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Richard H. Schwartz
Vegan, climate change,and social justice activist

Ten Ways to Create a More Vegan World

There is increasing evidence that animal-based diets are causing an epidemic of life-threatening diseases, contributing to climate change and other environmental threats to humanity, and having other negative effects. Despite the increasing need for a shift toward veganism to counteract these problems, progress has been relatively slow. It is time to consider new strategies to promote veganism more effectively. The ten ideas suggested below are designed to start dialogues that will lead to positive changes. It is my hope that this article will elicit additional suggestions and effective initiatives.

1. Set a Goal and a Time Table Toward a More Vegan World

We should not be satisfied with the relatively slow progress currently being made toward veganism, in view of all the recent disturbing reports of potential environmental catastrophes ahead. One possibility is to declare a goal, such as a much more vegan world by 2030. This could inspire our efforts by providing something to work toward. We can’t expect that every person will be a vegan by 2030, or any other time. However, we can work, with a heightened sense of urgency, to see that everyone is at least aware of the many reasons for becoming a vegan, with the hope that many will change based on that knowledge. This initiative could involve setting realistic but challenging goals for reaching people, such as leafletting, Zoom events, discussions, meetings, and others.

2. Make People Aware That a Shift Toward Veganism Is Beneficial for People as Well as Animals

Many people resist vegan arguments, asserting that they can’t be concerned about animals when people face so many problems. We should stress that a shift to veganism would be very beneficial to people as well as animals. Among the arguments we should use are:

Animal-based diets increase risk factors for many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, several types of cancer, and stroke.

Animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to climate change and to many other environmental threats to humanity.

The feeding of 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States (and over a third of the grain produced worldwide) to farmed animals contributes to an estimated nine million of the world’s people dying annually from hunger and its effects, and over ten percent of the world’s people being chronically hungry.

3. Make People Aware That a Shift Toward Veganism is a Societal Imperative Today

With humanity threatened as never before from climate change, widening water shortages, rapid species extinction, destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, and many other problems, we should make people aware that all of these threats and many more are significantly worsened by the following: we are raising 70 billion farmed animals for slaughter annually worldwide; much of the world’s grain is used to fatten farmed animals; it takes up to 13 times as much water, ten times as much energy, and over 20 times as much land for an animal-based diet than it does for a vegan diet; and much more. We should also stress that diseases caused by the consumption of animal product results in soaring medical expenditures, which are contributing to record budget deficits and the perceived need to cut basic social services.

Importantly, the approach that has the greatest potential to help avert a climate catastrophe is a societal shift toward vegan diets. Such a shift has two major advantages that other approaches above do not have.

1) It would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because it is far more efficient to feed plants to people than to feed them to animals who would later be consumed by people. Also, there would be far fewer cows and other farmed animals emitting methane. This is especially significant because (a) methane is about 80 times as potent per unit weight in heating up the atmosphere as CO2 and (b) unlike CO2, which remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, most methane dissipates in 10 years and almost all is gone in 20 years. It would further reduce greenhouse emissions from nitrogen (which is almost 300 times more potent then carbon dioxide per unit weight in heating the atmosphere), because there would be far less need for chemical fertilizer to help produce feed crops.

2) It would dramatically reduce the CO2 presently in the atmosphere by permitting reforestation of over a third of the world’s ice-free land, which is currently being used for grazing and raising feed crops for animals. This could reduce the current 420 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere to a safe level below 350 ppm, sharply decreasing climate threats. For a detailed analysis, see “Animal Agriculture Is the Leading Cause of Climate Change” by Sailish Rao in the Journal of Ecological Society.

Fortunately, it is much easier to be a vegan today because of the abundance of plant-based substitutes for meat and other animal products in supermarkets and other food venues, some with the appearance, texture, and taste so similar to that of the animal products that even long-time meat-eaters can’t tell the difference.

4. Inform People That a Shift Toward Veganism is a Spiritual Imperative Today

Most people profess to be religious, and many claim to base their lives on moral values related to their religions. We should respectfully discuss with such people how animal-based diets and agriculture contradict basic religious mandates to preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue peace. We should stress such biblical teachings as “God’s mercies are over all His works” (Psalms 145:9), “the righteous person considers the lives of his or her animals” (Proverbs 12:10), that animals as well as people are to be permitted to rest on the Sabbath day (part of the Ten Commandments), and similar teachings from other holy books and teachers. The universal “golden rule” should be applied to vulnerable humans harmed by the widespread production and consumption of meat and other animal products as well as nonhumans who have the capacity suffer and experience joy, and thus should be given moral consideration.

5. Relate Veganism to Current News Items

Our diets have impacts on all phases of life – health, nutrition, animals, the environment, energy, water and other resources, economics, politics, family life, and many more – and we should make people aware of connections. When there are news reports about climate change and its effects, we should point out that, as indicated above, shifts toward vegan diets provide the best approach to trying to avert a climate catastrophe. When there are articles about taxes, budget deficits, and other economic issues, we should indicate that health costs are soaring in efforts to cure the many diseases that have been conclusively connected in many peer-reviewed articles in respected medical journals to animal-centered diets. When there are articles about water shortages and droughts, we should help make people aware that animal-based agriculture requires far more water and other resources than plant-based agriculture. Many additional examples can be given.

6. Start a Letter Writing Campaign

As a follow-up to the discussion in the above section, there should be a major campaign to get letters to editors on connections between various issues and veganism. If only a small percentage of the people concerned about veganism and related issues wrote a letter just once a month, it could have a major impact. A website should be set up that gives talking points daily for letters based on current issues as well as sample letters.

As a related approach, since many people listen daily to talk radio shows, there should also be a concerted effort to get people to call such shows with vegan-related messages. While radio talk show hosts are generally very well informed on a wide variety of issues, I have found that many have major misconceptions about health, nutrition, and other vegan and vegetarian-related issues.

7. Make a Shift to Veganism a Priority for the Animal Rights Movement

The vast majority of cases of animal abuses occur on factory farms. Yet, many, perhaps most, animal rights activists are working on other issues, such as circuses, rodeos, fur, pets, and animal experimentation. These are all important issues and it is essential to end all forms of animal abuse. But, animal-based diets and agriculture threaten most individuals’ personal health and the wellbeing of humanity. If most animal rights advocates worked on promoting vegetarianism and veganism, even for a limited time, in addition to their other animal rights efforts, it would have a very powerful impact.

8. Challenge the Medical Establishment

Every person is concerned about his or her health and the health of loved ones. There is very strong evidence that incidents of heart disease, various types of cancer, strokes, and other chronic degenerative diseases can be sharply reduced by a shift to vegetarian and vegan diets, along with other positive lifestyle changes. Yet, the medical establishment, including most nutritionists, is generally ignoring this information, and are not making patients and the general public aware that many diseases can be prevented, and sometimes reversed, through dietary changes. It might even be called medical malpractice. I recently visited a cousin in a rehabilitation center, and was astounded at reading the daily menus, which had animal products at every meal. It is essential that we respectfully challenge medical practitioners and urge them to help educate people about healthy diets.

9. Form Alliances with Other Organizations

Since veganism has connections with many societal issues, we should try to build strong alliances with many other organizations that are working for positive changes. For example, we should seek alliances with environmental groups, and inform them that the raising of 70 billion animals for slaughter annually, primarily on “factory farms,” contributes to many environmental threats; we should seek alliances with groups concerned about hunger, poverty, water and energy shortages, climate change, and related issues, and inform them about how the production of animal products contributes to many environmental threats and is extremely wasteful of resources.

10. Engage with the Media, Politicians, Educators, and Other Members of the Establishment

Educators, politicians, religious leaders, and reporters, should also be respectfully challenged to increase awareness of the health and many other benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. We should try to meet with influential members of society and urge them to take a stand regarding veganism, or at least to put the issues on their agendas. We should urge educators to see that children learn about proper nutrition and are provided with tasty, nutritious options at every meal. We should exhort reporters and editors to make people aware of the many negative effects of animal-based diets and the many benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets.

This is just an outline of some steps that I think would be helpful in moving toward a vegan world. I am sure that the many dedicated people in the vegetarian and related movements can add to my points and come up with additional suggestions. The important thing is that we become increasingly involved, for our sakes, for the animals, and for our precious, but imperiled, planet.

About the Author
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and over 200 articles and 25 podcasts at JewishVeg.com/schwartz. He is President Emeritus of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and President of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV). He is associate producer of the 2007 documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.” He is also a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, which is part of the City University of New York.
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