First and foremost, I understand that veganism is a PRIVILEGE. In some parts of the world, and even for the poorest of families in the United States, living off a vegan diet can be extremely difficult (if not impossible). I don’t judge anybody on their dietary choices- after all, you never know what health conditions someone may have that make consuming animal products indisputable in their specific case (allergies, etc.) This article is not intended to shame or belittle anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to utilize a vegan diet- it’s simply me expressing my opinions about the benefits of veganism and why it can be successful for many people, including myself. Go into it with an open mind, and if it’s not for you, then who am I to judge?
I have been vegetarian for about a full year, and vegan for about six months. Admittedly, I was pretty turned off to the idea of veganism for a long time, and there were a handful of (ignorant) reasons I felt that way. After all, vegans only eat carrots and celery, right? Vegans don’t get to enjoy gooey, hot meals and comfort food fixes. Or so I thought.
One of the first reasons I considered going vegan was because of my love for animals. Of course, you can still love animals and not follow a vegan diet, but for me, I couldn’t bear the thought of an animal suffering at my dietary expense. I think of cows the same way I think of puppies- innocent, vulnerable creatures that are capable of love but unable to speak for themselves. I decided that if I had the option and privilege to abstain from animal products, I would do so. And here I am, six months later, feeling happier and healthier than ever.
This brings me to my first point, which is animal cruelty in the food industry (among other industries). We like to think of animal agriculture as something quaint and ethical, like a farmer going out in the morning to gather his eggs milk the cows. While that may be the case for some animals, it’s certainly not the case for the majority in the food industry. On a mainstream scale, most animals are being brutally tortured, forcibly impregnated, ripped from their babies, destined to die a gruesome, painful death. The sad truth is, because animals cannot speak up for themselves, they are too easy to be taken advantage of and tortured for our own selfish pleasure. You can choose to turn a blind eye to it, but the reality is, it is happening all around you. An adult pig is just as intelligent and aware as a two year-old child. All you have to do is spend five minutes on YouTube to see the reality of the unnecessary torture that animals are subjected to. It may not bother some people, but like I said, a cow or a chicken is like a kitten to me. The thought of ever putting an animal through such despicable cruelty is enough to make me lose sleep at night.
Not only does a vegan diet protest animal cruelty, but it’s also considerably better for our environment. It would be one thing if there were only 500 people on planet Earth, and we all needed to survive by utilizing farming and killing animals on our own property in a humane way. The reality is, however, there are almost 8 billion people on planet Earth today. Animal consumption is vastly different than it was a thousand years ago, and frankly, that’s just the nature of life. As our planet becomes more and more populated, ethical farming is too “slow” to keep up with our vastly changing planet. If we want to stay as ethical as possible as the planet continues to rapidly grow, one of our options is to utilize veganism. By choosing veganism, you are cutting greenhouse gas emissions in our planet. It’s no secret that meat production requires vast amounts of energy and the burning of fossil fuels (for the raising, transporting, and slaughtering of animals). A study by Cornell University found that producing one calorie of food energy from beef requires 40 calories of fossil fuel energy, whilst producing one calorie of human-edible grain takes only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy. Furthermore, eating meat requires three times more land than is needed for a vegan diet. By choosing plant protein over meat, you are lessening the heavy burden we have placed on Earth to meet our agriculture needs. Like I said, farmers in the year 500 B.C. may not have had a choice in this matter, but in 2018, we do have this choice and this privilege.
Consuming animals and animal products is also a leading factor in animal extinction. Slowly but surely, poorly managed animal waste products are actually destroying animal habitats and polluting the environment. There are quite a few interesting stats on this subject that I found on Ombar.com, which I will be sure to link at the bottom. For example, did you know that many pollutant waste products get washed into our water systems, causing algae to grow on the water and starve the fish of oxygen? I didn’t either, until recently. Veganism extends far beyond the impact it has on farm animals; there is also a notable impact on other species directly affected by the consumption of animals.
Another reason you may consider utilizing veganism is for the health benefits it provides. Obviously, if you are going to start a vegan diet, it’s important to take supplements and vitamins (b-complex, iron, etc.) to give yourself the nutrients you may otherwise be missing out on. There are several scientifically-proven benefits of eating a vegan diet, including lowering blood sugar levels and improving kidney function. It can also be used, in a healthy way, as a weight loss tool. One of the most impactful ways I “cleaned up” my diet was by eliminating dairy products and pushing myself to eat more fruits and vegetables instead. Becoming vegan has increased my energy levels, strengthened my hair and nails, and even brightened up my skin. A vegan diet may also even protect against some types of cancers. Research is still ongoing, but it is believed that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing cancer. Also, veganism is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The bottom line is this: veganism does come with responsibility on your part to make sure you are getting the correct supplements, but ultimately, its benefits have been shown to make you feel your very best, inside and out.
Lastly, if you’re fearful of giving up your favorite comfort foods, there are tons of vegan replacements for everything you can imagine. You can be a vegan and still enjoy dishes like cupcakes, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, burgers- whatever it is you enjoy. The key is to find a vegan replacement that works for your taste buds. Some things will take getting used to, like the taste of vegan cheese. Ultimately, however, you can make any and all of your favorite dishes with a little bit of practice and versatility in your kitchen. Restaurants as well are also starting to extend their vegan menus, and fast food joints have some notable vegan choices as well (order anything “fresco” from Taco Bell and they’ll hold the cheese and sour cream). I am a vegan, but I still love making myself “meat”ball subs and brownies. I still know how to make a diggity bomb grilled cheese sandwich. And, of course, I’m still a gal who loves her veggies.
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