While the cost of medical expenses in western countries creates a huge burden, those costs pale in comparison to the ultimate cost - life itself. Knowing that these deadly diseases are completely preventable makes the situation all the more sorrowful. Despite the perception that the diseases common to western culture are ‘genetic’ the question you should ask yourself is...why do they seem concentrated not in people with similar genetics, but similar lifestyles? Hundreds of scientific studies around the world link unhealthy lifestyle choices like consumption of animal products with disease. (link) (link) (link) Yet strangely, doctors and medical experts rarely tell us about healthy nutrition. This is because, like carfree lifestyles, there is less profit in preventing sickness. We’ve all heard commercials telling us to ‘ask your doctor if ‘X’ drug is right for you.’ How many of us though, have heard a commercial applauding the medical benefits of lentils? Sadly, the medical doctors and experts that we trust to learn about health, actually have next to zero required coursework in nutritional health. It’s therefore up to us to understand this relationship, with the help of people like Dr. Michael Greger.
A doctor a day keeps the apple away”
As I mentioned in the previous section, a huge number of the most harmful diseases are linked with animal products. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 17 million people around the world are killed each year by heart disease. (link) This makes it the leading cause of death in developing countries for middle- age and older adults. Despite enormous time and effort into studying the disease, most professionals ignore the connection to lifestyle and assume that these diseases are genetic. The simplest rebuttal to this is to look at studies of groups who have immigrated from areas with healthy diets and adopted western lifestyles. These people consistently experience degraded health and energy levels as their diet becomes filled with sugar, meat, and cholesterol. This is described as ‘dietary acculturation.’ (link)
The second disease most connected with lifestyle
choices is cancer. There is by now a very clear link
between many types of cancer and a person’s diet. (link)
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, “about
a third of the most common cancers can be prevented
through diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular
physical activity.” The evidence links lifestyle and diet
with prostate, breast, stomach and colon, colorectal, and
On the other hand, it’s important to remember that the single most deadly form of cancer is lung cancer which is caused by industrial pollution, cigarettes, and the burning of fossil fuels. (link)
To add another layer, several studies have linked traffic noise and stress with heart attacks, and circulatory disease. There is a very large body of evidence linking the pollution from traffic-filled roads with cancer in both children and adults. This brings up one of the main reasons for this site. While some of you might eat a vegan diet, and others might be car-light or (hopefully) car-free, only a very small number are both. I hope that this information will help you to see the value in both choices.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Beyond the most common lifestyle diseases, there are also a host of other diseases such as Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Arthritis, Parkinsons Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease which have different amounts of evidence connecting them with diet. Vegetarians too, should be wary of the data coming in on animal products. Many of the same health problems can be caused (to a lesser degree) by eggs and dairy. Osteoporosis and poor bone health are linked to higher consumption of milk (which I covered in the previous section). Meanwhile, activist Emily Barwick created an in-depth video describing the horrific health consequences of the egg industry. Additionally, this article offers an unbiased view on how dairy affects our health.
There’s some disagreement in the research as to whether animal products are the main cause or just a contributing factor. This depends on which disease, how much meat is consumed relative to whole grains, and the amount of exercise a person gets. What IS clear, is that ever increasing numbers of health professionals are speaking out about the benefits of a meat-free diet as part of a longer and more healthy life.
In addition to the damage caused by diet, car transportation takes it’s toll as well. Worldwide roughly 1 million people are killed in car crashes per year, and in the United States roughly 35,000 people are killed, making it the highest cause of death for people aged 35 and under (by contrast firearms killed 33,600). The World Health Organization states that internationally, “tens of millions of people are injured or disabled on the roads each year.” It’s with blatant irony therefore, that I hear people regularly speak of the fear they have with travelling outside of a car. This belief is partly due to a number of issues including social pressure, poor awareness, and a heavily biased transportation system.
So why is it that so few people take steps to reduce this horrific CARnage? Well the answer to that is quite simple - it’s always the other person’s fault.
As humans we tend to see ourselves as more skilled then the average person without
any outside proof. One study found that 673 out of 909 motorists believed that they
were better than the average driver. (link)
But obviously we can’t ALL be better then average. So what allows people to have such a contradictory view? Well the answer turns out to be pretty complex. You can read the full study or the more abridged article here.
To put it briefly, there’s no universal definition for a ‘good driver.’ Some think that being able to balance a phone conversation with traffic makes them ‘good’ while others might conveniently forget their own speeding only to focus on someone else’s.
Ironically, of the people who I’ve spoken with, the minority who are most aware of the
huge responsibility to be careful are those who regularly travel by bicycle. In my own
experience, the vulnerability of travelling without a reinforced steel safety cage teaches
us to be more attentive and avoid distractions.
In addition, this study from the university of Copenhagen found that the physical activity associated with bicycle transportation reduces a person’s chance of death by 40%.
Beyond the direct health costs involved in driving every day, are the enormous costs borne by the people who obtain the resources in the first place. Conditions at oil rigs in the Midwest of the U.S. have recently exposed a long-running human-rights disaster there. The blatant disregard for safety and ecological risk is nothing new, as activists abroad have long known. (link) (link) What IS new, is that westerners are starting to see pictures and video of the atrocities. Exploitation is no longer limited to Nigeria and Columbia, it’s happening everywhere.
Within the meat industry, similar 'hidden costs' exist at slaughterhouses. Currently, meatpacking is most dangerous job in the U.S. (link) The meatpacking industry not only has the highest injury rate, but also has by far the highest rate of serious injury - more than five times the national average. Officially, about 40,000 meatpacking workers are injured on the job every year (but the industry regularly downplays these figures). (link)
In the vegan community I hear a strong outcry not only against animal agriculture, but to the many other ways in which animal are harmed. Every year scientists kill an estimated 100 million lab animals for ‘research’ and hunters kill 200 million game animals. However even I was surprised to learn that drivers kill nearly 400 million animals per year on the road. (link) So, while it’s clear that the meat industry is the highest cause of intentional harm to animals, America’s motorists are the largest cause of purposeless harm.