By Rebecca Libauskas
In elementary school, we performed a well-known song with the refrain “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” I loved the message. But I’ve never understood why our society doesn’t apply this concept to all species.
Every day, we have multiple opportunities to choose nonviolence and extend peace to all sentient beings — and one of the simplest ways to do so is to opt for delicious and healthy vegan foods instead of meat, eggs and dairy. By refusing to take anything that rightfully belongs to animals, we walk a path of peace that benefits everyone. So, for the International Day of Peace (September 21), let there be peace on Earth — and let it begin with vegan living.
Everyone deserves peace. Yet we’re conditioned to treat some species with care and others with indifference — or violence. Pigs, chickens, cows, fish and other animals who are used for food experience pain, happiness, distress and misery, just as our beloved animal companions do. Yet they’re abused in ways that would be illegal if dogs or cats were the victims. Pigs, for instance, may be conscious and feel pain when they’re scalded with hot water during slaughter and when they’re piglets, their tails are cut off without pain killers.
In slaughterhouses, there’s no peace for animals or for the people who work there. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration data, severe accidents are common and human body parts are severed every week. Reports also reveal a distressing lack of concern for workers’ well-being, including when they’re forced to work despite being sick or injured. These and other serious problems reveal the need for systemic change, including a shift to vegan food production.
Going vegan not only spares animals fear, violence and death but also helps the Earth. In a world ravaged by the climate catastrophe, it’s hard to feel peaceful. A recent American Psychiatric Association survey revealed that 67% of Americans are experiencing some degree of climate-related anxiety. The best thing anyone can do to help save the planet is to reduce the demand for animal-based foods by going vegan. A recent comprehensive study by the University of Oxford revealed that by eating vegan, individuals decrease their food-related climate-heating emissions by 75% and reduce their contribution to the destruction of wildlife by 66%.
Research shows that choosing healthy vegan foods also reduces the risk of chronic diseases that can ravage our bodies and minds, which can be overwhelming and anything but peaceful. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, compared with meat-eaters, vegans enjoy a reduced risk of dying from heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Its findings conclude that nutritionally complete vegan meals are beneficial in preventing and treating specific diseases. Going vegan empowers us to take charge of our health while advocating for a better world.
When we stop inflicting violence on animals, peace follows. We know this innately: A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that young children are less likely to view animals on a farm as “something” to eat. Only after age 11 do they start thinking of animals as food. What if we were to resurrect our natural wisdom and empathy? We can.
For many of us, going vegan starts a ripple effect of compassion and peace that extends beyond our plates. Our view of animals changes: We no longer find excuses for using them in painful, deadly experiments. We think about the suffering and death behind wearing leather, wool, or feathers. We’re heartbroken, not amused, when we see animals confined and exploited for entertainment — including Lolita, the orca who recently died after more than 50 miserable years of confinement. We realize that animals are not commodities and have a natural right to the freedom to do what is natural and important to them.
We sow the seeds of compassion, justice and peace by going vegan. So on this International Day of Peace — and every day — let peace begin with what we put on our plates.