VegWeb WA

This purpose of VegWeb WA is to provide access to information on the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

It operates solely via email and the Internet and although it will provide a free telephone and email service for general information, it is unable to post out any materials.

The Director of VegWeb WA is Robert Fraser, formerly President of the Vegetarian Society of Western Australia, and a vegetarian of many years standing.

It is not the aim of VegWeb WA to "reinvent the wheel", and so this page essentially provides a direction to several other websites that contain well-written and authoritative information on the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, see the links on the right.

But briefly -

There are many reasons to support the case for Vegetarianism and Veganism, and they can generally be classified as ethical, economic, dietary and environmental.

The argument that animals need to die for human consumption is indefensible and inadmissible if we are to ensure a healthy future for all the inhabitants of our planet.

An increasing number of people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle, and for a variety of reasons. These range from an abhorrence of cruelty to animals and factory farming methods to a basic desire for a healthy diet. Many people are now aware of the worldwide economic disadvantages of a carnivorous diet and the potential solution a vegetarian society could provide.

In short, the reasons why people become vegetarian are varied but inextricably linked.

Consumption of meat and animal byproducts is now suspected of being directly related to many of the diseases that plague the "Western" society. Coronary heart disease is the single largest killer in Australia. Research has shown that high meat consumption, resulting in a high intake of cholesterol and saturated fats, has a damaging effect on the arteries. On average, vegetarians have a lower blood cholesterol level than meat eaters. Hence, they carry a reduced risk of heart disease.

Cancer is another major killer. Several forms, such as cancers of the colon, breast, uterus and prostate are clearly diet related, in particular to animal protein and fat. Where cancer of the colon is concerned, the damage appears to be done by the combination of high meat and low fibre diet. It all adds up to a strong argument for vegetarianism!

The average Australian meat eater, in a lifetime, eats 92 sheep, 17 beef cattle, 15 pigs, 1171 chickens and innumerable fish and other animals. Since people can live without eating meat, ethical vegetarians feel that the raising and killing of animals for food is both unnecessary and cruel.

Life on the animal farm is dictated by harsh economics. While millions of animals are killed annually in abattoirs, hundreds of thousands of young animals aren't allowed a chance to live for more than a few days. Contrary to popular belief, the slaughter of animals is not quick, humane or painless. Death in modern slaughterhouses is painful, frightening and undignified.

Vegetarianism and veganism are practical steps anyone can take to help reduce the number of animals suffering in factory farm systems and slaughterhouses. The types of foods we choose to eat have a direct effect on what happens to animals in our society.

An increasing number of people, aware of the inherent cruelties associated with industries which rely upon animals as productive resources rather than as the sentient beings that they are, are turning to vegetarianism.

The Environment, and the damage we are doing to it, is a subject frequently in the news.

Politicians like to make bold statements about how much they value the environment, but in practical terms, they usually do little to mimimise the effects of pollution or environmental damage, usually with the stock excuse that it will affect jobs or company profits Ė and of course their chances of being re-elected.

Letís look briefly at how raising animals for food purposes affects the delicate Australian environment.

Animal farming is the most environmentally costly way of feeding the world. The production of animal protein is a highly inefficient use of land and water resources. Farm animals convert plant protein to animal protein with a low efficiency - typically around 30 - 40%, and only 8% in the case of beef production. Four kg of grain fed to a pig produces one kg of pork. An estimate from researchers at Cornell University in the USA is that the water requirement for beef production is over 50 times as much as for rice production and 100 times as much as for wheat production. The United States Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded that halving the average householdís meat consumption would reduce food-related land use by 30% and water pollution by 24%.

In the next two decades, the problem of how to feed at least 8 billion people while protecting our natural resources of land, water, air and wild species will become increasingly urgent. The spread of intensive animal farming throughout the world cannot be seen as a sustainable solution.

Here are a few statistics from the 1996 Year Book of Australia. Approximately 60% of the Australian continent is listed as "agricultural" but only 4% of this 60% is cropped. These crops include everything from garlic through to potatoes and wheat. Almost half of our crop land is devoted to wheat, and about 90% of that is exported.

What about the remainder of the 60% of Australia used for agriculture? It is sown pastures or rangeland. We export about half of the animal products we produce. So meat eating requires that about 30% of Australia be used for grazing - either of natural or sown pastures.

If the whole of the Australian population were vegetarian then less than 1% of land would need to be cropped.

Traditionally, animal agriculture in Australia was "free range". You can still see sheep and cattle grazing on paddocks around the country. But intensive animal production is taking over. It is already the norm for pigs and chickens. In 1996, feedlots had space for 850,000 cattle.

The effect of this move to feedlotting is to decrease the amount of land used for grazing, but to increase the amount of land cropped. This is because you need to crop land to feed the animals.

We live in a world where 38% of the world's grain is fed to animals. It's a simple but horrible system. Rich people want meat, so it frequently makes better financial sense to feed grain to animals which are then sold to the rich, rather than selling grain to the poor.

The figures on the massive waste of the world's food resources from feedlotting animals are well known. It takes 7 kilos of grain to produce a kilo of beef, 4 to produce a kilo of pork, and about 2.5 to produce a kilo of chicken. In some industrial countries, 40% of calories people consume come from fat. It is recommended by many health authorities that this be reduced to 30% for health reasons. If this were to happen globally, it has been estimated that it would release enough grain to feed the worlds population increases for the next 5 years.

How much water is used to produce meat? There are different figures from different sources, but 1 kilo of feedlot beef takes about 50 times the water to produce as a kilo of soya beans or rice.

Even chicken, the most "efficient" modern meat industry, uses twice as much water per kilo as soybeans or rice:-

Basic water usage figures (litres/kilo produced)
Potatoes - 500 litres
Wheat - 900 litres
Alfalfa - 900 litres
Sorghum - 1100 litres
Maize - 1400 litres
Rice - 1910 litres
Soya beans - 2000 litres
Chicken - 3500 litres
Beef (feedlot) - 100,000 litres
(From New Scientist 1/2/1997)

At the 1996 ANZAAS conference, prominent scientists argued that Australia's current human population was already consuming nearly all available resources. They predicted an inevitable drop in living standards as an increasing population competed for decreasing resources.

The message is clear. It is the same message that has been heard around the world for quite some time. The world is overpopulated and the tensions are well and truly evident. They are evident in fisheries disputes, in genocides, in water disputes, in mass refugee movements. Itís pretty easy, here in Australia, to turn a blind eye to the symptoms of world overpopulation which occur daily. But they are there.

Australia's 26 million cattle and 120 million sheep represent a massive environmental burden on the country.

There has been much publicity over the past couple of years about the "rabbit problem". These pests are said to exist in the hundreds of millions, compete with native fauna, and destroy habitat and native flora. Typically, 1 sheep eats as much as about 10 rabbits. So our 120 million sheep are equivalent to about 1200 million rabbits in terms of what they eat. Our cattle are, collectively, an even bigger problem.

In Australia, our cattle population peaked in 1976 at 33.4 million. Drought in the early 1980's reduced the population but it has been growing steadily again since 1989 to its current level of about 27 million.

Sheep and cattle production should be viewed as a conscious choice to destroy native animal habitat in exactly the same way as paving a parking lot or digging an open cut mine. But unlike parking lots and mineral mines, the areas involved are absolutely massive, re-vegetation is voluntary and almost non-existent.

Clearly, meat eating is a very expensive indulgence.

Our extensive sheep and cattle industries are an environmental disaster. Perhaps intensive industries might be better? Let's look at animal industry pollution.

Piggeries stink, but the stench is really a minor problem. Disposing of the waste is a major problem. It must be treated before it can be used. And if you use too much, or if you use it at the wrong time of year or in the wrong place, it will pollute groundwater. Leeching from the treatment ponds can pollute groundwater.

This is not a hypothetical problem. An example is pollution of the Peel-Inlet Harvey estuary in Western Australia. In this case the major culprit was phosphorus, but again the source was primarily intensive piggeries.

In Holland in the late 1980s, it was calculated that intensive animal industries were producing 94 million tonnes of manure per year, but could only safely use 50 million of it as fertiliser.

To summarise, eating animals is an amazing waste of resources if we first feed them food that we ourselves could eat. So pigs and chicken are out if you care about waste. But if we extensively graze them, we either do it on delicate marginal land and gradually destroy it, or we do it on good land that's better to use for something else anyway.

We can briefly mention fishing, but the world's population will have to do with far less fish per capita in the future. Long line fishing kills millions of innocent bystanders (birds) each year, and driftnets are even worse. From an environmental viewpoint, fishing is a disaster.

Tropical rainforests produce most of the oxygen we breathe, and right now, large multi-national companies are clearing vast areas of that forest for cattle ranching. Forests are destroyed, cattle reared and slaughtered and the land left infertile. When that forest goes, it goes for good. It's going fast!

One hundred acres of rainforest are devastated and disappear every minute of every day, cutting off our lifeblood; our air supply.


However, we CAN do something about the situation. We can take personal responsibility for conserving the world's finite resources by not consuming meat and animal products. Cut down your meat consumption, or better still, cut out meat and slaughterhouse products altogether.

Meat is not cheap!
Apart from costing the lives of countless millions of animals each year, its production is also causing starvation for millions of people all over the world.

A third of the world's population is starving. Fifteen million children die every year because of malnutrition. They die slowly and horribly, and yet, this planet could supply ample food for everyone.

Thank you for visiting VegWebWA


Robert Fraser

A Supporter of the International Vegetarian Union

International Vegetarian Union

Vegetarian Resource Group

Australian Vegetarian Society

Vegan Outreach