Considering not eating animals? In truth, they would like to live their lives to the full, just like us. By choosing to Go Veg you can save around 100 lives each year and send the message that you refuse to support the use of animals for food production.

An animal’s life

Why take away a life? Every animal has its own interest in living, and holds inherent value as an individual. ‘Animal rights’ simply refers to the right of an animal not to be killed for human interests, or to suffer needless pain or suffering at our hands.

Welfare issues

Approximately 130 million animals are reared and killed annually in New Zealand for their meat. Millions more are farmed for dairy and eggs. Many of these animals are raised in appalling conditions on factory farms. They spend their short lives in boredom, misery, stress and fear simply because they are unfortunate enough to be born as ‘food’ animals. Even outside intensive farming, the conditions farmed animals live in will be very different from the environment in which their wild ancestors lived.


Animals are intelligent and sensitive creatures, and have an awareness of what is happening to them. Transport to a slaughterhouse is stressful, they are given no food for a 24-hour period before slaughter, and handling can be traumatic. Animals in slaughterhouses can smell, hear, and often see, the killing of those ahead of them.

In an industrial slaughter system a certain percentage of stunning will not work properly and death is not immediate.

“I think it’s time to recognise, there is no such thing as an ‘easy death’ for an animal in the meat industry.”

Jeffrey Masson, Author

Sheep raised for meat and wool

Around 20 million lambs and 4.4 million sheep are slaughtered every year. There is a population of about 40 million sheep that are bred for their meat and wool.  

In the south of New Zealand, heavy snowfalls regularly kill thousands of newborn lambs. A 1999 survey estimated that 6-10 percent of all lambs born in West Otago and Southland die of exposure.

On some farms merino lambs are “mulesed”, by slicing large chunks of skin from their backsides, without anaesthetic, leaving a bleeding, gaping wound. Male lambs are castrated and have their tails docked, without pain relief.


Whether they are farmed or caught in the wild, fish are subjected to pain and suffering by humans. Despite being intelligent animals, with a brain and a nervous system, they are usually left to die in ways that would be illegal in the case of any other animal.

Dragging fish from the oceans depths causes them excruciating pain. The sudden change in pressure can burst their swim bladder or push their stomach through their mouth. Once caught, some fish are left to suffocate or be crushed to death. Other fish are still alive when their throats and bellies are cut open.

Aquaculture operations, or fish farming, raise salmon in crowded enclosures, and can be as cruel and environmentally destructive as other intensive farming. Fish are wild animals and naturally scared of humans, but farmed fish are routinely netted and moved, causing high levels of stress and physical injury.

Cows raised for milk

Modern dairy cows have been bred to produce unnaturally high volumes of milk. They are prone to lameness from standing, with heavy udders, on concrete milking pads, and around 15% of the average herd suffers from mastitis, a painful udder infection.

Cows produce milk for the same reason as humans: to nourish their babies. But their calves are traumatically taken from them shortly after birth and are either slaughtered to be sold as veal, or for the enzyme rennet in their stomach (to make cheese), or to be added to the herd.

After about five years of pregnancy and lactation, cows’ milk production drops off and they are slaughtered, having lived only a third of their normal lifespan. Many cows will not make it to five years – they will be slaughtered earlier if their milk production falls, or if they fail to become pregnant.

Cows raised for meat

The dairy industry is closely integrated with the meat industry. Up to 55 per cent of all beef produced is from cattle bred for the dairy industry.

Calves have their horns amputated with hot irons or shears, and are castrated with rubber rings without anaesthesia.

Chickens raised for meat

New Zealand farms around 80 million chickens for their meat every year. These animals spend their entire lives in an ammonia-laden environment in sheds that house tens of thousands of birds. They are bred to grow at an unnaturally fast rate, causing many birds to become crippled due to being grossly overweight, or to suffer organ failure. Around 8,000 chickens die every day of disease on New Zealand farms. In nature, chickens can live up to ten years, but chickens produced for their meat are slaughtered at around six weeks.

Chickens raised for eggs

Approximately 88 per cent of chickens raised for their eggs in New Zealand are kept in small cages in which they are unable to express their normal behaviour. Their wings and legs weaken from lack of use and they can develop painful foot problems from standing on slanted cage floors. Many hens have the tips of their beaks cut off in an effort to reduce the feather pecking and cannibalism caused by the stressful living conditions.

After around 18 months of confinement the birds come to the end of their ‘productive’ life and are sent to slaughter. Male chicks are of no value to the egg industry, and are gassed or minced alive at one day old.

Pigs raised for meat

In nature, piglets suckle from their mothers for 12 weeks, but in a factory farm piglets are separated from their mother at around four weeks and dosed with antibiotics and have their tails chopped off and their eyeteeth cut without any anaesthetic. They are then placed in cramped pens with concrete floors to be fattened for slaughter.

Factory-farmed sows (mother pigs) are confined during pregnancy to metal stalls that are barely larger than their own bodies; they literally go insane from living in such a barren and cramped environment. Sow stalls will be banned from 2016 after SAFE’s Love Pigs campaign elicited huge public concern.

When they are about to give birth, sows are put into farrowing crates, similarly barren cages, in which they are deprived of the opportunity to build a nest or mother their piglets properly.

After four weeks, the piglets are removed and the sows are impregnated again and returned to the sow stalls where the cycle of abuse continues.

“What I witnessed was absolutely disgusting. The pigs who had been stuck in these crates for years were chewing on the sow crate bars, frothing at the mouth and either highly distressed, deeply depressed, or dead.” Mike King

FAQ about animals

If everyone went vegetarian, what would happen to all the farm animals?

The meat industry is just like any other – if there is a demand, they will supply it. Animals are purposely bred and farmed for their products so given time, as more people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, it will mean a reduction in the number of animals being reared. And for those who say that it would be bad for the economy to change to a meat-free diet – a similar argument was used by those in favour of the human slave trade. Society would gradually adapt, as it already is adapting, by changing the foods produced.

Did you know?

Fish feel pain and fear. Dr Donald Broom, animal welfare advisor to the British government says, “Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.”

Chickens in the wild exist in stable social groups and can recognise friends by their facial features. Professor Chris Evans of Macquarie University discovered that they have 24 distinct cries, like a language, that communicate a wealth of information. Evans notes that chickens are good at solving problems... “Perhaps most persuasive is the chicken’s intriguing ability to understand that an object, when taken away and hidden, nevertheless continues to exist. This is beyond the capacity of small children.”

Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University found that pigs play and excel at joystick-controlled video games. He observed that they are capable of abstract representation, are much smarter than dogs, and do better at video games than some primates. “There is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we ever would have guessed.”

Cows form strong relationships with other cows, spending most of their time in ‘friendship groups’ of two to four cows who lick and groom each other. Cows are intelligent animals that enjoy challenges and feel excitement when they finish a task or use their intellect to overcome an obstacle. Scientists in the United Kingdom discovered that at such times “...their brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and some even jumped in the air. We called it their Eureka moment.”


Your new eco-friendly, cruelty-free diet is just what the doctor ordered! Why? Well, by following a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Veg diets are naturally low in saturated fat, high in fibre, and full of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. Meat, dairy products and eggs, on the other hand, are low in fibre and loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, which can make us overweight and lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks.

The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand reports that vegetarians “have a lower risk of heart disease and other diseases of affluence such as diabetes, obesity and some cancers”.



According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegetarians are no more likely to have an iron deficiency than meat eaters. Iron is found in numerous plant foods, including beans, nuts, whole grains, and leafy vegetables.


The average New Zealander on a Western diet typically consumes double the protein his or her body needs. The recommended daily intake is one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. This protein tends to come from animal products, which are also high in saturated fat and are major contributors to kidney disease, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and kidney stones caused by increased calcium excretion.

Plant sources of protein, however, contain no cholesterol and are low in fat. Most plant protein is high in fibre, which is great for your digestive system.

Amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of protein. There are nine essential amino acids that we cannot create in our bodies and therefore need to consume. Quinoa, wild rice, and soybeans are the only plant foods to contain all nine, the remainder containing only some. As long as you eat a mixture of plant proteins regularly, you will be meeting all your body’s protein needs.


By eating calcium-rich vegetarian foods such as white beans, fortified soymilks and juices, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, including leafy green vegetables such as  broccoli and kale, you can obtain all the calcium your body needs.

Keeping your bones strong and avoiding osteoporosis depends on more than calcium intake – you also need to keep calcium in your bones. Exercise and vitamin D help to do this, while animal protein, caffeine, tobacco and excess salt can cause calcium loss.

Despite the impression dairy companies would like to give, bone health is better in countries with low dairy consumption. Hip fracture rates, for example, tend to be higher in countries with higher calcium intakes, not lower. Ref: Hegsted DM. (2001) Fractures, calcium, and the modern diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74:571-3.

The World Health Organisation has traditionally had different dietary guidelines for calcium in Western and developing worlds, to take into account differing protein intakes.


Meat, dairy and eggs do not contain any dietary fibre. A diet low in fibre is linked to constipation, appendicitis, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, hiatus hernia and diverticular disease. There are many processed products on the market for people who want to add fibre to their diet. Not only is this expensive, it is also unnecessary. Your body will get all the fibre it needs from a balanced veg diet.

Weight loss

It is common for people to lose weight when they switch to a balanced veg diet, particularly a vegan diet. This is because vegan foods are generally:

•    high in fibre (making you feel full sooner)
•    extremely low in cholesterol
•    extremely low in saturated fat

If you are switching to a vegetarian diet, try not to overload on dairy products, which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, just because you have cut out meat.

It is also tempting to overload on carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, but these are all relatively high in calories. Complex carbohydrates, which are basically found in any food in its wholegrain form, such as wholegrain breads, oats, muesli and brown rice, are not only healthier but also release energy more slowly than simple carbohydrates, thereby satisfying you for longer.

Go nuts!

A United States study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in 2008 found that dieters on a calorie-controlled 35 per cent-fat plan including nuts and other good fats lost as much weight as dieters on a 20 per cent-fat plan. Kathy McManus, RD, a dietitian and co-investigator of the study, says the people allowed to snack on nuts, sprinkle nuts on salads, and smear peanut butter on toast reported that they were not as hungry as usual. They also felt good about their diets and tended to eat healthier food.

Like all good things, you shouldn’t go TOO nuts with nuts. Portion control is important. A small handful is a good-sized, healthy and filling snack!

INSIDE A MEAT DIET – What’s wrong with … ?

Red meats

Red meat, particularly from cows, sheep and pigs, has long been associated with various cancers and heart disease that increase the risk of death.

The National Cancer Institute in America looked at the diets of more than half a million people aged 50-71 and found that those who ate around 100 grams of red meat a day — about the size of a small hamburger — were the most likely to die from heart disease, cancer. Beef, pork, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, hot dogs and other red or processed meats all increased the risks of premature death.


Fish and shellfish readily absorb mercury from their food and environment and pass the toxins up the food chain. In humans, mercury can cause irreversible damage to the central nervous system, brain damage and memory loss and can damage a foetus.

In 2009 a Food Safety Review found high levels of mercury in New Zealand fish, as well as high levels of cadmium and arsenic– both highly dangerous toxins. Plant foods like walnuts and flax seeds contain the essential fatty acids we need without the harmful toxins found in fish flesh.

“Even one fish meal a week is likely to push the intake beyond the World Health Organisation’s ‘Tolerable Weekly Intake’”, says Sue Kedgley, Green Party Food Safety spokesperson, after a 2009 Food Safety Review found Dunedin fish had high levels of mercury.


By 1999, 57 per cent of all antibiotics used in New Zealand were used on animals – two thirds of these mixed in with the food of intensively farmed chickens to increase growth rates and prevent disease that would otherwise spread when chickens were raised in such crowded conditions. Such practices encourage the development of antibiotic resistance and new strains of bacteria, and endanger human health.

Fat is also a problem. Today, chickens are bred to grow so large that their flesh contains three times as much fat as it did just 35 years ago.


Cow’s milk is high in saturated fat and is linked to many health issues. In a US study of 142 children with diabetes, 100 per cent had high levels of an antibody to a cow’s milk protein. It is believed that these antibodies may destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Milk is also frequently contaminated with antibiotics.

Three out of four people from around the world are unable to digest the milk sugar
lactose, which can cause diarrhoea and bloating. Lactose, when digested, releases galactose, a simple sugar that is linked to ovarian cancer and cataracts. Pancreatic cancer has also been linked to cow’s milk due to the excess fat content which is not found in plant-based milks.

Milk is also one of the most common causes of food allergies. Often the symptoms are subtle and unlikely to be attributed to dairy products for some time. While dairy products are often touted as the sole source of calcium, nuts, sesame seeds, and green leafy vegetables (broccoli and kale), are much better calcium sources.


About 70 per cent of the calories in an egg are from fat. Eggs largely consist of saturated fat that causes the liver to produce more cholesterol, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. One standard egg has more cholesterol than a McDonalds Quarter- Pounder with cheese.


Despite the use of antibiotics, animal products are still a common source of food poisoning – the best-known bacterial contaminants being E-coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter. With the rise of factory farming, the risk of infected animal products has increased even more.

FAQ about health


It is easy to have a healthy pregnancy without consuming animal products. Ideally you should follow a healthy diet before you get pregnant because the early stages of a baby’s development draw on your stores of nutrients.

During pregnancy it is more important than ever to eat nutrient-rich foods. You should increase your calcium, protein and folic acid intake and be sure to get plenty of iron and vitamins, including D and B12. Make the calories you consume during pregnancy count!
Find out more on the PCRM website.


As in pregnancy, it is important to maintain a healthy diet during breastfeeding. Fill up on those nutrient-rich calories even more after your baby is born!

If you don’t breastfeed, a soy-based formula is easy on your baby’s digestive system. A standard soymilk, however, is an insufficient nutritional source for infants. And like most living things, your infant needs plenty of vitamin D from regular exposure to sunlight.


Famous paediatrician Dr Benjamin Spock recommended that children be raised on a vegan diet. He said:

“Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plants foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer … I no longer recommend dairy products...There was a time when cow’s milk was considered desirable. But research, along with clinical experience, has forced doctors and nutritionists to rethink this recommendation.”

Ref: Spock, B. M.D. & Parker, S.J. M.D. (1998)  Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care, 7th Ed, Pocket Books.

Introducing a plant-based diet early will maximise benefits later. Many children have
an allergic reaction to dairy products, with symptoms ranging from sniffles to indigestion, and respiratory problems including asthma. Too much dairy food is also suspected of triggering juvenile diabetes.

There is a wealth of information on the subject of veg diets for children – so arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. One of the fundamental guidelines for feeding children on a veg diet is to make sure they get plenty of nutrients without over-doing the fibre. Too much fibre tends to satisfy a child’s hunger before they have had all the nutrients they need.

CHECK OUT some super factsheets on pregnancy and parenting produced by our British Vegan Society friends.

What about B12? Will I need to take a supplement?

B12 is not known to come from a plant source, so vegans must eat fortified foods or take a supplement to obtain this necessary mineral.
Deficiency in B12 results in fatigue, dizziness, paleness and shortness of breath. Chronic deficiency results in pernicious anaemia. B12 is easily obtained as a supplement, for example Solgar Sublingual drops. Vegetarians should not need to supplement, as there are trace amounts of B12 found in eggs and cow’s milk

Our bodies are designed to eat meat, aren’t they?

Our teeth, bowels and hands are all designed for a vegetarian diet. If we were natural meat eaters we would have claws to catch and maim; long, sharp, pointed front teeth to tear flesh; and short intestines so that decaying meat could pass through the body quickly.

We would also have very strong stomach acid to digest tough muscle and bone. Instead we have small canines and flat back molar teeth to grind food, long intestines and weaker stomach acid. Think about our closest ancestors, the apes, who are almost entirely vegetarian.

Aren’t vegetarians weak and unhealthy?

The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are “less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.” Ref: Ann Mangels, Virginia Messina, and Vesanto Melina, ‘Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets,’ Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jun. 2003, 748-65.

In fact, many top athletes are vegetarian or vegan. For dietary considerations for veggie athletes check out this overview by Peta.

If I switch to a vegetarian diet, won’t I have to eat more dairy products?

Many people do, but this is both unnecessary and potentially unhealthy. Dairy products are high in animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat, all of which have been linked to current health problems. They can also contribute to, or worsen, asthma, allergies, eczema and respiratory problems.

All the essential vitamins and minerals the body requires, including calcium, with the exception of B12, can be obtained from a plant-based diet. A 100 gram serving of chickpeas contains more calcium than 100 grams of cow’s milk.

Nothing helps the Earth quite like giving it a break! By opting for a Go Veg diet you are helping protect the planet’s vulnerable environment and preserving this world for future generations of human and non-human animals to enjoy.

The livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices in raising animals for food contribute on a massive scale to deforestation, air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of topsoil, climate change, the overuse of resources including oil and water, and loss of biodiversity.

Climate change

Reports by the Ministry for the Environment show that farmed animals are a major contributor to New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions and have resulted in our being rated 11th in the world for per capita greenhouse emissions. This is well above China (72nd) and even the United Kingdom (36th).

Worldwide, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that animal-based agriculture produces 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than that produced by all forms of transportation on the planet combined.

“You can make a bigger contribution to cutting greenhouse gases by becoming vegan than by buying an eco-friendly car,” says Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the United Kingdom Sustainable Development Commission.

Land Use

The world is feeding over 50 billion farmed animals, while millions of people, disproportionately children, starve to death. In The Food Revolution, John Robbins asserts that by using 2.5 acres of land to grow potatoes, we can feed 22 people. If we use the same land to raise cattle, we would only support the energy requirements of one human being.


51 per cent of land in New Zealand, much of it once pristine forest, is now taken up by animal farming. With the increase in numbers of dairy cows, the Ministry for Primary Industries has reported that some hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestry land are at risk of being converted to farms. Globally, one third of our planet’s landmass has already been cleared to farm animals, making animal farming the leading cause of deforestation around the world.

Drinking Water

The modern meat industry wastes a huge quantity of water. It takes only a fraction of the water used for meat production to make an equivalent amount of plant protein.

In addition, there is the pollution caused by the excrement of all those animals. The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment reports that the runoff from factory farms is so toxic it is contaminating surrounding groundwater and streams.

In 2010, The Reids Piggery in Carterton, owners of the Premiere Bacon brand, were prosecuted and convicted for pumping what was essentially raw sewage into waterways.


Forest & Bird assessed all 75 New Zealand fisheries, and it found none had a management plan and most caused significant habitat damage. Some fishing areas were severely over-fished and many commercial fishers were found to be killing seabirds and marine mammals as they worked.

Land Degradation

The Ministry of the Environment reports that animal farming is causing contamination, erosion, and compaction of New Zealand soil. This can also lead to desertification—literally turning healthy land into a desert—because plants have difficulty growing in contaminated soil.

Did you know?

Replacing your hamburger lunch with a peanut butter sandwich can save the equivalent of 1.6 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions, 1000 litres of water, and up to five square metres of land. Visit The Peanut Butter & Jelly Campaign website to find out more about how a plant-based diet benefits the environment.

Everyday veg heroes tell their stories

1 of 29