Articles Reflecting a Vegan Lifestyle From

Today is my first car-free anniversary. So...

From Lee Hall, Vegan Place: The Art of Animal Liberation
June 2024

I've been thinking about what I do as a vegan by being car-free. Just as I resisted cheese for the calf and the cow, I'm now resisting gasoline for climate-distressed sandpipers and sea lions.


I've been thinking about what I do as a vegan by being car-free.

Disentangling myself from the destructive system of private cars is not an additional environmental commitment, on top of veganism. Being car-free is an element of my vegan commitment.

I have spent years studying climate crisis, and have heard a lot of numbers. One of the key numbers vegans often discuss is the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the vast business of exploiting animals in the so-called food system.

And I believe certain statements on this question do more to invite arguments than they do to persuade.

"Animal agriculture [sic] is the leading cause of climate change."

Animal agribusiness is the leading driver of biodiversity loss, on account of its destructive impact on natural lands. But it's very hard to establish the "leading cause" of anthropogenic climate breakdown, because the human activities harmful to Earth's climate are wide-ranging and overlapping.

Here is another statement that invites argument:

"We need to transition to a global plant-based economy first...eliminating fossil fuel usage first will accelerate the warming of the planet."

Look, time is of the essence here. Over the past year we've witnessed a worldwide and continuing surge in wildfires, with Earth’s temperatures elevated by 1.5C for sustained periods. Multiple feedback loops are in motion. Ice is melting, tides are rising. Streets are turning into canals. The crisis is in front of our faces.

I think our transitions should be as robust as we can make them. I'm trying, out here in the open with my primate body. Cycling, walking, occasionally sitting on a bus or train because I'm convinced that radical respect for Earth's collective habitat means living a life without emitting hydrocarbons into the air and without deforestation, without tormenting other living beings...all of fully as possible, as far as I can.

Climate scientists largely would not agree that animal agribusiness generates 80% or 90% of climate effects. But we can safely say this:

"There is a strong relationship between the amount of animal-based foods in a diet and its environmental impact, including GHG emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication and biodiversity."

We can make the claim that shifting diets (and subsidies) away from animal-derived and over to plant-only foods makes a substantial difference in all of those listed problems.

We can also point to recent research, published in Nature Food, that measured dietary CO2 emissions for vegans averaging just 30% of the dietary emissions of a "high meat-eaters group".

But I don't think I could develop a credible claim that we needn't focus on transit.

I believe animal liberationists need to join the oil & gas protests—not beat them.

Animal agribusiness is a terrible scourge on our planet. At the same time, fragmentation (roads, sprawl) also must be addressed. The burning of hydrocarbons must be confronted. Stealing wilderness must stop. How can we speak to the customs of driving and extractive industries and animal ag here, now, with our precious lives?

Animal ag has a specific element of justice to it. Yet so do the extractive industries. Roads fragment habitat, containing animals in ever-smaller areas, where they're then deemed "overpopulated" as human populations grow. Drivers kill more animals, including ourselves, than wars have (so far). Across much of the world, our vehicles are the greatest threat to amphibian survival.

At the same time, road works, plus oil, metal, and mineral extraction, steal habitat. Heat itself diminishes habitat. It assaults animal communities' ability to exist, to thrive, to evolve on nature's terms. Wheels spin oil and microplastics into the air, the waters, other animals' foods. I cannot commit to a message that animal ag is everything we need to disconnect ourselves from. Just as I resisted cheese for the calf and the cow, I'll resist gasoline for climate-distressed sandpipers and sea lions.

Biochemist and food scientist Patrick Brown talks about collaborative research done by researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley:

“We wanted to answer a very simple question: What would be the impact of a global phase-out of animal agriculture [sic] on atmospheric greenhouse gases and their global-heating impact?”

Based on the team's model (available from PLoS Climate), phasing out animal ag over the next 15 years would amount to the same as emitting 68% less CO2 through the year 2100. This would provide 52% of the net emission reductions necessary to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The global phase-out of animal ag, Brown maintains, "with a shift to a plant diet, would halt the increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases for 30 years and give humanity more time to end its reliance on fossil fuels."

The way Brown's team speaks with the goal in mind of ending both of these key dependencies, animal products and extractive industries, resonates with me. Because our species is driving (and flying) and eating our way to climate breakdown.

For a vegan in the position to make changes, what's the best way to grapple with global heating and ecocide—the continuing losses of Earth's living communities?

In big-picture terms:

We need to say no to the grazing of purpose-bred animals on the land. We need to say no to the exploitation of life under water. We need to say no to the big feed companies, and no to small businesses that use their products.

We need to shift subsidies away from cars and into socially necessary public transit.

We need to permanently boycott animal ag and end reliance on private cars.

We need to radically simplify our lifestyles.

We need to rewild the planet. We're figuring this out now, but Veganism Defined told us 73 years ago. Enabling natural evolution is at veganism's core:

"In a vegan world the creatures would be reintegrated within the balance and sanity of nature… A great and historic wrong, whose effect upon the course of evolution must have been stupendous, would be righted…"

As a developing vegan, I seek unfolding awareness about all of these things. As a human, I'm striving for radical simplicity, or what we might call a journey of self-rewilding.

You strengthen me, dear friends. Thanks for your presence in my life.

Love and liberation,
Lee Hall 

Posted on All-Creatures: June 17, 2024
Return to Articles Reflecting a Vegan Lifestyle