There are a multitude of reasons why you may decide to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle – whether as a means of living your values, reducing the vast destruction to our environment, alleviating animal suffering or improving your health and wellbeing. Whatever your motivator, or whether you’re on the fence, the following reasons are just a few of the many that may reaffirm your choice or spur you to leap over that fence onto the other side of the paddock: the one growing a vast array of vibrant veggies!
Although you may not realise it, animal agriculture is the leading cause of environmental destruction – including deforestation, species extinction, greenhouse gas emissions, ocean dead zones and water pollution. In fact, the production of livestock takes up one third of the Earth’s ice-free land. The good news: by being vegan you can save 4200 litres of water, 30 square feet of forest, 20 kilograms of grain, 9 kilograms of carbon dioxide, and one animal’s life each and every day (Andersen & Kuhn, 2015). Another huge threat to our environment and all life forms is overfishing and the alarming prediction that we may see fishless oceans by 2048. Eliminating seafood from our diet may be the only way to help our oceans recover in the next one or two hundred years.
Although environmental reasons are extremely important, for many the ethics of saving, and alleviating the suffering of, innumerable animals’ lives is their driving force. Yet while the deplorable conditions associated with factory farming and the meat industry are often well known, less is known about the significant suffering involved in producing dairy and egg products. Believe it or not, cows don’t just happen to have udders full of milk; they are usually restrained while they are inseminated with a sperm gun – not to mention that their reproductive organs are manipulated by enormous amounts of hormones so they can be impregnated long before sexual maturation. And this, folks, is how the veal industry came into being: “Useless” male offspring are separated from their mourning mother, chained at the neck and locked into tiny dark crates that inhibit their movement so as to make their flesh more tender for when they are slaughtered. The hens in the egg industry fare no better, laying around three hundred eggs per year in comparison to a wild chicken that lays less than twenty per year. This results in huge health problems and physical suffering, such as extreme osteoporosis. When the productivity of the hens or cows no longer meets standards, they are sent off to be slaughtered. In addition, they are often conscious and subject to unimaginable pain. Our disconnection from the heartbreaking truths about where a lot of our food comes from seems to have led to a similar disconnection from the reality of the fact that, despite growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals which are then consumed by western countries.
If you’re still not convinced, maybe the abundant health benefits of a vegan diet will tug at your rational mind. By avoiding animal products, you’ll reduce your risk of chronic degenerative diseases (such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes) and certain cancers. You’ll also avoid toxic chemicals like heavy metals (such as the build up of mercury in fish). “But won’t I be protein deficient?” You may ask. No way! There are plenty of high protein sources other than meat, including legumes, nuts, grains and dark leafy vegetables. In fact, most people exceed their daily protein requirements, so by being vegan you’re likely to reduce your risk of heart disease. Ok, so what about calcium? Well surprise surprise, calcium is actually a mineral which is absorbed by plants from the soil. Cows get their calcium from eating grass. So why not skip straight to the source and get your calcium from plant-based milks, dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and soy protein. A vegan diet is also likely to reduce your BMI, provide you with more energy and increase your chances of leading a longer, healthier and happier life.
Well, it seems that being vegan may just be the only way to live sustainably and ethically with seven billion people on the planet. And to put the cherry on top of the (vegan coconut bonanza) cake, refraining from eating the moo will save you moo-la! Let me know if you’re feelin’ the vegan vibes!