Especially in mammals we often recognize ourselves. But with their way of life and their habits they also hold up a mirror to us: While we humans sometimes think in a very complicated way, they show us the essentials: eating, sleeping, socialising, looking for a partner, letting the sun shine on our fur. From this simplicity and carelessness we often wish for a little more in life!
And despite all the differences, we are also amazingly similar. This applies not only to great apes, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, but also to other animals. Many are socially organized, i.e. they live in families or groups. They seek and find allies for special tasks, they use tools such as stones or sticks, feel pain and grief. We share more than 90 percent of our genetic material with great apes and about 80 percent with other mammals. No wonder that many people feel that the similarities far outweigh the differences.
Man and animal have a long common history. While humans probably hunted animals as prey very early in human history, dogs were their first pets. Even before humans settled down, dogs, which developed from tamed wolves, lived closely together with nomadic humans. They ate the garbage, protected the settlements from attackers and helped in the hunt. It was only later that other domestic animals such as cattle, goats and horses followed.
For many centuries, animals had fixed tasks in the service of man. Horses carried riders and pulled carriages, dogs guarded the farms and went hunting, cats kept the mice away. Such animal professions still exist today – at customs or as herding dogs, for example – but most animals that perform tasks in the service of man today have mainly social tasks. They are therapeutic animals for children, help dementia patients with biographical work or accompany blind people. Animals today are therefore more social partners than work animals. We love our pets more than anything else, animals can be a substitute for partners or children, they help against loneliness or bring people back into their everyday lives after they have overcome an illness.
But pets also have a positive effect on their humans beyond times of crisis. We go out with them in all weathers, enjoy petting them, and children learn important social skills. There were 34.3 million pets in Germany in 2019, most of them cats (14.7 million) and dogs (10.1 million).
But of course that is not all there is to animals. Let's throw in a few more numbers: In addition to pets, there are farm animals. They are suppliers of meat, milk, eggs, leather and wool. In the years 2019 and 2020, agricultural enterprises in Germany kept 25.4 million pigs and 11.4 million cattle. In addition, there were 1.6 million sheep and 42 million laying hens.
For many people, there is no justifiable difference between pets and farm animals. For them it is a matter of common sense that their love of animals applies to all species and to live this love by avoiding meat. Eating animals? This is out of the question for vegans. Around one million people in Germany avoid animal products, including products that animals have given away involuntarily, such as eggs or honey. Many also avoid leather and wool. An estimated 200 new vegans are added daily. The group of vegetarians is growing even faster, with about 2,000 new people joining every day.
A vegan lifestyle has many advantages: A diet without animal products is good for the climate. Due to the reduced CO2 emissions in the production of vegetable food, it is one of the biggest levers to achieve something for climate protection. To all we know, a balanced plant-based diet is also good for the health. However, animal protection is an important argument for a vegan way of life for many. Humans are not superior to animals just because they want to eat them – an argument that can be justified both philosophically and religiously.
In Germany, animals are legally protected up to a certain point. Animal protection has been anchored in the German constitution since 2002. The German Civil Code (BGB) states that animals are not things: "Animals are not things. They are protected by special laws." However, the BGB goes on to say: "The regulations applicable to things are to be applied to them accordingly, unless otherwise specified." In the legal sense, animals are thus treated as objects if there are no other special regulations. Since 1972, the Animal Welfare Act has been in force with the central principle: "No one may inflict pain, suffering or harm on an animal without reasonable cause". This applies to private pet owners as well as to the keeping of farm animals – and precisely these regulations, which regulate the details of breeding, keeping, medical treatment, transport and slaughter of animals, are not acceptable to many people.
They draw as a logical consequence: a vegan way of life. It is true that the purchasing decisions of a single person have only a minor effect on the demand and supply of meat and meat products. But all vegans together have the power to achieve something. That is noticeable for some companies which set on meat for years and now offer vegan products.
People who have already taken the step towards vegan are usually happy to pass on their knowledge. If you consider changing your nutrition to vegan, look for people offline or online for support.
For some, the either-or method has proven its worth: Their decision is made and they immediately make the switch. Others prefer a gradual change. This is a type question – there is no one right approach. It’s important that you do not put yourself under pressure. Every single meal without meat helps! For example, you could start by having one vegan day a week, maybe together with friends. This way you can use up all your non-vegan supplies and then buy more vegan food. And you can also specify non-vegan foods that you don't want to do without for the time being. It doesn't matter if it's a meat dish, your latte with cow's milk or your grandma's legendary egg pancakes!
Many people who were used to eating a lot of meat first became vegetarians. Only later did they also omit dairy products and eggs. Every step counts!
Germany is a veggie stronghold, so it's great fun to try out vegan products. The vegan market is booming, there are more new vegan products in Germany than in any other European country. 15 percent of new vegan products worldwide came from Germany between 2017 and 2018. This makes it easier for vegans to keep up a varied diet and not always have to cook everything completely from scratch. This makes cooking easier – and simply fun.
Many people also come to a more conscious approach to food through their vegan lifestyle. Anyone who is often on the go or lives with people who eat a lot of meat needs to plan a little bit about what will be on the table next. Cool side effect: a greater appreciation for food. Many newbies report that they are more conscious in their shopping, have discovered new dishes and previously unknown types of fruit and vegetables for themselves and throw away less.
Many people experience an energy boost when they first go vegan. They feel strengthened and full of energy. If you feel weak and hungry instead, you may be lacking something. Get all the advice you can to make your switch successful. Talk to your doctor about your decision and have them check if you have enough iron and vitamins. Typical things to address are also iron, vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, calcium, certain fatty acids and proteins. Be sure to inform yourself and find good get support when planning your diet.
According to the motto: "Do good and talk about it" you can perhaps sensitize even more people to the fact that they too can do something for animal welfare with their diet. Explain your decision and your motivation calmly, instead of missionizing. Some people are simply sceptical. Maybe you would like to cook for them? The way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs – and love always wins. <3
If you have questions or are looking for tips for specific occasions (examples: vegan traveling, barbecues, sceptical relatives ...), there is a lot of information, resources and ideas online. New vegan cookbooks and guides are also constantly being published on the book market. Get advice and inspiration – it's simply more fun together!
For example, you can find lots of ideas and information at Caro from @itscaroo. The blogger from Mannheim had been a vegetarian for quite some time when she finally cut dairy and eggs from her menu. Vegan lifestyle is her mission, which is why she even has her own food channel @foodbyitscaroo. Together with the Deutschen Tierschutzbüro e. V., she puts animal welfare on the agenda.
The author of this blog article is Katharina Frier-Obad. You want to give her feedback or have a question? Write her a comment here.
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