The late Senator Robert Kennedy often stated:
“Some see things as they are and ask why,
I dream of things that have never been and ask why not?”
Yes, why not? Why not a vegetarian world? Or, even better, since we are dreaming, why not a vegan world? When one considers all the negatives related to the current widespread production and consumption of animal products, it is hard to believe that so few people have seen the importance of shifting to such a world.
What would a vegan world be like?
It would be a world with far healthier people. There are numerous studies showing that plant-based diets can sharply reduce the risk factors for heart disease, various types of cancer, strokes, and other chronic degenerative diseases. Dr. Dean Ornish and others have shown that a well planned vegetarian diet, along with other positive lifestyle changes, can reverse severe heart-related problems. Currently about 1.3 million Americans die annually from diseases linked to the consumption of animal products. This number would be sharply reduced when people eat a wide variety of foods from what the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) calls the “New Four Food Groups”: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
It would be a far more humane world. We could eliminate the current abuse of the nine billion animals in the United States and 70 billion animals worldwide raised annually for slaughter. Animals would no longer be bred and genetically programmed to produce far more flesh, milk, and eggs than is natural for them. The many horrors of factory farming, including force feeding of geese, debeaking of hens, and branding, dehorning, and castrating of cattle, would be eliminated. We would no longer need to feel shame when considering Gandhi’s statement: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by how its animals are treated.”
It would be an environmentally sustainable world. Since we would no longer be annually raising 70 billion farmed animals for slaughter under factory farmed conditions, there would be a sharp reduction in the current significant contributions that modern intensive livestock agriculture makes to global climate change; rapid species extinction; soil erosion and depletion; destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs, and other valuable habitats; desertification; and many more environmental threats. Without the need to feed so many animals, we could let land lay fallow on a rotating basis, and thus restore its fertility. There would be far less need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the production of feed crops for animals. Of course, changes would also have to be made in our production, transportation, and other systems to improve the environment as much as possible, but the shift to vegetarianism would be a major step.
It would be a world where hunger and thirst would be sharply reduced, if not eliminated. When we no longer feed 70 percent of the grain grown in the US and 40 percent of the grain grown worldwide to animals destined for slaughter, using vast amounts of agricultural resources to do so, we would have the potential to save the lives of many of the estimated 20 million people who currently die of hunger and its effects. When we shift away from current animal-centered diets that require up to 13 times the amount of water that vegan diets do, we can help reverse current trends that have been leading to an increasingly thirsty world. Also, since current typical diets require large amounts of energy, a shift to vegan diets, and other positive changes, would give us additional time to develop more sustainable forms of energy.
It would be a far more peaceful world. Some may question this, but please consider that the slogans of the vegetarian and peace movements could be the same: “All we are saying is give PEAS a chance.” More seriously, the Jewish sages, noting that the Hebrew words for bread (lechem) and war (milchamah) come from the same root, indicated that when there are shortages of grain and other resources, people are more likely to go to war. History has proven the truth of this statement many times. Hence, a vegetarian world, where far less water, land, energy, and other resources are required for our diets would reduce the potential for war and other conflicts.
Obtaining a vegan world may sound utopian today as so much meat is consumed in the developed world and as newly affluent people in several countries, including Japan, China, and India, shift toward animal-centered diets. However, borrowing the title of a Buckminster Fuller book, we may have a choice between “Utopia and Oblivion.” Our current dietary and other practices threaten major catastrophies for humanity from climate change, losses of biodiversity, water and food shortages, just to name a few problems. So, as difficult as it seems, it is essential that we alert people to the necessity of adopting vegan diets.
As a song from the popular musical “South Pacific” indicates, “If you do not have a dream, how yuh gonna have a dream come true.”
So it is essential that we keep the dream of a vegan world alive. And, as the Zionist leader Theodore Herzl stated “ If you will it, it is not a dream.” So, we must do more than dream. We must work diligently to make that dream come true. The fate of our precious, but imperiled, planet depends on it.