VEGANISM TAKES 5 YEARS OFF YOUR LIFE! The words, blazoned across my social media feed one evening, proclaimed that whoever oversees the analysing of this kind of stuff had, apparently, discovered that vegans die before meat eaters.

Now, my article could easily have been a counter-argument piece. I could have brought up the massively reduced cholesterol, the lowered risk of heart disease and many types of cancers, the lower stress levels, the lack of hormone imbalances and the simple fact that vegans do not die earlier than meat eaters.

But I’m not going to.

Those points have been made, again and again, by people with far greater scientific acumen than my tiny mind.

The point I am going to make, the point which I think is missing from the argument, is that: If – in the highly unlikely event – it came to light that veganism really did knock 5 years off your life, what would (or should) be the response?

I don’t know about you, but the final 5 years of my life – as my physical and mental faculties collapse around me – are not exactly going to be the golden age of my existence. Am I really going to go back to sponsoring the imprisonment, torture and execution of innocent creatures (who, by the way, have much shorter life spans than myself, vegan or not) simply to claw a few more years for myself at the end?

The question is not ‘Which way of life is the healthiest and best promoting of longevity?’ as asked by the vegan skeptics, but rather ‘What evils and cruelty am I willing to bring about for personal gain?’.

This is asked of us all, almost every day. Our diets, our transport and financial systems, and our attitude to others, all require this choice to be made: Perhaps you put on perfume or aftershave this morning. Given that a huge percentage of high street scent brands involve animal testing, what level of cruelty do you think is justified for you to smell that way? Maybe you stop for a burger at lunchtime. What justification do you have for those acres of rainforest or that animal’s life? What will it allow you to bring to the world that an alternative meal would not?

If protecting the welfare of animals and nature took ten years off my life, I would still choose that lifestyle. The thing we all seem to forget with every meat vs vegan debate we enter into is not the various scientific findings and their applications to the argument, but rather the absolute insanity of clawing and scraping every last second of life you can at the expense of other creatures, the planet and the natural world without a single idea of how those years are going to benefit anyone.

I, for the most part, love being alive. Who knows, perhaps what comes next is even better. On the other hand, maybe it’s worse. Maybe the countless hours of sins which I have done my best to accumulate will finally catch up with me and I will spend the rest of eternity being slow roasted in a Bull of Phalaris. Either way, I’m not in a massive hurry to find out. The point here though is that instead of working every angle, no matter how unethical to add years to our lives, we should work out how to live in the time allotted to us. If you cannot accept the finite nature of life now, another few years at the very end at the expense of hundreds of lives isn’t going to help at all.

Consuming animals whilst using excuses like this shows a deep arrogance or ignorance. For it says: ‘I am worth more than the lives sacrificed to keep me’.

If we ignore this question of what injustices we can tolerate, we do more than just accept eating meat. We embark on the road to insanity. For this way leads to a place where every act can be justified by its potential for human gain. It is the road along which the last rhino horn is ground up for medicine, where the animal sentience bill is rescinded, and where the last beautiful and gentle pangolin is cooked alive for its perceived medicinal properties (and high financial worth). It is where modern slavery and animal welfare are overlooked because they benefit so many, and where products can be poured into animals’ eyes because they make us look more attractive.

I sometimes wonder where we would draw the line. What acts would we commit for something guaranteed to add 20 years to our lives?

Let’s take a stroll down the other road. Where our lives, no matter their length, are lived deliberately and with purpose and with a clear understanding of the finite nature of all things. Where simple choices can give us similar appearances but without the suffering of millions. Where we accept that we are not all going to become millionaires, or athletes at the top of their game, or whatever else consumerism has promised us if we just keep spending. Where we put more thought into living well than living forever.  

Phil Hatfield
Phil Hatfield is a part-time writer and committed vegan and animal rights advocate based in Cornwall, UK. He is a long-time student of philosophy, psychology and ethics, with his primary interest being the way we interact with the world around us and the morals, we use to guide and structure our lives.