8 Reasons To Celebrate A Plant-Based Christmas This Year

Laurentine ten Bosch LAURENTINE TEN BOSCH

At the present time, when most of us are thinking about our Christmas or holiday menu, we turn back to our favorite family-friendly recipes and traditional hotpots or roasts from a variety of animal delicacies. I grew up in Holland and I remember how we spend days looking forward to our feast. It was always wild venison or wild-caught hare, slow-cooked overnight in gravy, served with mashed potatoes and a variety of vegetables from the garden like beets, turnips, spinach, and kale. But a lot of these traditionally wild recipes are now farmed on a mass scale and produced in a way that is no longer kind to the animals, the people eating them, or the planet.

Paul McCartney once said if slaughterhouses and factory farms had glass walls we all would go vegetarian. The problem is that slaughterhouses don’t have glass walls and what happens inside factory farms is not common knowledge. When we sit down to eat, we aren’t very aware of how our food choices affect the world. We don’t realize that the meal on our plates isn’t simply food. It is the suffering of animals, the erosion of our topsoil, the burning of our forests, and the devastation of our health. Somewhere along the way, we missed the toxic poisons that are gathering on our dinner plates, that are poisoning our children, and that will live on our planet for generations to come. At then in a moment, perhaps a conversation with a friend or while watching a film, we become aware of the impact of our food choices, and we can never truly forget.

So these holidays, I encourage you to keep your health, the health of your family, the treatment of our animals, and the planet more broadly in mind - whatever that may mean to you. There are conscious and sustainable ways to source your meats. Or, you can buck the usual trend and opt for a plant-based day! Whatever you choose, here are 8 reasons we need to be aware of when consuming factory-farmed animals:

1. Factory Farms Are Reliant On Animal Cruelty

In these farming practices, animals are reduced to simply a unit of production, rather than a living, sentient being with the same needs as a domesticated animal. Factory farmed animals are crammed into barren, mostly-indoor, artificial, overcrowded environments where they are unable to express their natural behaviors and are subject to many cruel, painful, and unethical procedures such as artificial insemination, the slaughter of bobby calves, battery cages for egg hens, and malnourishment. Many videos have arisen showing the poor treatment and disrespect from workers, some of whom actively engage in the abuse.

2. Factory Farming Is Polluting The Planet (Plant-Based Diets Can Reduce Carbon Footprints By 50%)

One argument for adopting a plant-based diet is the urgency to address our environmental crisis. You wouldn’t believe the resources it takes to simply produce one pound of beef, which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported, and many people are under the illusion that by putting greater numbers of animals in smaller places, we can address our climate issue. However, the opposite couldn’t be more true. One of the key issues with factory farming’s relationship with climate change is excess. 15 pounds of grain are required to produce one pound of beef, and the amount of beef the average American consumes in a year creates greenhouse gases equivalent to driving a car 1800 miles. The grain grown to feed livestock takes up a lot of resources, less would be needed if we simply ate the grain ourselves.

3. Manure In Factory Farms Is Causing Significant Permaculture Problems

When cows (or any animal for that instance) are confined to a small space, they produce their usual amount of manure in this space - an unhygienic and unpleasant reality, so when it becomes too much, this must be removed. This often involves large trucks coming to collect the manure and dumping it in a paddock nearby, which the environment can’t sustain, so the surrounding soil can become over-saturated with the wastes, resulting in ground and water pollution. Open pasture grazing, alternatively, allows the cows to pass their waste throughout the day and it becomes fertilizer for richer foods, which they consume (and then are ultimately consumed by humans - a permaculture principle which has allowed thoughtful farming to be sustainable for centuries.  

4. Factory Farms Lead To Animal Illness

To keep production costs low, animals raised in factory farms are typically fed cheap grains and feeds containing “by-product feedstuff.” However, this grain only provides the basic nutrients needed to sustain life and nothing more. When farmed in open pastures, animals are more likely to consume a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of nutrients, which allows them to lead a healthy life. Additionally, factory farms and feedlots are often ridden with disease, meaning when one animal becomes sick, others are likely to too - and alongside being a horrible, unnecessary experience for the animal, the sickness is passed on to the consumer.

5. Sick, Malnourished Animals Are Fed Antibiotics And Other Additives

In factory farms, many animals are fed continual low-dose antibiotics, alongside other chemical concoctions, to prevent them from falling ill. But what we know about antibiotics is that the level of toxins can build up over time, and we now know that these can be passed on to the consumer. Not only do these chemicals and toxins have their usual, potentially harmful, effects on the body, but long-term consumption also builds up drug resistance in the body.

6. Poor Diets Produce Less Nutritious Meats

You’ve likely heard me say it before, but the truth is you are what you eat. You can take it a step further and even say that you are what the food that you eat, eats. This is especially true for animal products from factory farms. Increasing research has shown that animals fed an unhealthy diet (mono-cropped grains instead of a rich, varied diet), contain fewer nutrients. Compared to grass-fed animals, factory-farmed, grain-fed meats have less vitamin E, beta-carotene, and little of the two health-promoting fats called omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA, meaning that we might be missing out on all the health benefits that we’re being sold.

7. Stressed Animals Lead To Depleted Nutrients

We all know how stress can manifest in the physical body; burnout, malnourishment, illness, chronic disease - and the same is true for our four-legged friends. The harmful conditions of factory farms expose animals to prolonged chronic stress, with overcrowding and harmful practices, alongside not being able to roost, graze, and nest as they are designed to. This stress also manifests in the physical body, so alongside being inhumane, ultimately producing products that are lower in a number of key vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

8. Farms Are Designed For Maximum Production, Minimum Expense

Sure, factory-farmed foods cut the cost to the consumer ever-so-slightly, but this price difference isn’t a reflection of how much money the corporate investors are earning. With low-cost foods, low-cost facilities, and poor treatment of the animals, it’s easy to understand how factory farming is a profitable business. Unfortunately, the costs to produce ethical, healthy meat are much higher - with routine inspections, certification bodies, and more land required - which may be a huge burden on many. However, for those struggling, I always suggest to cut down on your meat consumption and source ethical, high-quality meat when it’s needed. The benefits easily outweigh the costs, and when you’re getting the good stuff, you need less of it!

I know It’s not always accessible, achievable, or realistic for everyone, but in our home, we opt for a #nokillchristmas. Previously we’ve lived a vegan lifestyle, but living on a remote island we are keenly aware of where our food comes from and we do incorporate small amounts of high-quality animal products into our diet usually from wild or free-range animals. But for our Christmas dinner, we abstain from consuming meats - out of respect for all sentient beings on the planet and quite simply because we don’t need them to enjoy each other’s company.

So this year, like every year, our family will be meeting (albeit slightly differently) over a meat-free meal. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it does help to greatly reduce the environmental impact and it shows a little kindness for other living creatures on these special days.

If you’re not sure where to get started, here are some of my favorite plant-based recipes to enjoy.