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Veganism at New Forest Small School

Published on 2015-03-19 by Gill Hickman

"What is a vegan?" Richard Barnett asked a small group of students at New Forest Small School. "Why did I become a vegan?" followed.

The students were knowledgeable; more informed tan many of their age. They knew that being a vegan meant more than being a vegetarian. They knew that being a vegan precluded the use of animal products such as leather, but were surprised by the great range of products that are 'banned' if you are a vegan.

Richard explained the chain of events that took him into a vegan lifestyle. Top of the list was his concern for the treatment of farm animals, 6 million of which are killed every hour. He carefully explained how calves are taken away from their mothers at 2 to 3 days, and showed students the problems in the egg industry. He clearly had the sympathies of many of the students at this stage.

Second on Richard's list was health concerns. He explained that saturated fats, linked with heart disease, are largely a feature of an animal based diet, and that a plant based diet is widely accepted as the most healthy.

Finally students considered environmental issues; rainforest destruction with 91% lost to animal agriculture. They learnt about the impact of cattle farming on greenhouse gas emissions and finally heard how much land was needed to feed a meat eater (3 acres, compared to 1/6 acre for a vegan. Undoubtedly feeding on an animal which expends 90% of that energy on its own metabolism is inefficient. The greater the number of levels in a food chain the more energy is lost. The question is whether the world accept and understand this? Are we willing to reduce our meat consumption and our exploitative use of animals?