I'm taking the plunge and going vegan, and I would like to share my reasons. You may have seen this post in which I discussed The China Study. I've since done some more research on the subject, and there is just no other decision I can make and still be the person I want to be, except to go vegan. I'm sharing this here so that you all can help to keep me accountable. Here are my reasons (and they may not be what you first assume).
1. Health. My post on The China Study covers a lot of the health reasons, but basically there is insurmountable evidence that a vegan diet is the healthiest diet for the human body. It has successfully been used to reverse and prevent many major diseases, and modern medicine is woefully behind on this front. As a mother, and as the person who is making decisions as to what my child eats, I can't fathom giving her foods that have a huge likelihood of leading her to diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Also, on a personal level for me, I have Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, and Western medicine tells me to take thyroid hormone replacements for the rest of my life, as there is "no cure". If there's a chance that I can manage and possibly reverse my disease using diet, I am very interested in seeing what nutrition therapy can do for me. I am planning to schedule a consultation with a naturopathic doctor who specializes in this therapy, and I will keep you all in the loop on that front. Weight loss is not an issue for me, but a vegan diet has been shown to give way to effortless weight loss where human bodies naturally find their healthiest weights, just in case anyone is wondering.
2. Environment. The meat and dairy industries have an astoundingly horrible, horrendous environmental footprint. I fancy myself an environmentalist, and there is just no way I can continue to consider myself such unless I stop eating these things. About one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. come from cattle, which is more than our entire transportation system combined. The U.S. is responsible for one quarter of greenhouse gases globally, so this is not insignificant. Additionally, it takes 2500 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef–not a whole cow: one pound! It's easy to ignore the world water crisis in the U.S. when we can turn on our taps and have plenty of fresh water to pour all over our cars and lawns, but it exists nonetheless, and it is palpable.
3. Animal Cruelty. I always thought this was the reason why people went vegetarian/vegan, and I think it's what most people assume when they hear about vegetarianism/veganism. However, I think there's an important distinction between taking the life of another being and the unthinkable cruelty that exists in the mass-production of animals for food in this country. I do believe animals can be raised on a small-scale and slaughtered in a humane way that shows respect for their life, but this type of practice is not sustainable for the high volume of meat we consume in the US. The vast majority of creatures raised to be eaten are sorely mistreated and live only to be killed. They never see grass, sunshine, or fresh air. They are force-fed day and night and given antibiotics because they live in their own filth. Eighty percent of antibiotics in the US go to animals in our food supply (farmed fish the highest). Male babies are routinely slaughtered, and they may actually be the lucky ones. Skinned alive, beaks sawed off, wings clipped, suffocation. It is absolutely, heart-wrenchingly disgusting. And the dairy industry is no better. Dairy cows are separated from their young and hooked up to pumps. As a breastfeeding mother, I can't imagine anything worse than being separated from my child at her birth and then hooked up to a breast pump until it works me to death just so another species can take my milk. WTF?! Also, I believe in the mind-body connection and the transfer of good and bad energy, and I do not want the negative energy of an animal who lived a miserable life and died a miserable death inside of my body.
4. Big Business Deceit.The marketing and manipulation that goes on in the meat and dairy industries is deplorable. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year to convince us that these foods are good for us, when this information couldn't be farther from the truth. They hire people to keep an eye on any research projects that might be damaging to their bottom line, and take preemptive action to ensure that this doesn't happen. The dairy industry routinely markets to children by providing lesson plans to teachers touting all of the benefits of drinking milk. Meanwhile, roughly 50% of kids are suspected of a dairy allergy or sensitivity, many undiagnosed, because, really, how could milk be bad for us? It's dishonest, greedy, and unethical, and I want no part of it.
5. World Hunger. It takes 16 pounds of grain to raise 1 pound of beef. Not only is the animal food industry incredibly inefficient, but we're feeding these animals at the expensive of not feeding the billion starving people on this planet. If we stop the demand for beef, sixteen times more food can go to people, which would do a lot to end hunger globally.
6. It's my right. I get so angry that our government doesn't protect us from chemicals, that lobbyists can be so destructive, that we allow cruelty towards other creatures and recklessness towards the precious resources of this planet. We have these gaping problems like global warming, cancer, world hunger, water crises, and cruelty. I feel so helpless against these huge problems, and here is something that is completely within my control. Something that will protect my body in a huge way and stop the cycle of cruelty and destruction in a small way. This is my own quiet way of trying to create a more peaceful world and to be responsible for how my choices impact others.
I think big changes require time and adjustment, so I am starting by being vegetarian, while I learn more about vegan cooking and nutrition. If I want this choice to be sustainable (which I definitely do), then I need to take my time and educate myself. My husband has agreed to raise Penny vegetarian and without cow's milk as a drink, but we're still going to give her some cheese and eggs for the time being. She actually doesn't really like meat, and we've been giving her almond milk instead of cow's milk with meals (in addition to breastfeeding a few times/day) anyway, so it's not really a big change for her.
I do know some vegetarians and one or two vegans, but nobody local. I am feeling a bit isolated in this journey, but as with all of the other changes I've made along my quest to do better for myself, others, and the planet, I have confidence that I will figure it out. Has anyone else out there been inspired to make changes like these? Anyone have resources or recommendations, or want to join me on this journey?
Further Resources–if anything in this post piques your interest to learn more, here are some great books and films that may be interesting to you:
The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health
Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World
Forks Over Knives
Blue Gold: World Water Wars
Please share this post with others if you feel so inspired. If people understand these issues and continue to eat animal foods, that is one thing. However, if this information is not available to everyone, then we aren't making informed choices.