It’s been over three years since I made the decision to stop eating all animal products. It happened one night while Laura and I were watching the documentary, Vegucated. She turned to me, teary-eyed, and said, “We have to go vegan!” I agreed wholeheartedly, but it took many months for me to transition to an entirely vegan diet. I struggled to avoid eggs and dairy when traveling or even just dining out in my own neighborhood. My commitment wavered, especially around the holidays when lots of non-vegan treats were laid out on my mother’s kitchen island. But a few months ago, I watched a couple of other films – Cowspiracy and Speciesism – which not only solidified my commitment to eating compassionately, but also presented critically important information I’d never even considered before. In this post, I’ll share what I learned with you, and I hope it will be a jumping off point for you to seek out more information on your own. Here are my top four reasons for going (and staying) vegan:
1. Compassion for Animals
This is the reason most people choose to go vegan initially – because they feel bad for the 70 billion animals that are bred and raised in captivity, under almost universally harsh conditions, for the express purpose of producing or becoming food for humans to eat. I could go on and on about those horrible conditions and about the numerous studies that have shown that chickens, pigs, cows and even fish experience both physical and mental pain (such as fear, loneliness, boredom, and bereavement), but on some level, you already know about all that. Our modern culture has simply become very good at ignoring or justifying this abominable system. Most of us are taught from a very young age that humans are at the top of the food chain, and therefore, the suffering of other animals should not be of concern to us. I urge you to rethink that position and take a moment to ask yourself where your taste preferences really rank when pitted against the suffering and slaughter of other sentient beings. The film Speciesism posits this ethical question better than I have done here, so I encourage you to watch it.
2. Compassion for Other Humans
One of the most shocking facts I learned while watching Cowspiracy is that globally, we are growing enough food to feed 10 billion humans, yet between 800 million and 1 billion people have so little food to eat that they are in real danger of starving to death. How can this be? Well, it’s because about half of the food we grow is fed to livestock so that the wealthier inhabitants of the planet can have their meat, fish, dairy, eggs and poultry, while the poor are left with nothing. Even in countries where a sizable percentage of the population is starving, precious resources are diverted to animal agriculture, the end products of which are exported to different countries. Animal agriculture, then, is the ultimate affront to the world’s poorest citizens: those of us who have the choice are choosing to feed animals while our fellow humans are starving.
3. Responsible Stewardship of the Environment
Cowspiracy was also the source of my newfound knowledge about the environmental impact that animal agriculture is having on the planet. I strongly urge you to watch the film. You will be shocked, as I was, at all of the statistics and you will wonder, as I did, why we haven’t heard this information before. Here are just a few of the statistics (taken directly from the Facts page of the Cowspiracy website):
– Livestock and their byproducts account for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
– 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
– 1 to 2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second and animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon forest destruction.
– Around 60 billion pounds of fish caught every year are discarded, because they weren’t the targeted species; they were “accidentally” caught. 650,000 dolphins, whales and seals are killed by the fishing industry every year.
4. Better Long-term Health
It’s been a long time coming, but finally the facts about the health risks associated with a diet high in animal fat and protein are reaching the mainstream media. The recent headlines sparked by the World Health Organization’s declarations about processed meat and cancer risk shocked many. What was most shocking about it to me, however, was that it wasn’t new information at all. It was simply the first time a large public organization had made a summary statement based upon more than a decade of research demonstrating those facts all along. The same is true of heart disease, dyslipidemia, diabetes and obesity. Meanwhile, a large body of research has shown that a whole food, plant-based diet lowers the risks for these same diseases.
If you’re considering adopting a vegan diet but are unsure how to proceed, there are a few resources that can get you started. Check out the ZenHabits 7-Day Vegan challenge, or this guide from PETA. If you’re looking for a healthy, whole food, plant-based plan, I’ve developed a free guide to help you begin your journey. Connect with me on the Contact page and I’ll be happy to send it your way.
I have no affiliation with Vegucated, Cowspiracy, Speciesism, ZenHabits, or PETA.