Whether it is due to cognitive dissonance or a general unwillingness to become educated about factory farming, there is an incredible amount of misinformation that people share to try to justify why they eat meat and consume dairy products.
As a vegan, I’ve pretty much heard them all—particularly when people try to convince me that my vegan lifestyle causes as much suffering and harm as that of those who purchase animal products.
I have found that it is often futile getting into debates about who is “right” or “wrong,” as the more we attempt to provide evidence to support a particular cause, the further people dig their heels in to stand by their beliefs.
Therefore, I have made a list of a few of the most common myths I have heard in an effort to debunk them:
“I can’t afford to be vegan.”
Many people find that veganism is cheaper than eating meat and dairy, as fruit, vegetables, rice, tofu, beans, and legumes are some of the most affordable foods, and meat is one of the most expensive. Therefore, eating affordably depends on what foods we eat and our purchasing choices.
For example: processed meat substitutes and vegan ready meals might cost more than cooking fresh vegan dishes from scratch. However, as many stores and supermarkets catch up with the demand for vegan options, prices are rapidly dropping, and in many places dairy substitutes are far cheaper than products made from cow’s milk.
Many restaurants now offer vegan options, and usually the meat dishes on the menu are priced far higher than ones that include no meat or dairy.
“Vegans don’t get enough protein.”
It is a myth that vegans are generally protein deficient as the majority of vegan foods are packed full of protein. Many people think that animal products, such as, meat, eggs, and dairy are the best ways to consume protein; however, they are usually high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Therefore they may be high in protein, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that animal products are healthy for us.
Protein is made up of amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. Our biological need is actually for amino acids, not protein—but since we cannot make nine of the 20 amino acids that are required for good health, we must get the rest through our diet. Research shows that eating a plant-based diet provides a wide variety of amino acids, so vegetarians and vegans can get all the amino acids necessary through a balanced diet.
Protein is found in a variety of foods such as:
>> black beans
>> kidney beans
>> pinto beans
>> lima beans
>> black-eyed peas
>> veggie burgers
>> peanut butter
>> soy milk
>> whole wheat bread
>> almond butter
>> soy yogurt
>> sunflower seeds
Finally, protein from animals is second-hand. The animals eat grains and feed that contains protein, and then we get the protein from eating the animals. We could just skip the animals and go straight to the source!
“If we don’t kill and eat animals, they will become over-populated.”
This is quite a common statement, as many people seem to believe that if we don’t kill animals, they will keep breeding and take over the planet! This could not be further from the truth. Millions of animals are artificially inseminated and are specifically bred for their meat, fluids, and skin. The less that people use animal products, the less need there will be to excessively breed them.
Almost all of animals used for food, including, cows, sheep, and pigs in factory farms are subjected to artificial insemination. For example, one bull can impregnate dozens of cows with just one sample of semen.
It goes without saying that if the entire world suddenly became vegan in one day, then we would have a few problems working out what to do with the billions of animals that are kept purely for food. However, that isn’t likely to happen. Instead, what would happen is that as the numbers of vegans increases, breeding efforts would reduce, keeping the animal levels balanced until eventually there would be no demand for meat, and thus no need to artificially inseminate animals.
“God put animals on Earth to be eaten.”
I have heard many Christians who live according to the Bible declare that they enjoy eating bacon, despite the Bible’s forbidding of it. Leviticus 11:7-8 in the Old Testament states, “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”
Despite initially creating the “vegan” Garden of Eden, it explains in the Bible that God did later state that man was free to eat animals in Genesis 9:2-3; however, it was during the great flood (Noah’s Ark) and at a period of extreme desperation for both animals and mankind where there was a lack of any other types of food. We are no longer in extreme desperation, and meat and cruelty-free options (like veggies, pasta, beans, and so on) are readily available at every supermarket.
“Veganism kills more animals than meat eaters.”
Critics of veganism often criticise vegans for consuming a plant-based diet for this reason, yet the majority of grains and legumes that are grown are fed to the animals that carnivores eat. Cattle consume an average of 10 pounds of plant material to produce one pound of meat. Therefore, the argument that vegan cause more death than meat eaters doesn’t add up, because it takes much more grain and crops to sustain the animal agriculture industry than would need to be grown otherwise. In America alone, approximately 80 percent of crops grown are fed to cattle, which means that meat eaters are consuming far more vegetation that vegans.
“Plants have souls/feel pain too.”
Plants have no central nervous system, no nerve endings, and no brains, so it is not possible for them to feel pain. Every time I hear the argument that plants have souls too, I wonder if the person who said it would feel the same way about mowing their lawn, or pruning the bushes in the garden, as they would about cutting into humans or animals. The entire theory that plants have the same capacity as humans and animals for pain and suffering just makes no rational sense. I can’t imagine many people would feel the same way about cutting a cucumber as they would about cutting a human’s arm in two!
“Cows need to be milked.”
Dairy cows are impregnated and give birth purely to satisfy the demand for milk, butter, cheese, and so on. The more a cow is milked, the more milk it will produce as her body thinks the demand is to feed her baby. However, the majority of calves are ripped away from their mothers at birth, and will never have the luxury of drinking their mother’s milk or bonding with her. Cows are milked for human consumption, and the baby is either slaughtered soon after being born, or will be raised to follow in her mother’s footsteps to live a life of constant impregnation and suffering.
Most vegans are aware that despite their best efforts to live causing as least harm as possible, there may be consequences to veganism and animals and creatures will suffer and die during food production. However, those that have watched the various documentaries that highlight the extreme abuse and cruelty that exists in many factory farms and slaughterhouses cannot justify the lifetime caging of animals, and the horrifying and unimaginable pain and suffering they endure due to living chained to machinery or in pens where they cannot move around.
There is no comparison between factory farming and a quick death out in the wild, as the majority of animals that are caught up in these farms live out their entire lives without ever seeing daylight, without being able to nurse their young, and without ever knowing the freedom of roaming in nature within their unique family and social circles.
Whenever anyone chooses a path that is different from the norm, there will always be some who criticise and try to put it down to prove to themselves that it is better to stay on the safe and familiar road. Veganism isn’t perfect. We live in a modern world, and there are many practices that are harmful both to our planet and to the living beings that exist upon it. However, we have to start somewhere if we want to create change that is compassionate and sustainable—not just for us now, but for future generations and the planet.
There are arguments for and against everything, but one thing is certain: the majority of vegans choose veganism because they deeply care about the well-being of animals, their own health, and the health of the planet, and they have faith that as veganism grows in popularity, industries will have to start changing to keep up with demand. It may take a few generations to see large-scale results, but it is possible to exist and be healthy in a world where animals are not harmed and humans can receive nutrition—it will just take commitment, strength, determination, and care to get there. I truly believe it is just a matter of time.
To order a free vegetarian starter guide, please click here.
For a guide to going dairy-free, click here.
For those who do not want to choose vegan or vegetarian diets, they can still collectively make a difference by reducing meat consumption and raising awareness.
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” ~ Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman