Want to tackle environment problems, animal rights issues and health problems? Here's why you should take part in Meat Free Week.
More and more, we hear about the climate emergency that is threatening over one million species. We hear about the health epidemic across Western countries, and how UK life expectancy is, for the first time, dropping rather than rising. And time and time again, we are confronted by footage of animal cruelty all so that humans can experience a taste on their tongue for a matter of seconds.
It can seem as though there’s very little we, as individuals, can do to change any of the environmental, ethical and health issues we are facing. But in the face of all of the suffering humans are causing, the silver lining is that we can make a difference. In fact, millions of people are already making a difference just by changing what they eat.
So without further ado, here are the five best reasons for joining in on the healthy, more sustainable, and kinder way of living, and choose to go meat-free for Meat-Free Week.
1. You will save lives
Imagine the scene. You’re walking down the street, all alone, when - suddenly! - you see two people beating a dog. You rush over, skilfully neutralise the attackers (you’re trained in the martial arts, by the way), rescue the dog, and tomorrow you’re all over the headlines as an animal hero.
It’d be a pretty good feeling, I reckon - after all, you’ve just saved an innocent life from pain and death!
You can probably see where I’m going with this, but you’re effectively doing the same thing every time you leave animals off your plate.
The one billion farmed animals killed in the UK every year for your food endure suffering and abuse just so people can eat them - the less we consume animals, the fewer animals will be bred into a life of suffering.
It’s all supply and demand, and we have already seen that 400 million lives were spared in 2014 against 2007 in the USA, because of the rise in vegans, vegetarians, and those who are reducing their meat consumption.
We don’t need animal products to be perfectly healthy; if we can save lives by keeping them off our plates, why wouldn’t we?
2. You’ll help fellow humans.
Understandably, the dialogue around veganism most often revolves around animals. After all, it’s pretty obvious that cutting down on or eliminating animal products from your diet will help - well, er - animals.
However, animal industries have often been called out on the horrendous conditions that humans are forced to work in as well. Reports of workers forced to wear nappies on factory lines because their quotas are so demanding is exemplary of the lack of respect the industry has for dignified life.
Just like the sentient animals who are seen as nothing more than objects, the people working in these industries are subjected to similar undignified exploitation.
In the UK, well over half of all slaughterhouse workers are EU migrants, many of whom are exploited as vulnerable workers and even trafficked over to the UK by criminal groups.
This may sound extreme, but there are very few people who would want to work in a slaughterhouse. Mental illness rates are far higher than almost every other industry, and rates of injury towards workers are at the top end of the Health and Safety Executive’s concerns.
It is a hellish place to work, where you are forced to kill hundreds of animals each day. Every time we buy animal products, we’re supporting an industry which is cruel to humans as well as other animals. It’s unsurprising that over 10,000 positions are unfilled at abattoirs. It’s time that such an occupation ceases to exist, and stops exploiting the most vulnerable members of our communities.
3. You can half your carbon footprint for the week.
We are living in a climate emergency, and it has never been more urgent for us as individuals to consider how we can reduce our impact on our world and take action. A huge part of the solution lies on your plate, bowl, or whatever other form of crockery you may use to tuck into food three times a day.
Last year, researchers at Oxford University found that veganism was the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce our environmental impact on the planet, and going meat-free for a week is the perfect way of exploring more sustainable lifestyles. Cutting our carbon footprint benefits everyone around the world, as it will help minimise the worst effects of the climate crisis which threatens the lives of millions of people.
4. You can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
The World Health Organisation ranks processed red meat in the same category as tobacco when it comes to its carcinogenic properties, and even if you stay within health guidelines red meat still increases the risk of developing bowel cancer.
Even switching from red to white meat does not make any tangible difference in your cholesterol levels. Humans produce the perfect amount of cholesterol for our bodies without any animal products, so the best thing we can do for our health is ditch meat for beans, pulses, lentils, and whole grains. You’ll be swapping out animal protein for healthier plant protein, which has lower saturated fat content, no cholesterol, and far more vitamins and minerals. A win for your heart, body, and general well-being!
5. You’ll help save the oceans.
Fishing is often overlooked when it comes to animal agriculture. I’d suggest that there are two main reasons why. Fish don’t have vocal chords, and therefore it’s easier for us from a human perspective to dismiss their suffering, especially in comparison to the cries of pain we hear from a pig, cow, or chicken when slaughtered.
And secondly, fish don’t look remotely like us, whereas mammals and birds share more similarities to us, as well as to animals we’ve traditionally cared for, such as dogs, cats and songbirds.
But our oceans are on the brink of collapse as a direct result of overfishing. And it’s not just fish such as cod who are at risk of extinction. Dolphins, whales and sea turtles are just three of several victims who are considered ‘by-catch’ by the fishing industry, and die from asphyxiation only to be thrown back into the oceans. Coral reefs, known as the rainforests of the oceans, are being destroyed by bottom-trawler fishing.
Many of us are familiar with devastating footage of the seas strewn with plastic waste, which has reached even the deepest parts of our planet. The rise of reusable coffee cups, bottles, straws and cutlery reflects the compassion and care many humans do have towards our planet, but fishing is actually the leading cause of waste in the oceans, and pollutes far more than all the straws, cups and bottles we can imagine.
Ditching fish is one of the most significant ways we can cut back on plastic waste, protecting endangered species, and protecting the rainforests of the ocean from destruction.
It’s never been easier or more necessary to go meat-free.
It’s 2019, and veganism has never been bigger. Pretty much every restaurant chain has vegan options, and many have entire vegan menus, while supermarkets are filled with vegan cheeses, milks, chocolates, burgers, sausages, desserts… The list goes on.
Many people are already on board with all the arguments for keeping animals off our plates - it’s kinder, more environmentally friendly, and healthier. Often, the only thing holding people back is the perceived difficulties, but you can find all the support you need across Viva!’s website. Check out for Vegan Recipe Club for all the meal ideas you need, and visit Viva Health for any questions you may have on health, and enjoy exploring a more healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle!
About the Author
Article by Will Sorflaten - one of Viva!'s campaigners. Will has been vegan for nearly ten years, and is committed to making the world a kinder, more sustainable place through veganism. Will has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge University, and works on Viva!'s campaigns, focusing in particular on expanding collaboration on university campuses.
You may have seen our exposé on a pig farm supplying Morrisons. Now, we have incredible news. The Estate where it is located – DIRECTLY DUE TO OUR INVESTIGATION – are planning to “get the buildings vacated in the quickest time possible”. We have also been informed by locals that there are plans to demolish the farm. This exposé was funded by you – our supporters!