Vegan cooking, eating, and living has become such a normal part of my life, that I often forget that it’s a pretty foreign topic to many. American culture in particular has meat and dairy as a huge part of it’s culinary culture, and products like leather are purchased without a second thought. And with super popular low-carb, high-protein diets like the “Paleo diet”, meat consumption is at an all time high. And in such a meat-centric world, it’s no wonder that the vegan diet is often ridiculed and misunderstood.
I have been vegetarian for years, though I’m not really sure how many exactly. My mom is a vegetarian, so meat was never a huge part of our diet growing up. This was a tremendous part of why going vegetarian was so easy for me; I was sticking to what I knew and eliminating things that I hardly ate. Around the time of middle and high school was when I started to really push meat out of my diet completely. When I was in college, the more I learned about nutrition and factory farming, the more I wanted to be vegan. But the amount of backlash I received from others was both surprising and discouraging. For some, me being vegetarian was odd enough, but to give up eggs and cheese? People said that I wouldn’t last, wouldn’t be able to find anything to eat, and would end up malnourished. Luckily, I was able to prove them wrong.
I understand why giving up meat, dairy, and eggs is so hard for people. I also hate when people tell me what to do. So I get it when someone tries to push a new or different idea, that the first reaction is to refuse. Now, I want to be clear that going vegetarian or vegan is a CHOICE, plus you are more likely to stick to it if you make that choice for reasons that you believe in. I am not telling you what to do, but presenting a choice that holds tremendous benefits. I also think that a big turn off to going vegan is the idea that it needs to be all or nothing. For some, this may be true. But it is so important to remember, it’s not about perfection or “all or nothing”, it’s about making informed choices and just doing your best. A few vegan choices throughout the week can make a big difference in your health as well as for the planet.
As a history major, I understand the importance of research and evidence, so here are a few concrete benefits as a supplement to your own research and knowledge on this subject. Basically they are organized in how going vegan benefits animals, the planet, and YOU:
1. The meat, dairy, and egg industries are downright cruel. This was my own reason for going veggie, and I think this moral reason is important to consider. And I will warn you that this information is disturbing. The animals that are used for food are not grazing pastures or bathing in sunlight as many commercials have us believing. No. These animals are usually packed tight into storage buildings and cages, standing in their own waste and unable to move. Chickens have their beaks cut off and are shoved into wire cages already jam-packed with others where they suffer from infections and are raised to be so fat that it debilitates them. The egg industry will sift through newly hatched chickens and throw baby boy chicks in the trash. In milk producing facilities, cows are kept constantly pregnant and lactating. They are forced to produce tremendous amounts of milk that is pumped out by rough machinery. Their boy calves are sent to be killed as veal and their girl calves are doomed for a life of misery. And although regulations are in place to ensure a “humane” death, the meat industry’s focus is quantity so each animal is sent through an assembly line where they are often slowly killed as their skin is burned off or as they hang upside down from metal hooks. For me personally, I cannot bear the thought of an animal suffering, so why would I pay for it? By buying meat, I am paying for an animal to suffer. Also, we are overfishing our oceans so bad that mass fish extinctions are within our lifetime, scientists warn. Global warming and deforestation have caused oxygen levels to sink, effecting the fish as well, which leads to more death in the waters.
2. Factory farming is a contributor to global warming and other polluting nasties. Okay, so this might sound crude, but it’s true. The millions and millions of animals passing through the system naturally have gas. Because of the incredibly large amount of animals being raised in these factories, their burps and farts combined have created enough methane gas to significantly contribute to the greenhouse effect. And yes, that is a fact. Ew. Plus, factory farming requires a great deal of energy and resources. Raising animals for meat takes a HUGE amount of water, requires land for both growing feed and for raising the animals, as well as requiring energy to store and transport the resulting products. Add in the fact that over 70% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared for beef production, and you can clearly see how quickly we are depleting the earth and contributing to global warming. Also, the crazy amounts of antibiotics we pump the animals full of are helping to create superbugs that are immune to medicine because the bacteria are adapting too fast. If that wasn’t bad enough, sewage from factory farms can and has leaked into nearby waterways, contaminating the water so bad that thousands of fish and other wildlife have died. Again, ew. We are overfishing to the point of complete extinction and depletion of our oceans. And as a quick side note, I realize many people choose grass fed meat as an alternative to factory farmed. Although it may be better in a few ways, grass fed meat is not a viable option for the amount of demand for meat. There is just not enough space or resources on the planet and there is just no way that this amount of meat consumption is sustainable.
3. Going vegan is good for you! You can be healthy and get necessary nutrients from a plant based diet. Animal based foods are high in cholesterol, fat, and all the wonderful infections, medicines, and chemicals that the animal contained. I love the saying, you are what you eat, because it’s true! If you fill your body up with foods that are not good for you, it’s not going to make you healthier. Aside from it being a known fact that these foods are causing heart disease and other lovelies, animal based products are linked with cancer in many scientific studies. There are literally thousands of medical studies and literature that support a plant based diet. Mom was right when she told us to eat our veggies! Foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans are so jam packed full of nutrients that by switching to these foods, you will be getting MORE nutrition than you would on a meat filled diet. Yes, you will get enough protein (most people eat too much protein anyway, it is VERY hard to be deficient). Plants have protein! Nuts, seeds, beans, and even vegetables have protein. Yes, you will get enough calcium. Sesame seeds, bok choy, and tofu have calcium that is easier to digest. The key is variety. You will keep your body and your mouth very happy. Going vegan can help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, all in addition to many other benefits that each individual will experience. Just steer clear of super processed vegan foods like fake meats and sweets.
There are MANY more reasons to make this choice, but these are the top three because I think it encompasses a rounded out view on the subject. I really do encourage you to research this subject further if you are interested because I really believe that it is the best choice that I have made. Start slow, try including a few vegan meals or snacks throughout the week. Experiment with different vegetables and spices, make it fun! There are great books in every major bookstore to help you get started.
Vegan Blogs To Check Out:
All of my recipes on Earth Powered Family are vegan, so be sure to check those out!