How Meat Harms People – From Health to Human Rights

Meat can harm your healthEating meat doesn’t just harm animals – it can also harm you! Consuming flesh takes a terrible toll on human health, taxing your digestive system and increasing your risk of life-threatening disease. Authorities such as the British Medical Association confirm that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

The meat industry also endangers public health on a global scale, from fostering deadly viruses to contributing to starvation in the developing world.

By contrast, a meat-free diet has been proved to help you live longer. It also drastically improves your quality of life by helping you stay fitter, healthier and feeling great – especially because what you’re eating isn’t causing any suffering.

Cancer | Heart Disease | Obesity | Disease | Human Rights | World Hunger


Studies have shown that vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters. Meat-eating is particularly linked to colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma and stomach cancer. The reason for this is twofold: animal products contain many substances that can directly increase our risk of cancer, such as fats and carcinogenic heterocyclic amines. On the flip side, a plant-based diet is full of cancer-busting ingredients such as fibre-packed grains and beans and phytochemical-packed fruits and vegetables.

All this evidence stacks up to a simple conclusion – go vegan to help avoid cancer.

Heart Disease

Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK – and diet is a major cause. Meat, eggs and dairy products are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which build up in the body, clog arteries, and stop the heart from working properly.

Cholesterol is found only in animal products – so a plant-based diet is 100 per cent cholesterol-free, while its high fibre content also helps to wash away excess fatty substances in the body. Vegans are also less likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Going vegan is one of the best ways to keep your heart in shape, lower your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of having a heart attack.


The same substances that are found in high levels in animal products and that increase your chance of heart disease – fat and cholesterol – also, unsurprisingly, contribute to the risk of obesity. By contrast, vegan diets are low in fat, meaning that vegans are, on average, trimmer than their meat-eating counterparts and have a lower body-mass index.

With Britain’s obesity epidemic affecting more than 15 million people and threatening to slash the life expectancy of future generations, it’s more important than ever that we and our children adopt diets that don’t make us dangerously fat. Eating meat is putting an unsustainable burden on our health services, as well as forcing animals to pay the ultimate price.

Antibiotics and Disease

E coli bacteriaAnimals are routinely fed antibiotics and steroids in order to prevent outbreaks of disease in crowded, unsanitary factory farm conditions. Not only does this mean that, if you eat meat, you could be getting an unwanted dose of drugs with your meal, it also has worrying implications for public health. Experts warn that the practice is leading to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”: in 2012, for example, Cambridge University scientists found a superbug version of the MRSA bacterium in the milk of British cows and pigs, believed to have led to infection in humans. Resistant strains of E. coli and salmonella are also likely to emerge.

Twenty years ago, the mad cow disease epidemic was a sobering example of how the livestock industry’s unscrupulous practices can end up killing humans as well as animals – and another crisis is just waiting to happen. Today, pigs on factory farms are kept in crowded, filthy sheds, often by the thousands. Chickens and turkeys are often crammed into filthy sheds by the tens of thousands. They are surrounded by their own waste and breathe ammonia-laden air that burns their lungs and damages their immune systems. The conditions in these sheds provide ideal breeding grounds for pathogens, because birds live amid their own faeces from birth to slaughter. When one bird gets sick, the disease can quickly spread to all of them.

Animals on factory farms live in environments that are breeding grounds for new strains of dangerous bacteria and viruses. Hans-Gerhard Wagner, a senior officer with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, has called the industrial farming of livestock an “opportunity for emerging disease”. The swine flu virus, for example, originated on US pig factory farms, while avian flu, which has so far claimed more than 140 lives, evolved on large-scale chicken and turkey farms.

As long as factory farming continues, we’re likely to see more and more of these deadly viruses emerging and claiming human lives.

Human Rights

Nobody should have to make a living from killing. Workers in abattoirs and on factory farms are often some of the poorest and most exploited in the country – because it’s a job that nobody wants to do.

An investigation into the UK meat industry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed widespread evidence of mistreatment and exploitation of workers, in particular migrant workers and pregnant women, including physical abuse by managers, discrimination, unsafe working conditions, bullying, being forced to work 90 hours a week and pregnant women who were made to stand for long hours and perform heavy lifting and denied the right to go to the toilet.

In addition, people who work in abattoirs and who spend their days killing and dismembering animals necessarily become desensitised to violence, making them more likely to commit violent crimes. Academic studies have shown that in communities where slaughterhouses are a source of employment, rates of domestic violence, rape and child abuse increase. Butchers and abattoir workers are also more likely to suffer from anger, hostility, psychoticism and other forms of mental illness.


World Hunger

We could feed the world if we stopped eating meat. Calorie for calorie, animal products are many times less efficient than eating plants and cereals, requiring massive amounts of feed, water and chemicals to produce the same amount of food. This is a major environmental problem, as the wasteful livestock industry guzzles up natural resources and causes pollution and climate-changing emissions. It’s also a human problem – because every day, millions of people are going hungry, while crops that they could eat are instead being used to fatten animals for meat.

What You Can Do

Help yourself and animals – go vegan. More and more people are choosing a plant-based diet for their health as well as for the sake of the billions of animals who are used and abused by the livestock industry each year. People who stick to a diet free from animal products regularly report having higher energy levels, a lower incidence of depression and, of course, a lighter conscience.

Find all the information and resources you need to help you on your way to a fat-busting, health-enhancing vegan diet here.


  • Europeans eat 35 per cent more protein than recommended by the World Health Organisation – and most of it comes from meat.
  • You can feed 20 vegetarians on the amount of land needed to feed one person on a meat-based diet.
  • The risk of hospitalisation or death from heart disease is 32 per cent lower in vegetarians than in people who eat meat.
  • The average vegan cholesterol level is about 133, the average vegetarian cholesterol level is 161 and the average meat-eater’s cholesterol level is 210.
  • Athletes who have gone vegan to boost their performance include sprinter Carl Lewis, ultra-marathon champion Rich Roll and Germany’s strongest man, Patrik Baboumian.
  • Studies have shown that vegans have lower instances of depression and anxiety than meat-eaters do and are more likely to be optimistic about the future.
  • Teenagers beware! Harvard scientists have found a clear link between drinking milk and getting acne.