What would happen to all these animals if we all went vegan?

One of the provocative questions that meat lovers and vegan criticizers ask is: What would happen to all these animals if we all went vegan? Certainly, such questions do not arise from a great concern for animals, but they are easy to answer anyway. It would be wonderful if everyone stopped eating meat all of a sudden, but it’s also unrealistic to expect something like this to happen. We can expect that by reducing the demand for meat, the number of animals raised for food will also decrease. When there are fewer animals to raise, they will have more space to be able to live out a natural life. 

The impact on farmers if we stopped consuming animal products 

Many worry that farmers and their families will lose their livelihood, but many examples show livestock farmers successfully turning to other types of farming instead. A living example of this is Austrian cattleman Hubert Gassner, a former conventional farmer who became vegan. He had been farming cows and pigs for 15 years, but he never liked the moment when he transported them to the slaughterhouse. Now along with his friends, he runs a shelter for these animals that are rescued from that terrible fate. Similar to Mr. Hubert, many other farmers could develop new skills and ways of farming, which don’t include the exploitation of animals.

Let’s imagine that unrealistic but ideal scenario whereby everyone became vegan overnight. Instead of sending animals to be slaughtered, these animals could continue to live on farms but could be given humane living conditions until they died naturally. Without the demand for meat, there would also be an end to the artificial breeding of animals for food and profit, and thus the number of animals would naturally decrease over time. 

Luckily, we can begin to see how this is already happening. More and more young people in the world are switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, and many older people slowly realize that they feel better about eating less meat. In short, meat consumption is noticeably falling from year to year in all developed countries. Nothing happens overnight, but it seems that people’s levels of consciousness are changing for the better.

The impact of not eating meat on the environment

If everyone became vegan, it would bring about incredible environmental benefits. Switching to a vegetarian diet for one year can prevent 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Veganism helps even more: a recent report from the World Preservation Foundation states that eating no animal products would help mitigate climate change by 80%.

Meat production pollutes the world more than all traffic — more than all cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships put together. Incredible, but true. Breeding animals for food causes 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than traffic emissions.

We can see that not eating meat is the best way to make a noticeable change in our world. If everyone became vegan, this would make the biggest overall impact because vegetarians still consume milk and cheese that comes from the destructive dairy industry. Thus, eliminating all dairy would further reduce emissions. It is amazing, but quite true, that one-third of the world’s surface is turned into deserts because of meat production. More than half of the world’s oceans are approaching the point of ecological collapse due to fisheries. Our natural environment is clearly and quickly being destroyed by animal agriculture.

If there were a massive switch of people adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet, it would also drastically reduce or even reverse another disaster — the destruction of forests. Meat producers need huge amounts of land to grow livestock and their feed. On average, we lose an acre of Amazon rainforest for the benefit of livestock farming every 18 seconds.

When comparing the production of beef to rice or potatoes, beef production requires as much as 160 times more land, 100 times more water, and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases. In other words, avoiding red meat, which in excess amounts can be detrimental to health anyway, would help clean the air we breathe and save our precious drinking water resources. The production of one kilogram of meat requires the consumption of as much as 18 thousand liters of water. This is not as sustainable as adopting a vegan diet.

It is no secret that livestock, for the sake of faster growth or disease prevention, is being filled with hormones and antibiotics, to which we, as consumers, are becoming resistant. At the same time, billions of people in the world are starving. Among other things, starvation is also caused by climate change that, in turn, causes droughts and floods, and animal agriculture is a huge contributor to climate change. Veganism can potentially decrease starvation in the world.

The children’s book The Turtle Who Fights for Animal Rights explains that if humans do not develop compassion for animals, they will soon be left without fossil fuels, forests, drinking water, and fertile soil. We need to truly consider whether this is the kind of world we want to leave to our children. Wouldn’t it be better to adopt a vegan diet instead?

The impact of not eating meat on health

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2017) has announced that worldwide, more than 74 billion animals are bred, fattened, and slaughtered every year. 

It sounds daunting when given those numbers to consider, but the fact remains that eating meat actually causes serious illnesses. Consumption of animal products is linked to an increased risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. However, people do not want to give up eating meat despite the numerous studies that have warned them about the harmfulness of these eating habits. A US study of more than 500,000 participants found that men with the highest meat consumption compared to men who consumed the least amount of meat were 27% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, while women at risk are increased by 50%. The risk was even higher, with red and processed meat consumption.

Not even the emergence of a coronary virus that has stopped the whole world in its tracks has significantly reduced the purchasing of meat and dairy products. Scientists are unanimous in their studies that conclude that the majority of all viruses are zoonotic, and it is how we keep animals that are the main factor at play here. There would be far fewer contagions in the world if people only ate plant-based foods. Swine flu, mad cow disease, bird flu, and the increasing occurrence of multidrug-resistant pathogens are exacerbated by the high use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. We could avoid this and live healthier lives if we adopted a plant-based diet instead.

Athletes are a group that has proven that embracing the vegan diet is highly beneficial to health through the achievement of record-breaking results in their fields. One of the most popular documentaries on this is ‘Game Changers’ which scientifically shows us that humans don’t need to eat meat to be healthy and strong. If you want to pass this message on to children too, I can suggest a book The Turtle Who Fights for Animal Rights that talks about healthy eating in a witty and metaphorical way.