Philip is 30 years old, one meter eighty tall, a real muscle pack and very proud of his body. In addition to sports and intense weight training, protein-rich meat has helped make Phil at least visually a model athlete. On the first of January then the total turnaround. Vegan!
From one day to the other. What happened? As a journalist, especially on land, reports from farms and background reports on agriculture are part of his daily business. But not everything he sees, he may show his television viewers. Too bloody, the pictures from the slaughterhouses, too shrill, the screams of the executed animals, too burdened, the fish from the bottom of the North and Baltic Sea. But the pictures stay in the head. Indelible. Reason enough to be vegan?
You should not kill
The fifth commandment applies convinced, vegan animal lovers to all living things, not just to humans. Even products that do not seem to have to be killed, such as eggs and milk, no longer appear on their vegan menu. Really doing without animal products means applying this principle to other areas such as clothing and cosmetics. Leather shoes are frowned upon, wool is avoided and cosmetics that have been tested on animals or contain animal ingredients are boycotted. Only that is really completely vegan.
No doubt about vegan life not only helps the animals but our planet as a whole. Crush humanity, to renounce the use of animals, our world could literally breathe. Hard to imagine 65 billions of livestock are produced annually worldwide. They chew and digest and produce tons of methane, a climate-damaging greenhouse gas. Taken together, all of these factors make the burden of meat and fish consumption on the Earth's atmosphere much greater than that of global road traffic.
Although the calculations fluctuate over what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be responsible for global meat production. For some it is 12,8, others come on 18 or even more than 40 percent.
Growing desire for meat
The lungs of the earth, the Amazon, would also have a chance if the clearing for pastureland were stopped. But more and more cattle need more and more land. In Brazil alone, the number of cattle between 1961 and 2011 has quadrupled to more than 200 million.
As wealth grows, there is a growing appetite for meat: 1990's meat consumption was 150 million tons, 2003 already 250 million tons, and 2050 an estimated 450 million tons, with catastrophic effects on the world's food supply. Because the 16 billions of chickens, 1,5 billions of cattle and a billion pigs, who are on our earth for a short time just to be eaten, need feed, a lot of food. Already now more than a third of all grain in the world is being fed. In addition, climate change is leading to droughts in the hitherto high-yielding regions of the United States. If all human beings eat as much flesh as we Austrians and Germans around the world, we would already need several planets only for feed and grazing areas.
Vegan: Less burdened, also healthier
The elimination of commercial livestock would reduce the outbreak of cross-border diseases such as swine fever and BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease) and foodborne infections caused by bacteria could be reduced. Also, the devastating EHEC infections (enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, triggers bloody diarrheal disease) two years ago in Germany, which cost 53 people their lives, are ultimately due to viehexkremente that came as fertilizer on the fields. In many districts of Germany, the pollution of groundwater with nitrate is already alarming. But the over-fertilization of the fields with manure continues to increase.
Animal husbandry is also associated with a great waste of calories, proteins and other nutrients. The reason is that the animals burn most of the nutrients they feed themselves. The production of an animal calorie currently costs more than three vegetable calories. Blatant is the destruction of animal life even where many do not suspect it at first sight; for example in egg production. Only the female offspring of laying hens produce new eggs, not their brothers. They also have too little muscle to be commercially interesting as a meat supplier for the breeders. So they are hacked alive, or gassed. On every laying hen comes so still a dead brother. And in Germany alone there are 36 millions of laying hens.
Endangered fish species
Vegan living also brings a lot to the water dwellers: oceans and oceans could recover if we did not recreate the animals. 100 million tonnes of fish are taken from the sea each year, efficiently and industrially, with fatal consequences. The list of endangered species is long: Alaskan salmon, sea bream, halibut, lobster, cod, salmon, mackerel, redfish, sardine, plaice and haddock, sole, buffalo, tuna, sea bass and walleye. And this is just an excerpt from the red list. Almost all species could grow twice or even three times the size they land on our plates, but they are pulled out of the water long before they are fully grown. According to calculations by the UN environment program, 2050 will be over at the latest, because then no commercial fishing will be possible. Game over, unless we curb our appetite, or switch to vegan food.
At least the EU has now decided that fishermen will be allowed to catch "only" five percent of their by-catch from next year. So bring sea creatures on deck, they did not really want to kill. It can still be up to 30 percent. According to experts, nearly all species would recover in a few years' time from the point of view of fishing. Flora and fauna in the sea would also benefit because no bottom trawl plowed through the seabed and thus destroy the livelihood of many microorganisms, which in turn are the food source of many fish.
Consequences of a radical exit
We can turn it around and turn around as we like, industrial animal husbandry and fishing will destroy all of our livelihoods if we simply continue the evolution of the past 50 years. But to switch completely to vegan is meant too short. However, a radical exit from this system would also have fundamental economic consequences. Above all, livestock and poultry farming companies were about to leave. Animal transporters, slaughterhouses would have to close. In the German meat-processing industry alone, according to figures from the year 2011, more than 80.000 jobs with an annual turnover of 31,4 billion euros were lost.
Instead, the chemical industry would boom. In a vegan world - without the use of animals - chemistry would be even more important than it is today. Where leather and wool are not used, imitation leather and microfibers are used, because cotton is not an unimaginable substitute. It is a very thirsty plant that is increasingly being grown where water is already scarce, such as in Egypt.
Vegan critics object that a purely plant-based diet must protect the population from deficiency symptoms. There is a threat of an undersupply of the vital vitamin B12. Since this vitamin can be found almost exclusively in animal products, strict vegans have to consume it through dietary supplements.
Kurt Schmidinger of Future Food Austria has shown in a study a way how this would be easy to organize. The prerequisite would be that state and industry participate. Similar to the enrichment of salt with iodine, then artificially produced vitamins and minerals could be added to other foods. However, it has to be considered that, for example, the industrial production of vitamin B12 is mainly carried out with the aid of genetically modified microorganisms. Not everyone will welcome that.
On the other hand, it would be released from the enrichment of the individual to constantly have to pay attention to the adequate intake of these vitamins and minerals. As a result, more people may be relinquishing animal products and switching to the vegan store, which in turn would encourage the food industry to offer an even wider range of products to the larger target group. Increased demand and a better vegan offer result in lower prices, which in turn stimulate demand. A self-reinforcing circuit. If all of us then ate vegan, our hospitals would be half empty, because diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and gallstones would occur much less frequently in this diet.
"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian."
Beautiful new world
But how do we get there? A state ban on the consumption of animal products is hardly an option. Too big the power of the food industry, too big the fear of job losses. In addition, a ban would quickly create a black market for fish, meat, eggs and cheese.
It is only very slow. And it starts with the kids. "Healthy food" should actually become a mandatory subject and have the same value as mathematics and physics. Paul McCartney coined the phrase, "If slaughterhouses had walls of glass, they would all be vegetarians." Taking this into consideration, children should take school trips to slaughterhouses, of course only psychologically. Because only when they experience how animals are killed, they can really decide freely whether they actually want to eat animals.
Diet-related illnesses are wholly or partially responsible for two-thirds of all deaths in the West. Actually, the Federal Ministry of Health should start a wide-ranging campaign to advertise vegan nutrition. In this way, a large part of the more than eleven billion euros in healthcare costs in Austria could be saved.
"I do not think it's right to judge people by what they eat. 52 percent of people in Austria try to reduce their meat consumption. Of course, that makes me happy because it's good for the environment and animal welfare "
Felix Hnat, Vegan Society Austria, on the Vegan trend
The West chews what the world eats
Meat consumption is still increasing. Not in Europe or North America, where it stabilizes at a very high level, but in the emerging countries, especially in Asia, steaks and burgers are a way of life that seems to be very desirable to many people. People need to be persuaded to change their eating habits through arguments and role models. Felix Hnat, chairman of the Vegan Society Austria trying to be one. He relies on cheerful actions and exemplary past life. "For eighteen years, I really enjoyed eating meat very much. Also, many of my best friends and family members eat meat. I do not think it's right to judge people by what they eat. 52 percent of people in Austria try to reduce their meat consumption. Of course, that makes me happy because it's good for the environment and animal welfare. "
Vegan economic trend
And some large corporations are jumping on the vegan and animal welfare trend. For example, the consumer goods company Unilever announced in early September that it was increasingly looking for vegan egg alternatives. The development of early detection in the egg wants to support the British-Dutch company by its own admission. If Unilever really mean it, it does not have to look far for herbal alternatives to chicken eggs. In Kufstein, MyEy has its headquarters, which manufactures a product that is supposed to be a purely herbal replacement for chicken eggs. The vegan product mainly consists of corn starch, potato and pea protein, as well as lupine flour. It is offered in 200 gram cans for 9,90 Euro. A tin should correspond to 24 eggs. Thus, the powder equivalent costs a little more than 41 cents per egg - too expensive for use in industrial production. But with this product millions of chicken lives could be saved.
Since June, Starbucks has been flattering meat-shying, vegan customers with a special offer: a purely vegan ciabatta with avocado cream. And even McDonald's is adjusting to the trend and opened its first vegetarian restaurant in Paris in 2011. If more and more people in the West are turning to vegan alternatives, this trend may one day also go around the world.
Photo / Video: Shutterstock.