As it is when you make a choice that goes against the grain of how ‘most people’ choose to experience life, those ‘most people’ have a lot of questions, and predominantly those questions begin and end with one thing – why? And because each person is living a unique life experience, the answer to ‘why’ is as unique as that person themself. In my early days as a vegan, I would often put a great deal of pressure on myself, feeling a sense of responsibility to positively represent an entire community of beings, both humans and animals. I would spend hours pining over how to deliberately mold my words and actions in fear that certain words may negatively impact the perception of what being ‘vegan’ is all about.
It was through this pining that I realized I was focusing on the wrong thing all together, and I instead discovered an entirely new idea. There are times for a revolution, to mix things up and reinvent and spark awareness with tough facts and hard truths, and then there are times for evolution, where time moves incrementally and becomes evident through small choices and shifts in mindset. Whether you are a vegan activist on the front lines fighting for animal rights, or cutting out red meat to lower cholesterol, or simply on a search to accomodate all tastes at a dinner party – it really does not matter. What matters is that we are all on a journey of asking OURSELVES ‘why?’ Then using our tastes and emotions and experiences and reading blogs and listening to inspiring music and getting uncomfortable and getting fired up and enjoying the unfolding that happens as we tinker with our choices, THEN we can say, “oh yeah, that feels good. I want to feel like this all the time!”
All that I can offer as a blogger in this blogging world is some perspective, some information with facts or laughter or stories that help you tinker with choices that bring you closer to feeling YOUR sense of joy in your life. I will say that I am continually molding my answer to why I am vegan, but the following are many pieces of information that you can use to help with your ever expanding answer to the ‘why’ of veganism, to assist you in your never ending journey of identifying what it is you want and what you do not want.
So…what is that one easy step to changing the world? Embrace your emotions, good bad and ugly, and stay curious about how to feel better (okay, maybe that’s two steps.) Being vegan allows me to cultivate peace in the world and within myself by not contributing to a system that harms the earth and harms living beings while allowing me the freedom and fun to explore new ways of reinventing myself and my food. In doing so, and most importantly, I feel overwhelming joy and silliness and optimism and appreciation for life…and it’s in that powerful, loving energy lies the power to change the world!
Why One May Choose to Become a Vegan and How That Choice Impacts the World
- The livestock industry is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, considerably more then the transportation industry (United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”)
- 70% of the Amazon forests have been cut to provide land for cattle to graze, destroying a substancial amount of CO2 from trees into the atmosphere (United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”)
- The meat, dairy, and egg industry is responsible for two-thirds of human induced emissions of ammonia, playing a role in acidification of our ecosystem
- Livestock uses 8% of planet’s water and it takes 100 times more water to produce a kilogram of beef then of grain (United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”). 90% of the freshwater consumed annually in the US is for livestock (David Pimentel)
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), animal agriculture is the largest polluter of water, contaminating the environment with pesticide, runoff waste, and fertilizers. Animal waste is in the top 10 sources of pollution on earth. The estimated combined rate of cattle, pig, and poultry waste is around 1.4 billion tons annually – 130 times more then the US population produces.
- Cattle consume seven times as much grain then the entire US Population (Pimentel and Pimentel, Sustainability) and 80% of all corn grown in the US is consumed by livestock, poultry, and fish production all over the world (National Corn Grower’s Association 2000 report). meanwhile 9000 children die a day from hunger and malnutrition (R.E. Black ‘Maternal and Child undernutrition, Lancet 2008)
- 70% of dairy cows, 25% of heifer’s, 90% of pig, and 100% of chickens are bred artificially. The primary goal of artificial insemination is to produce animals with a greater genetic capacity to make a profit (Scientific Farm Animal Production)
- One in seven dairy cows suffer from clinical mastitis, a painful bacterial infection of the udders made worse through milk production. They are housed in small confined areas with only about a quarter being allowed any access to outdoors, until they are milked 2-3 times a day. Instead of grass, they are given high-energy feeds.
- Under natural conditions, a dairy cow lives 25 years but today only survive 3-5 years (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) with half killed before age of four once milk production begins to drop. One-fifth of all hamburger is from dairy cows.
- 98% of chickens are kept in small cages with 75% have been raised in cages since day one. Although their wingspan is 30-32 inches, 4-6 chickens are typically crowded into a 16-inch-wide cage. Nearly half of those birds in confined cages suffer leg abnormalities (Feedstuffs)
- To reduce cannibalism and other physical damage with chicken confinement, handlers sever portions of the hen’s beaks. According to Chicken Health Handbook, ‘debeaking’ instruments include hot irons, hot guns for gluing, and vehicle cigarette lighters (but no anesthesia). This can cause damaged nerve tissue and extensive painful tumors called neuromas (Farm Animal Welfare)
- USDA reports in “Chickens and Eggs” that 200 million male chicks die annually. This is because they are seen as industry bi-products, therefore they are disposed of quickly and easily, most often by suffocation, gassing, drowning, or being ground up alive for animal feed.
- The Animal Regulation Act puts zero restrictions on training methods for animals. Therefore animal exploited entertainment such as circuses will use methods such as muzzling, shock treatment, beating, chaining up animals for long periods, drugs, teeth removal, and other negative reinforcement
- Rats, mice, and birds are excluded as ‘animals’ in the Animal Welfare Act. It is estimated that between 80-90% of the 17 million animal to 100 million animals used in laboratories each year for testing are these ‘non animals’. Examples of test include the Draize eye irritency test (measure tissue damage in eyes by dripping products inside and lead to ulceration or blindness) and the Lethal Dose test where animals are force fed or injected products such as perfumes until 50-100% are dead.
PHYSICAL BODY – WELLNESS & HEALTH
- Heavy use of antibotics in factory farming is leading to new viruses and bacteria resistent to antibotics and potentially leading to ‘superbugs’ (Fish and n-3 fatty acids for prevention of fatal coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest, D. Mozaffarian)
- The National School Lunch Act mandates the serving of meat or ‘meat alternative’ such as cheese or other dairy in every meal. Ironically, the USDA reports meals have 85% more sodium, 50% more saturated fat, and 25% more fats of all kinds then recommended.
- Decades of research shows eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats and low in refined grains and unhealthy fats can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes (Annual Review of Public Health 26, “what can be done and how much can be prevented?)
- Evidence from the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates the cholesterol and saturated fat in meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs causes 63,000 heart related deaths annually in the US and another 1,100 from food poisoning.
- High levels of red meat consumption raises the risk of colon cancer and meat cooked at a high temperature may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 16)
- Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet.
- Live longer healthier lives. One 21-year-long study that compared meat-eaters and vegetarians showed that the greater the meat consumption, the greater the death rate from all causes combined.
- Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also “easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association.” Read more about it here.
- This is a great list of physical benefits of going vegan
Changes I noticed since going vegan
- Crystal clear skin and eyes. I rarely have skin issues and get complements often that I’m ‘glowing’
- Sleep soundly. Zero issues falling or staying asleep and feel refreshed in the morning
- Optimistic & happy. I believe there is no such thing as coincidence, and I swear that within a few weeks of eliminating dairy and eggs (already was a vegetarian) my general disposition improved. It is rare that negative experiences trap me anymore – I just feel so great inside!
- Workout recovery. Another non-coincidence – what used to take 3-4 days to recovery from an intense workout not takes me 1-2 days.
- Breathing more deeply and have not been sick once. This isn’t an infomercial – my running times and attendance reports at work prove that I am an overall healthier person. Oh – and so does my amazing blood work.
- I get more excited about cooking. The challenge to make something tasty and healthy then serve it to friends gets me pumped up. I love showing how delicious being vegan can be and cook WAY more often since becoming one.
PHEW! Lots of info friends! For more information, check out the post on our favorite food documentaries. I’m so thrilled to be a small contributor to that unfolding in whatever way it finds you today – stay curious friends!