This Fourth of July, many Americans will be going out to pick up the hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken carcasses they like to throw over the fire pit while the fireworks screech overhead. The head of the household will man the grill, bragging about his or her ability to rotate the meat at precisely the right time to get that perfect smoky flavor. (Or something like that. I've been a plant-eater for most of my life, so I might be a little out of touch, but you get the gist.) Maybe they'll top off the meal with some strawberry shortcake eaten out of a red and white checkered cardboard dish, or a sloppy ice cream cone.
It seems like the perfect picture of Americana -- like something out of a Norman Rockwell. But as long as there is animal flesh smoking and spitting on your grill or dairy desserts melting in your hand, you could be doing better by Lady Liberty. Here's five reasons why going vegan is one of the most patriotic things you can do.
5. Animal Farms Kill Our Land and Our Babies
Animal farms are responsible for more pollution than all the cars, ships, trains, and planes in the world put together.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of miles of our water has been polluted by nitrates, which is largely caused by run-off from animal farms. Such pollution has caused cities to shut down their public water systems and issue emergency water supplies, if they're lucky enough to catch it in time. In 1996 the Center for Disease Control established a connection between these high nitrate levels and miscarriage stemming from Indiana drinking wells located close to animal feed lots. The same nitrate levels raise the risk for "blue baby syndrome," which can kill infants.
Animal waste is often stored by factory farms in big fat open-air poop lagoons, which can be the size of several football fields. These often spill, sending millions of gallons of manure into rivers and lakes, which cause algal blooms that turn underwater ecosystems on their heads and kill millions of fish.
Going vegan and supporting local and organic vegetable farming means that you stop contributing to practices that are destroying our country. Go here to find out more.
4. True Americans Love Animals
We're a nation that loves our cats and dogs to no end. But we seem to block out that the pigs, cows, chickens, and fish we eat are sentient beings just like our pets. If our neighbor were treating dogs and cats the way factory farms treat their animals - putting them in dark feces-strewn pens where they can't move, injecting them with deleterious hormones, and throwing them around like rag dolls - we would show up at that neighbor's door with flaming torches and burn his house to the ground - after we rescued all his animals and published shaming local news stories on the atrocities he committed.
When we stop turning a selectively blind eye to acts of animal cruelty, we go vegan.
3. Veganism Is True Independence
This country is founded on the idea that we Americans don't like to be herded around like stupid sheep. And yet, when we participate in the current broken American food system, that's exactly what's happening.
When we march in the lemming line toward the nearest McDonald's, Burger King, or Pizza Hut, we're on a mission to eat stuff that's been shown to make us obese and cause type 2 diabetes and other degenerative diseases. At the same time, we're lining the pockets of huge corporations that produce flavors in labs, feed us scraps of meat that have been sprayed with ammonia to kill the inevitable pathogens that result from from unsanitary practices, and seem to care about the collapsing health of our children only when it damages their public images.
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We can be free from all this when we adopt a thoughtful organic vegan diet and swear off fast food for good.
2. We Can Feed More Americans with Plants
Producing dairy, eggs, and meat is extremely wasteful. According to some ecologists, if the grain grown to feed livestock were fed directly to humans, we could feed 800 million people. According to Feeding America, one in six Americans is struggling with hunger. If we made our food system more efficient by consistently eating lower on the trophic pyramid, this situation might be remedied.
1. Vegans Can Avoid Burdening the Healthcare System
Most Americans would agree that leaching off the government is unpatriotic. But they may not realize that obesity-related healthcare costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year. Eating meat is correlated with higher obesity rates, more cardiovascular disease, and decreased lifespan. Obese Americans have 56 percent higher health care needs than normal weight individuals. Add to this the power of a plant-based diet to reverse cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases, and it's easy to see why eating a healthful vegan diet is a good American thing to do.