A term first coined by English animal rights advocate, Donald Watson in November 1944, Veganism is (according to wikipedia) “both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals”. This way of living can be a result of multiple physical and moral factors, such as; Religion, Animal Rights and Health Benefits. In this essay I will present my findings on the merits, disadvantages and practicalities of veganism, specially regarding the question, do humans need meat in their diet.
The results of a Survey compiled by research firm, Global Data, show that as of 2017, 6% of Americans now identify as vegan. This marks 600% increase in numbers since previous statistics from 2014 in which only 1% of Americans identified as vegans. The claimed health advantages of a vegan centred diet are believed to be driving a driving force behind this rapid growth in popularity. The charity PETA (People for the treatment of animals) advocate a vegan lifestyle and claim that vegans typically have lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index, and reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, particularly colon cancer, breast cancer, and stomach cancer. PETA state on their website “Consuming flesh takes a terrible toll on human health”. PETA claims that Authorities such as the British Medical Association confirm that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. PETA also claims that a meat free diet is proven to help humans to live longer and greatly improves overall quality of life by helping humans stay fitter and healthier.
According to the PETA website, studies show that vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters.
Despite this being said a 2009 article from the American Society for Nutrition by Winston J Craig states that it’s your body is not able to properly nourish itself with the contents of an entirely vegan diet. Iron, zinc, calcium and other essential nutrients are lacking in a vegetable-only diet and whilst PETA’s research might insist on the lack of meat being key in a healthy lifestyle, the human need for substances such as vitamin B12 (a nutrient mainly found in eggs suggest that finding a balance could be more beneficial to human bodies than completely abstaining from meat.In fact, research published by Kam S.Woo, Timothy C.Y.Kwok and David S. Celermajer make clear that upwards of 80% of vegans who do not take B12 supplements are deficient and may be at increased risk for heart disease, bone loss and other health issues as a result. This being said there is a wide range of mineral supplements available to people who are committed to a vegan lifestyle. Dr Peter from the university of Brussels ranks vegan diets highly in several areas of health and does not at all deny that it has a wide range of benefits, yet he too agrees that including small amounts of meat, dairy and eggs in a predominantly vegetable-based diet is “not unhealthy” and “in no ways detrimental”.
Environmental and welfare issues are also contributing to the swelling numbers turning away from food sourced from animals.