Mental trauma is another sadly unexpected result of western lifestyles. Not surprisingly, emotional stress is closely linked with the damaging lifestyle choices which we will examine below.
“A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which surveyed Americans about daily commutes and their effects, discovered a virtual horror show. They found that the longer the commute, the higher the levels of one’s obesity, cholesterol, pain, fatigue and anxiety.” (link) In addition, the stress from long commute times has been tied to road rage, substance abuse, and even higher divorce rates.
Driving is emotionally challenging because unexpected things happen constantly..... The rules of engagement on the road are harsh and competitive, even hostile. Most drivers find these conditions emotionally challenging and experience difficulty coping. Therefore, most people routinely drive in an emotionally impaired state.”
Epidemiologist Dr. Leon James & Dr. Diane Nahl
Some researchers are even looking at the dependency cars in the same light as other addictive habits. The consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave is using a method called ‘Motivational Interviewing’ to help people re-examine transportation choices (link) Meanwhile, Chris Bruntlett brilliantly examines how drivers’ reaction to the consequences of their choice mimics that of smokers.
On a similar note, journalist Kathy Freston writes here about helping people let go of their addiction to animal products and to replace harmful habits with more healthy ones. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, ‘our taste cells turn over about every three weeks....in less then a month we forget the attraction to animal products.” (World Peace Diet pg-80)
Music of commute:
Sonata for horn and brakes
eat your heart out Brahms”
Noise pollution is a highly overlooked stressor that harms both human and non-human health. (link) (link) Ironically it was the noise and pollution of the inner cities that caused people to flee and to createsuburbs in the first place. A report by the World Health Organization says that noise pollution from roadways are second only to air pollution in it’s harm to human health. As a result, most of us try to tune out city noise with headphones or other devices causing people to lose connection with their surroundings.
Imagine if your daily commute sounded like this Amsterdam street?
Aside from noise, car travel and pollution have a striking effect on the developing minds of children. One study found that children who are driven to school have a more difficult time understanding their neighbourhood and have a poor sense of direction. Another found that children who walk or cycle to school have better concentration and advance more in school. (link) (link)
One example of the emotional conflict that I personally see every day, is the obvious
culture of fear that exists between sidewalks. Most of us every day see pedestrians
jogging or running across the street (even if there are no cars nearby). This is considered a normal, everyday
What most drivers fail to notice (as they speed past) is that the person tends to go back to walking once they reach the bike lane or sidewalk. There is a very clear sense that the road does not belong to people, but to cars. This wasn’t always the case though. Before the 1920s, people saw nothing unusual in walking in or across the street wherever it was convenient. Business interests at the time had a well- documented role in demonizing the use of the road by non-drivers.
Personal choice shouldn't involve victims.”
The emotional effects connected to a meat-based diet are
more subconscious. As children growing up, our natural
tendency is to care for animals and to develop emotional
bonds with human as well as non-human creatures. Because
of this, people in western society are subjected to hundreds of
messages to convince us that it’s only acceptable to experience
these emotions with dogs and cats but not for dozens of other
creatures. Dr. Melanie Joy expresses these points with great
success in her book and the TED talk here.
Other wonderful sources are John Robbins, author of ‘Diet for a New World,’ and Dr. Will Tuttle author of ‘The World Peace Diet.’
Riane Eisler further explains that the culture we live in is built around domination of animals and ‘resources.’ It requires a deadening of ‘soft emotions’ like compassion which would interfere with acts such as confinement and branding. (World Peace Diet pg-20)
What you might find surprisingly missing from this site (and if you’re vegan already, then you’ve surely noticed), are the horrific images of mutilated cows and pigs, or baby chicks being ground up. My belief is that you can find that if you want to. But many people have learned the hard way, that shock images tend to create barriers rather then break them down. I ask you simply to consider this:
If it's not good enough for your eyes, why is it good enough for your stomach?”
Emily, Bite Sized Vegan
Compassionate people (and I think that all of us have a sense of compassion) will fall
back on the defence that using animal products which are ‘free range,’ ‘cage free,’ or
‘grass fed’ have no harmful consequences and that makes such products a ‘humane’
alternative. Unfortunately, my research tells a different story. The ranchers who
market these alternative food sources may try their best, but the impacts have many of
the same harmful consequences as factory farms.
One Green Planet describes the most important ones (some of which are also touched on below). You can read a more detailed description of cattle’s effects on the wild-lands here.
Animals are beings to be respected rather then commodities to be exploited.”
Dr. Will Tuttle
One area that most people are not aware of, is the effects on the workers at factory farms. (link) The suffering from meat consumption is heavily concentrated on those who are actually slaughtering the animals. Concentrated is a very appropriate term as the distancing of us all from the slaughterhouse causes a very small number of people to experience the terror experienced by millions of animals.
As humans, we are uncomfortable with seeing images of animal slaughter and that
is a good sign. It shows that “we are not predators. Predators don’t empathize with
their prey.” It shows that we are compassionate beings. Think about it this way,
which would you feel more comfortable taking a child to, a broccoli harvest, or a
slaughterhouse. If you feel horrified by images of a slaughterhouse but not from images of people picking from fruit trees, then this is a powerful clue into what your body naturally wants.
However this essay touches you, I ask only that you take a moment each day to consider the billions of conscious animals which are killed for the sake of the human diet, and think about whether you want to support that in your life.
It will come as no surprise that the consequences of such emotional dissonance [in slaughterhouse workers] includes domestic violence, social withdrawal, drug and alcohol abuse, and severe anxiety. As slaughterhouse workers are increasingly being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers are finally starting to systematically explore the results of killing sentient animals for a living.”
Occupy for Animals
Part and parcel with the stress of killing regularly are the ‘accidents’ which are way too common in slaughterhouses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking is the nation’s most dangerous job. (link) In 1999, more than one-quarter of U.S. meatpacking workers suffered a job-related injury or illness. The meatpacking industry not only has the highest injury rate, but also has by far the highest rate of serious injury - more than five times the national average, as measured in lost workdays. If you accept the official figures, about 40,000 meatpacking workers are injured on the job every year (the industry regularly minimizes these figures). (link)
Lastly, the issue of our current climate catastrophe itself is causing many people to feel hopeless, depressed, and apathetic. (link). The emotional pain which people feel is only recently becoming connected with lifestyle choices and climate. The effects of unstable weather, scarce resources, and other effects of climate change are weighing more heavily on our collective sense of security and hope. Researchers Helen Berry and James Williams have spent years researching depression and anxiety in Australia where climate fears have been felt since the term ‘ozone hole’ first entered the public’s eye. (link) Through the work of Dr. Berry and other researchers, the awareness of depression and solastalgia stemming from a more hostile climate are finally becoming more fully understood.
Those battling pre-traumatic stress have accepted the truth about climate change, but rather than turning to a coping mechanism like denial, they have soldiered on, and they have paid for it with grief, sadness, and worry.”
Dr. Lise Van Susteren
LOne of the more obscure results of the western
lifestyle is the disappearance of wild areas. Once
again, both animal agriculture and automobiles
contribute to this state of affairs. As covered
above, the vast swaths of land used for the sake of
western lifestyle choices means that very little is
left to provide for the health of wild animals and
the emotional health of people. The critical link
between our emotional health and access to natural areas has been well proven by
dozens of studies. (link) (link)
I remember clearly as a teenager living in Los Angeles and struggling to get out to a natural area. I would ride my bike for most of the day (as much as 50 miles out) and still not end up leaving the ‘developed’ part of the city. Suburbia consumed nearly every square mile of land beyond the city center.