February 27, 2017

Annabelle Pendlebury

By saving animals from becoming food, we can reduce global warming. Photo credit: Animals Australia.

You too can help save the planet, one lentil burger at a time.

I’ve been a vegetarian from the day I popped into the world. My mother was vegetarian and so naturally informed all of her kids about where meat comes from when we asked her. She first checked with a dietician at the Royal Children’s Hospital about whether a meatless diet was ok for growing children and they confirmed that it’s perfectly safe and does not harm development. So, Mum demonstrated by example how it’s possible to make multitudes of delicious meat-free meals, especially when you enjoy the privilege of having access to a supermarket.

Mum’s emphasis on the importance of compassion for every living thing inspired my siblings and I to happily adopt vegetarianism with barely a second thought.

This choice always seemed simple to me – if you could have a fulfilling, yummy diet without the need to harm another living being, why wouldn’t you?

Delicious and meat-free meal options are in abundance in this day and age.


My family made it simple for me, which is why I am always super impressed and humbled to meet people who have decided to stop consuming animals on their own terms, in their teenage or adult years. It is the newly converted vegetarians and vegans I’ve met who have opened my eyes to things even I didn’t know before.

At the Banyule Youth Fest this year, I met Jack Styles, a volunteer co-ordinator for Animals Australia who has been with the organisation for around 10 years. Jack is eager to spread the message that all of us, no matter our age, have the power to make a difference. He believes “young people can make kind choices and help animals”.

Jack highlights that the kind-hearted choice is avoiding animal cruelty. It’s what made Jack become vegetarian many years ago. Then he adds, “after finding out about how dairy calves and laying hens were treated, I had to go vegan.”

Animals Australia describe how laying hens are killed at around 18 months of age once they can no longer lay eggs, which is years before their expected lifespan of 10 years . Of the new chicks that are produced each year to become new egg-layers, the half that are male – approximately 12 million – are regarded as economically worthless and are either gassed to death or ground up alive.

Cows must be forcefully impregnated so they can produce milk. Dairy cows have to spend their lives in a continual state of pregnancy. The calves they birth are then removed from their mothers and disposed of at just a few weeks of age.


Around 700,000 unwanted baby calves are killed every year, as ‘waste products’ of the dairy industry. Photo Credit: Animals Australia

Jack points out that by going vegan, you are not only saving the lives of animals but are demonstrating your disapproval for the inhumane torture that occurs in slaughterhouses.

“A large majority of meat in this country is factory farmed. Most facilities go unregulated. There is no way to monitor the wellbeing of these animals and it is only thanks to organisations like Animals Australia that people are aware of the kinds of conditions [animals are subjected to].”

Besides the ethical issues, it is “so much better for the environment… and it’s so much healthier as well!”

The health benefits are definitely in abundance. The World Health Organisation classify processed meat as a carcinogenic (which can cause cancer). Meanwhile, a recent study by Oxford University found that if there was a widespread uptake in vegetarian diets, we could avert 8.1 million premature human deaths by 2050.

More. Than. 8. Million. Lives.

So even reducing your meat intake, if not fully cutting it out of your diet altogether, is proven to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Those are some pretty damn cool benefits!

Now for the saving the planet and being a global superhero part. Dropping meat from your diet helps reduce global warming.

According to many studies, including one from the University of Melbourne, the methane produced by livestock in Australia is nearly equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from the entire transport sector in Australia.

In fact, by getting rid of meat from our diets, we could cut greenhouse gases by almost two thirds.

Plus, by raising animals to eat we are contributing to global hunger. The world’s livestock now consumes most of the world’s crops and freshwater – resources that could otherwise nourish people.

Going vegetarian is great, but even better for the environment (and for the lives of baby animals) is going vegan. This means cutting dairy and other animal products from your life, as well as meat.

If you’re despairing about the lack of cheese, Jack says adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle is “not as scary as it seems. I was vegetarian for about 10 years and vegan for 5. It’s so easy – it was a lot harder 10 years ago. You can eat everywhere and you can eat everything.”

“Anything you eat now, I guarantee there’s a vegan version!” says Jack.

Going vegetarian and even vegan is actually much easier than you might think. In Australia, we have supermarkets jam-packed with ingredients free from animal products, plus online stores selling healthy, cruelty free foods. It’s never been easier to adopt an animal-free diet and cook satisfying meals. Dishes traditionally containing meat can now be made totally animal-free, like lasagna, shepherd’s pie and, of course, burgers.

Both Coles and Woolworths stock handy ingredients for baking, such as egg-replacer. They even stock yummy vegan cheese, meaning grilled cheese-and-vegemite sandwiches are still definitely on the menu (try buying BioCheese slices next time you hit the grocery store).

Meanwhile, a number of establishments in Melbourne have gone meat-free – try not to fall in love with Brunswick Street’s ‘Vegie Bar’. Another great spot is ‘The B.East’ on Lygon St where you can wolf down their amazingly satisfying lentil burger with vegan cheddar, or their Southern fried mock chicken burger (pictured below).

For people who are trying to transition to such a lifestyle, Jack says, “We’ve got a great vegetarian starter kit. Animals Australia will mail a copy out to anyone who orders one, for free. It has amazing recipes, nutritional information, places to eat and things like that.”

You can order your cruelty-free starter-kit by clicking here.

Don’t forget – transitioning to become cruelty-free doesn’t have to be instantaneous and it’s ok to slip-up every now and then.

According to Jack, “Everyone can take little steps to help animals. There is no point to being a purist. We can help far more animals by making veganism easier than by reading every little code on the back of labels, or by killing [ourselves] over the fact that we had a slice of cheese maybe six months ago. As long as you are taking steps to help animals, that’s what matters.”

Hopefully, by now you’re feeling inspired to give the animal-free lifestyle a go. Still seems too hard? Don’t be discouraged.

Even having one meal a week that is meat-free can still help reduce your carbon footprint, as well as reduce your chance of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Jack says, “Meat-free Mondays is great. Just cut out meat one day a week. If every Australian did that, it would save more animals than if half of Australia went vegan!”

Jack emphasises that young people can have a powerful impact, just by “encouraging their friends to make kind choices such as not going to a circus that has animals, doing meat-free Mondays or lobbying their school canteens to stop selling caged eggs… It is really just giving young people the tools to help animals. So many kids already know what’s going on, which is awesome.”

Animals Australia has a youth forum called ‘Unleashed’ where likeminded young people can get together to discuss how they can best help animals. Jack says it’s all about trying to “empower young people to tell them that they can help animals.” You can sign up on their website.

It’s important to remember that the actions of one person are never too small. We all have the power to go out there and be planetary superheroes, saving the world from cruelty, global warming and heart disease – all by stuffing yummy meals (like the ones listed below) into your gob. So get out there and eat, you heroes.

For easy vegan recipes, click here.

-Annabelle Pendlebury

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