier and safer way of growing food, because it completely avoids spreading dangerous diseases that are endemic in intensive animal production facilities.
During veganic gardening, the soil is kept fertile through green manures, vegetable composts, mulching, crop rotation, and other eco-friendly and sustainable strategies. From time to time, gypsum, lime, dolomite, rock phosphorus, rock potash and rock dusts are also used, but every effort is made against relying on these materials.
Soil fertilizers and conditioners that are ecologically sustainable and veganic include wood ash, hay mulch, composted organic material (vegetable/fruit peels, leaves, and grass), green manures/nitrogen-fixing cover crops (clover, fava, beans, lupines and alfalfa), seaweed (liquid, meal or fresh) for trace elements, and liquid feeds (such as nettles or comfrey or nettles). Marigold borders help to avert certain insects and also improves the soil via its root system.
Green Veganic Manures
Green manures are plants used as cover, specifically grown in order to be mixed into the soil. Plants that can be grown between seasons as cover crops are fast-growing ones such as oats, wheat, vetch, or clover. Then, they are mixed into the garden soil as it is being readied for the next crop. Green manure crops bind and use soil nutrients that might have otherwise leached out, then return them to the soil when they are mixed with it. Moreover, they improve the soil and avert erosion through their root systems. Nitrogen-fixing crops such as peas, vetch, crimson clover and fava beans enrich the soil with nitrogen as they are mixed with it and decompose. Cover crops also keep weeds from growing during fall and winter.
Composted Veganic Organic Matter
A compost pile comprises food waste like vegetable and fruit rinds, covered by grass clippings, leaves or other similar course material. The purpose is to form alternating layers of food and covering material, to allow oxygenation. After the bin is filled, the pile is flipped and covered with a weed mat or a black plastic sheet to create heat and protect it from rain. After some time it is flipped again, to bring the bottom to the top, and covered again. After 2-3 months, as the local climate permits it, the natural recycling process will have completed and created soil rich in vitamins.
Veganic Liquid Feeds
A container with nettles, grass cuttings, comfrey leaves or weed is covered with water, at a 1 to 3 rate, for 2 to 4 weeks. The plant material and weed seeds are then strained out. Comfrey provides a potash-rich feed, while feed from nettles is considered the best multi-purpose feed.
Veganic Hay Mulches
By covering the ground with a think hay layer, the soil is fed with organic matter as the material decomposes. Moreover, it keeps weeds from growing and promotes worm growth in the soil. A very thick hay mulch layer is used to cover gardens during winter time.
Veganic Worm Castings
Natural populations of composting worms love damp, cool, and dark environments (like under a thick layer of hay mulch or a black weed mat) and will breed optimally under these conditions. Worm castings are a potent, completely natural source of organic matter, rich in nutrients and capable of holding lots of moisture. Plant life is known to benefit immensely from earthworm castings. They increase fertility and improve the soil.
Seaweed provides trace elements. It is preferred to use freshly harvested seaweed from the sea, instead of material sitting on beaches after being washed up. Some vegan-organic gardeners use kelp meal or bulk spirulina, which provide trace minerals and potash.
Lime’s primary mission in gardening is to make the soil less acidic, also known as increasing the pH level or ‘making the soil sweeter.' For most plants, optimal growth is achieved at neutral pH. You can test your soil and see if it is alkaline or acidic. Lime also provides magnesium and calcium to the soil. Calcium promotes plant growth and also helps other nutrients to be properly absorbed. In addition, lime can be used to break up heavy clay soil.
Gypsum also provides more calcium to the soil, but it does so without making it less acidic.
Veganic EM Bokashi
Bokashi is Japanese for ‘fermented organic matter’. EM stands for Effective Microorganisms and comprises mixed cultures of beneficial micro-organisms that occur naturally, such as yeast, lactic acid bacteria, actinomycetes and photosynthetic bacteria. It is a material that is based on bran, which has been through EM liquid concentrate fermentation, and dried for storage. When added to compost, it helps with organic matter fermentation. Store EM Bokashi in a warm, dry and dark place.
Neem has a long history in Indian agriculture, where it is known as the wonder tree. It has served as a great repellent of pests, and an organic fertilizer which also sterilizes against insects.
Veganic Green Sand
Used to amend and fertilize the soil, green sand is derived from mineral deposits that come from the ocean floor. It is naturally rich in potash, as well as magnesium, iron, silica and up to thirty other trace minerals. It may also be used for heavy clay soil loosening. Although it is as consistent as normal sand, it can absorb ten times more moisture.
The preferred source of magnesium and calcium, dolomite is a fine rock dust.
Veganic Rock Dusts
Rock Dusts (stonemeal) is primary used is to re-mineralize depleted soil (from agricultural and industrial practices). It slowly deposits minerals in the soil and can be applied either directly, combined with other fertilizers, or as a part of the compost. It stimulates microbial activity to a significant degree.
Veganic Rock Potash
Potassium is an essential nutrient that promotes flower and fruit growth and aids in foliage ‘hardening’ to make it less prone to disease. Rock potash acts very slowly. Release takes place as it weathers, a process that can take years. It is used during soil preparation before planting.
Veganic Rock Phosphate
Plants and animals need phosphorus to thrive. It is mined as phosphate rock, which formed as phosphorite, a form of calcium phosphate created in the oceans. Apatite is the most abundant mineral in phosphate rock.
The veal calf industry is one of the most reprehensible of all the kinds of intensive animal agriculture. Male calves used for veal are taken from their mothers one or two days after birth. They are chained inside tiny crates barely larger than their bodies and are usually kept in darkness, except to be fed two or three times a day for 20 minutes. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. About 14 weeks after their birth, they are slaughtered.
The veal calf's permanent home is a veal crate, a restraining device that is so small (22 inches by 54 inches) that the calves cannot turn around. Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves' muscles, thus producing tender "gourmet" veal. The calves often suffer from open sores caused by the constant rubbing against the crates.
In 1996, the European Union voted to ban the veal crate across Europe. Yet it is still perfectly legal in the United States.
The calves are generally fed a milk substitute intentionally lacking in iron and other essential nutrients. This diet keeps the animals anemic and creates the pale pink or white color considered desirable in veal. Craving iron, the calves lick urine-saturated slats and any metallic parts of their stalls. Farmers also withhold water from the animals, who, always thirsty, are driven to drink a large quantity of the high-fat liquid feed.
Because of such extremely unhealthy living conditions and restricted diets, calves are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and "scours," or constant diarrhea. Consequently, they must be given massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive. The antibiotics are passed on to consumers in the meat and that's not all that's passed along.
Federal agents have found more than a dozen veal production companies giving calves clenbuterol, a dangerous and illegal drug that speeds growth and increases anemia in the calves, producing more expensive white meat. Calves treated with clenbuterol can be sold for slaughter at 12 to 13 weeks, rather than the standard 16 weeks. Even trace amounts of clenbuterol can cause severe illness in humans, including increased heart rate, tremors, breathing difficulties, fever and even death.
Veal calves are a byproduct of the dairy industry; they are produced by dairy cows, who are kept constantly pregnant to keep milk production high. Their female calves are raised to be living milk machines like their mothers...confined, fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics, artificially inseminated, and slaughtered after their milk production drops or they are slaughtered for the rennet in their stomachs (used to make commercial cheese). Since male calves cannot produce milk, they are often taken away from their mothers at 1 or 2 days old and put into crates to be killed for veal. The milk that nature meant for them ends up on our supermarket shelves instead.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Factory farming is an extremely cruel method of raising animals, but its profitability makes it popular. Farm animals are sentient beings that experience all the same emotions we do. The best way to save animals from the misery of factory farming is to stop or reduce your consumption of meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today. Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming and body language. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise, or stimulation, individuals may develop stable vices, stereotypies of psychological origin, that include wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems.
Horses are also prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when startled they will often hesitate an instant to ascertain the cause of their fright, and may not always flee from something that they perceive as non-threatening.
Related to this need to flee from predators is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a "stay apparatus" in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing. Horses sleep better when in groups because some animals will sleep while others stand guard to watch for predators. A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep. If a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
Horses are grazing animals, and their major source of nutrients is good-quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day.
The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This allows horses to have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but they have two-color, or dichromatic vision; their color vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.
Their sense of smell, while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.
A horse's hearing is good, and the pinna of each ear can rotate up to 180°, giving the potential for 360° hearing without having to move the head. Noise impacts the behavior of horses and certain kinds of noise may contribute to stress.
Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception - the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times. A horse's sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to sense contact as subtle as an insect landing anywhere on the body.
Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat. Their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains. Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants.
Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.
Horses are highly intelligent animals. They perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination abilities. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries. Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.
Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods. Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.
Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.
Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.
Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses. Donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.
Water buffalo, or Asian buffalo, are believed to have originated in Asia, but have been introduced to Africa, Australia, Europe and North America. Wild water buffalo inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. They live in swamps, grasslands, savannas, lowland floodplains, glades and mixed forests – never far from water.
Water buffalo spend much of their time submerged in muddy waters to keep cool and to remove parasites, flies and other pests. Water buffalo hooves are spread out to keep them from sinking into the mud. They are large members of the Bovidae family, the same family as wild cows, the American bison, the African buffalo, the zebu and the yak. The water buffalo is the second largest wild cattle species in the world.
Water buffaloes are black or white in color. They have large, distinctive, curved horns. Males have larger horns than females and are about a third larger than female water buffaloes. The horns of male water buffaloes are crescent-shaped with a ridge along the body of the horns.
Water buffalo live in herds of a few buffalo to hundreds of buffalo. Living in communities provides better protection against predators. Wild buffalo communicate using low grunts and calls. Water buffalo are social animals and are not territorial. Herds are usually led by a dominant, older, female – often accompanied by a single adult male. Water buffalo can be active during the day or night, with feeding usually occurring in the late afternoon and evening.
Water buffaloes are herbivores, feeding on a purely vegetarian diet. Water buffaloes eat aquatic plants when they are in water, but often leave the water to find grasses, herbs and leaves.
Water buffaloes once engaged in long-distance seasonal migrations. They now occupy stable home ranges. Water buffalo travel in single-file, lead by a female adult with calves in the middle and the remaining adults in the rear.
Water buffalo mating season takes place during the rainy season. Males may be aggressive with each other to earn females. After mating, a female water buffalo will chase away the male. The male water buffalo will then seek other females to mate with. Female water buffaloes have one baby every couple of years, following a gestation period of 9 to 11 months. Baby water buffaloes stay with their mother for several years. After about three years, male water buffaloes join all male water buffalo communities. Female water buffaloes often remain with their mother's herd. Older males may lead a more solitary life, or live near female communities.
Water buffalo are preyed upon by large predators including lions, tigers and crocodiles. Their horns are used to protect them against predators. Water buffalo can also run very fast when faced with danger. They are extremely protective of their calves. Female water buffalo will form protective lines in front of their young when threatened by predators. If the threat continues, they flee into forests, tall grass or water.
Water buffaloes can survive over 25 years in the wild and in captivity.
THREATS TO WATER BUFFALOES
Wild water buffaloes are an endangered species due to loss of habitat and hunting, with less than 4,000 remaining. Their numbers are also diminishing as they are interbred with domesticated water buffalo.
The water buffalo has been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and is inhumanely used to pull heavy machinery, carry heavy loads, plow and transport people. Water buffalo are commercially farmed around the globe for their milk, skin, butterfat and meat.