5 reasons why veganism means much more than fighting for animal rights

Vegans and vegetarians often get accused of caring more about animals than humans. Here are five reasons why the "let's solve human problems first" argument against a plant-based diet is faulty.

1) The meat industry is choosing to feed animals instead of humans

World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one-third of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition; at least half of the 10.4 million child deaths each year are attributed to it. Yet, between one-third to half of world’s edible harvest is fed to livestock each year.

We are using the land in developing countries — in which malnutrition rates are inhumanely high—  that could otherwise be used to grow food for humans to produce and export feed for animals in the developed world.

For example, Brazil sends large amounts of crops, that are grown on destroyed rainforest land, to Europe and Japan each year while 16.7 million people in the country suffer from malnutrition.

A report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that if we can decrease meat consumption in the developed world by 50 percent, we can save 3.6 million children in the developing world from malnutrition.

Yes, killing animals to feed humans is cruel (for some) but feeding them at the expense of millions of people is beyond that, it is a violation of human rights.

2) The meat industry is draining the planet

Water is a resource critical for life on earth and it is vastly exploited by the meat industry. Worldwide, more than a billion people can’t access enough safe water that meets minimum levels of health. And the threat of water scarcity is growing by the day.

Meanwhile, the meat industry plays a critical role in depleting and polluting the planet’s water resources. The average of meat products has a much larger water footprint than plant crops. According to David Pimentel, a water resource specialist at Cornell University, it takes 500 litres of water to produce a kilogram of potatoes, 900 to produce a kilogram of wheat, 2000 for soybeans, and a whopping 100.000 litres of water for just one kilogram of beef.

The diet of a meat eater requires 15 times more water than a plant-based one. This means that switching to a plant-based diet can save up to five million litres per year, per person.  

3) It’s not just food and water

On top of food and water, another resource crucial to the prosperity of people and the planet that the meat industry is exploiting is land. A meat-based diet uses up to 20 times more land than a vegan one. The use of land is mainly attributed to animal feed pastures and grazing.

 Worldwide, we are now using 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface for livestock. And as if taking up precious land is not enough, the meat industry also degrades the land it uses, making it baren.

As the world isn’t this big flat ball (oblate spheroid) the land that’s required to grow and feed livestock isn’t just around for the taking. To create this land trees and vegetation, habitats for millions of living organisms, are destroyed.

Over four decades, about 40 percent of rainforests were cut down in Central America to produce animal feed and land for grazing.  Between 2004 and 2005 an estimated 1.2 million hectares of rainforest was destroyed because of the soybean boom, the production of soybean as animal feed.

 Many experts on desertification argue that the deforestation of the Sahara Desert which was once a fertile region was caused primarily by animal grazing, the direction we are going towards right now.

The desertification caused by the meat industry affects the rural poor the worst. Drought caused by the changes in rainy seasons, which is related to the destruction of rainforests and overgrazing of the land, has become the chief cause of extreme human famine. Destruction of the land is leaving local communities hungry, poor, and desperate.


4) Working in the meat industry is not good for humans

 Animal farming is considered amongst the most dangerous industries worldwide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US government (OSHA) has reported that just in the US, close to 10.000 people have died from work-related injuries between 1992 and 2009.

The injuries that occur in animal farming include a vast range from chronic pain to cardiovascular disease, to death.

 Slaughterhouse work is often undertaken by transient and migrant workers who are undocumented which leads to situations in which the workers are fearful of reporting illness or injury. Often, they don’t receive adequate treatment.

On top of the physical toll, many workers endure incredible emotional trauma that comes from working in a slaughterhouse. According to Human Rights Watch, worker conditions in factory farms are considered “systematic human rights abuse.”

5)  Did someone say climate change?

A report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, states that "the livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity.”

According to the same report, the meat industry produces 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than the emissions of all planes, trains, and cars combined.

By now, we should all be convinced that climate change is real and it affects not just the planet but also its inhabitants. As Dr Katherine Hayhoe says, "The most dangerous myth we’ve bought into is that climate change will only harm plants, animals, and future generations; someone else, not me.”

Same goes with eating a meat-based diet, we are vaguely aware of the effects of the livestock industry on climate change but do not realise how dire the situation is, and how close to home.

Ignoring the effects of the meat industry on climate change is essentially just fooling ourselves, trying to sweep a massive problem under a bath mat.

Veganism implies different things to different people. To some, it’s just a dietary preference, some don’t like the taste of meat, some think eggs are gross. To others, eating meat represents animal suffering, a violation of animal rights.

But in the current climate veganism represents much more than a dietary preference or caring about animals. The meat industry, as it currently is, does much more than just harm animals. It is depleting our resources, polluting the planet, and exploiting human beings.

Substantially reducing (and preferably ending, but let’s be real) meat consumption and production is crucial for the future of the planet and consequently, the people.

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  • 11 Charitable organizations that are worthy of your end-of-year donations

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    December is the time of year when mailboxes, both physical and virtual, start to fill with requests for donations from charitable organizations of all kinds.

    Often, people would like to contribute but are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of requests they receive.

    "Will the organization make good use of my hard-earned money? How can I know if they have been involved in scandals? Are their interventions actually effective?" are some of the questions we all want to ask before we make our Christmas donations.

    As you might know, here at Kinder World we're all about effective giving. That's why we picked 11 outstanding charitable organizations that we thoroughly vetted and determined to be worthy of your cash.

    If you want to know more about how we vet organizations, please have a look at the dedicated page.

    As you will see, under each organization there's the possibility to donate to them thanks to our freshly minted donation widget. If you also want to know more about our donation tools, have a look here.

    1. Favela Painting

    The first Favela Painting project took place in 2005 when artists Haas & Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) painted a large mural with local community members in Rio de Janeiro.

    The local and global impact of this project inspired them to continue creating large-scale community art projects across the world.

    2. Strongminds

    Strongminds empowers impoverished African women by treating depression at scale and enables these women and their families to lead more healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.

    Depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the developing world. In Africa, it’s devastating: 66 million women are suffering. The great majority have no medical services to turn to for help.

    3. Cool Earth

    Cool Earth is an organisation that works alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation and climate change.

    Of them, Sir David Attenborough said: "Helping Cool Earth to halt tropical deforestation makes a real difference. Perhaps the biggest difference we will make in our whole lives.”

    4. Sightsavers

    Sightsavers works on preventing sight loss and avoidable blindness in some of the poorest parts of the world by treating conditions such as cataracts and fighting other debilitating eye diseases.

    In 2017 alone, the organisation has supported more than 316.000 cataracts operations.

    5. Steun Emma

    Steun Emma is a children’s hospital in Amsterdam. They have a renowned neonatology department that provides premature babies and their parents with care and comfort in this most difficult time along with high-quality scientific research.

    They are now on a mission to improve their facilities to make the lives of parents and babies easier and the hospital’s research even more extensive to help as many people as they can.

    6. Simavi

    Simavi is an organisation tackling water, sanitation and health challenges to stop preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates and boost social and economic development.

    Guided by the principle that "health is the first step out of poverty", they are working to guarantee basic health to everyone.

    7. NSGK

    NSGK is a Dutch organization that helps children and youngsters with disabilities to get rid of obstacles.

    They want to make society more accessible for disabled children, strengthening their self-confidence and contribute to positive imaging so that children with and without disabilities can play, learn, play sports, live and grow up not apart but together.

    8. Human Rights Watch

    Human Rights Watch is an international organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.

    Founded in 1978, it publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries each year.

    9. ProVeg Nederland

    Dutch branch of Proveg International, it's an organization whose aim is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50 percent by the year 2040.

    In particular, Proveg inspires and motivates people to live a plant-based lifestyle by raising awareness about the importance of doing so. They support everyone who is interested in changing their eating habits by providing practical information about how they can transition to animal-free alternatives.

    10. Max Foundation

    After their child Max died at 8 months old from a viral infection, Joke and Steven Le Poole decided they wanted to save as many children as possible around the world and created the Max Foundation.

    With their MAX-WASH approach, they aim to prevent child mortality in the most effective and efficient way.

    11. Amref Flying Doctors

    Amref Flying Doctors is an international organisation focused on health in Africa.

    In October, we wrote about their effective intervention against female genital mutilations (FGM) in Sub-Saharan Africa. This intervention, called Alternative Rites of Passage, aims to replace FGM with humane rites of passage.

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  • Your cleaning products can be 80 percent more sustainable

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    Most of the household products that we use for cleaning — from our bodies to last night's dishes — are 80 percent water. Which means most of the packaging for cleaning products is used to contain water which most of us have on tap at our homes.

    It also means that when all those cleaning products are transported from the factory to under our kitchen sinks, we're carrying around 80 percent water.

    All the additional packaging and transportation means more pollution and more carbon emissions aka more poison for the planet.

    There are, of course, alternatives to your run-of-the-mill cleaning products. You can purchase sustainable detergents, dish soap, and even a spray to clean your dog's little accidents. But these products usually focus on using natural ingredients instead of the amount of water the product contains or its packaging and transportation.

    Another alternative is to make your own. Which arguably is the greenest option you have. There are many recipes online for any product you can imagine. You can make your own fabric softener, silver cleaner, deodorant, and even sunscreen.

    Here at Kinder, we've tried DIY makeup cleanertoothbrush, and an all-purpose cleaning spray. It's safe to say some went better than others...

    And that's the issue with making your own. It's a bit of a gamble when it comes to how effective your cleaner will be and, in the end, it's not very sustainable if you need to use four times the amount of a regular cleaner.

    Dutch designer Mirjam de Bruijn has come up with a solution to these dilemmas. Her project 'Twenty' proposes the non-water ingredients in cleaning products to be concentrated and sold as powder, bar or liquid capsule.

    What sets De Bruijn's idea apart from solid shampoo bars and, well, soap is the idea that the customer would buy the concentrated cleaning agent and add water to it at home.

    De Bruijn's sleek design is still in the concept stage but the change it suggests is promising. It takes very little effort, from the customer, but means a great deal when it comes to reducing the unnecessary carbon emissions caused by packaging and transporting water.

    In the Global West, we're privileged to have safe water at our disposal but one in ten people in the world don't have access to running water and two out of five have to use contaminated water resources.

    The lack of clean water leads to diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio, which results in over 1000 deaths a day. Simavi is a non-profit organisation tackling water, sanitation and health challenges to stop preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates and boost social and economic development. You can support them by donating below.

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  • Dreaming of a green Xmas? Here are five ways to make it more sustainable

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    Moderation is the last thing on people’s minds at Christmas. Shopping, travelling and eating reach peak levels – putting pressure on our planet. Even Santa poses a problem. If you don’t believe in flying reindeers, that sleigh must be rocket-fuelled to reach the supersonic speeds needed to travel around the world to visit hundreds of millions of children in just one night using conventional engineering.

    The example goes to show just how many presents we buy and send each Christmas – creating problems with packaging and transport. And as the population increases, so does the pile of presents. To get round this, presents have got smaller and virtual gifts such as an experience day have risen in popularity.

    This has an added benefit of reducing packaging and transport problems. But virtual presents have a carbon footprint too. Electronic downloads still have an impact, as data has to be stored and transferred, using energy. So everything we buy has some impact, even through the electronic process of buying.

    So how can we have a greener, more sustainable but generous Christmas? Here are five gold circular things!

    1. Reduce food waste

    The amount of food wasted at Christmas has a massive carbon (and water) footprint. Using less and storing excess in a winter wonderland – your freezer – is a great way to avoid waste. If leftover food doesn’t go in the freezer, cooked turkey and vegetables will keep for up to three days in the fridge.

    However, not producing excess in the first place is the best way to avoid waste. Portion size is a big part of this and so is cooking things you actually like. Just because something is traditional does not make it compulsory. For instance, sprouts can be very controversial – so, if you don’t like them, skip them. You could also try an alternative to the traditional meat option, such as a nut roast. Vegetarian and vegan choices at the Christmas dinner table can massively cut the impact of your Christmas.

    2. Cut down on packaging

    Lower the impact of gifts through choices of paper and packaging. A lot of seasonal wrapping is non-recyclable as it is coated in plastic. This is concerning as plastic tends to spread everywhere – it has even been detected at the North Pole. A better approach would be to use wrapping paper made entirely out of paper. Gift bags are another great option – they can be reused and therefore help cut a massive amount of waste.

    3. Buy ethically

    You can give twice if you buy your presents second hand from charity shops – supporting worthwhile projects while also reducing consumption. You can also buy locally produced goods and support your local economy. Buying second hand potentially halves the carbon footprint.

    A typical T-shirt alone has a footprint of around 8.77kg of carbon dioxide and 2700 litres of water. If 1% of the 55.6m people in England alone bought just one second-hand T-shirt instead of a new one, they would be saving around 4.9m tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of driving 1,049 passenger cars for a year, and a whopping 1.5 billion litres of water.

    4. Reuse Christmas stuff

    Christmas decorations and fashion are basically the same every year. So celebrate your Christmas collection and reuse it, over and over again. It is a tragedy that only one in four Christmas jumpers are ever reused. According to the Carbon Trust, an artificial tree needs to be used around 10 times to have an equivalent footprint as its real counterpart.

    5. It’s the thought that counts

    There are few holidays that are so focused on being caring, helpful and generous as Christmas. So celebrate this and try to avoid buying unnecessary stuff that people don’t want anyway. Donations and acts of kindness really lighten the load on that sleigh. A colleague once bought me a toilet for a family in Sierra Leone. No wrapping, no plastic: the best present ever – and Santa didn’t have to lift a finger!

    This article is republished from The Conversation by Sharon George, Lecturer in Environmental Science, Keele University, under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    ➡️Another gift idea to make your Christmas more sustainable might be to donate to Cool Earth, a high-impact organization that we thoroughly vetted.

    Cool Earth is not only an offset scheme. It provides grant funding to rainforest communities, supporting community work in rainforest protection and ensures their voice is heard in agreements about the future of the rainforests.

    You too can help to save our planet. A more liveable Earth is just a click away 👇

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