What is veganism?
Being vegan is a lifestyle where you remove all animal products from your life. This means your diet, beauty products, and clothing. This may seem daunting and you might be wondering "what doesn't have animal products?" Well, with a little bit of research and resources, you will become a master of what you need to know. Before we can get into that, it is important to consider why this change is important.
I want to mention that you should not go into a vegan diet with the "New Year's mentality" of "this diet is going to help me lose so much weight!" First, veganism isn't a "diet," it's a lifestyle and is not something that you turn on and off. Also, although some people experience dramatic weight loss when going vegan, not everyone does. I have been vegan for two years. In my first year, I lost hardly 5 pounds, and to this day my weight still hovers around the same as pre-vegan me. New Year's diet culture is already very bad for people's self esteems - let's not contribute to that!
For your health
I always laugh when someone finds out I am vegan and instantly says "wow, you must be so healthy!" Here's the thing: any diet can be healthy, and generally veganism is healthier than a standard american diet, but it is only as healthy as you make it. There is definitely evidence that suggests that veganism is a healthier diet than a standard american diet.
I want to note that I do not take any supplements except for B12, and generally eat a whole-food, plant based diet (when I'm not on-the-run and eating some form of takeaway!).
Here are a few facts that I have gathered over the years from research, documentaries, and more - you may want to consider them when looking into a vegan diet:
- One serving of process meat a day increases your risk of Diabetes by 51%
- Within minutes of eating dead meat bacteria toxins, the body gets a burst of inflammation, stiffening or paralyzing the arteries
- World Health Organization Report has classified bacon and sausage as carcinogenic to humans
- The number one dietary source of cholesterol in America is chicken
- Eating 1 egg per day is as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes per day for life expectancy
- The number 1 source for saturated fat is dairy
- Fish have become mercury sponges, and toxins bio-accumulate in fish flesh
- Commercial animals are largely fed corn and soy that is genetically modified
- Eating organic meat will not help you avoid contaminants
- There is a strong link between dairy foods and autoimmune diseases
- Dairy products contain pus and does not build strong bones, actually, countries with the highest dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis
- Dairy is linked with many types of cancer
- and more...
These are hardly an exhaustive list of the health implications of eating animal products. If you want to boost your energy and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses you may want to consider reducing your animal product intake this year.
For the environment
Did you know that animal agriculture accounts for 18% of green house gas emissions - that's more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. We are always so hung up on taking the bus or train instead of using our cars, which is very important, but we can make a much larger difference by changing how and what we consume.
Now, I don't want to overwhelm you, because I found that when I went vegan and learned about all of the destruction of our environment, I felt so small and like my changes can't make a difference. However, I think you should learn the facts to know how you are making a difference by reducing your animal product consumption.
- Emissions from agriculture projected to increase by 80% by 2050 (that's in our lifetime!)
- 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef
- 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs
- almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese
- 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk
- Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted
- We could see fishless oceans by 2048
- and more...
Although many of these are scary thoughts, know that reducing your animal product consumption can greatly affect the environment. We only have so much time on this planet, why not keep it in good condition for our future generations?
For the animals
Interestingly, I thought that most people would be vegan for the animals. Now, I'm not saying that they're not, but I find that many of the people I know are vegan for the environment and for health reasons. But if we consider the amount of destruction that animals face for us to be fed a standard american diet, I think we would all change our minds.
I'm not going to show you violent footage of what happens in slaughterhouses. I think if you are making a change and you need that type of reinforcement, you can easily find videos of that. I have been too afraid to watch Earthlings because I have heard that there is lots of graphic footage, but it is also educational, so if you have more of a backbone than I do - maybe give it a try.
Over 56 billion animals are killed each year by humans, not including fishing. When fishing, we can't even keep track of how many animals are caught because it's not only the intended fish that are caught. Bycatch is all the other animals that become trapped in nets when fishing, some of these animals include turtles and sharks.
In the egg industry, hens are cramped into tiny cages where they become so stressed out they lose their feathers. Their beaks are usually cut so that they can't peck the other chickens in the barn. If you think buying "free-range" eggs helps, just know that there can still be 30,000 hens cramped into one barn, they're just not in cages. It is a marketing ploy for consumers to feel better about their purchases.
Cows are separated from their calfs right after birth. Most people don't know that in order for a cow to produce milk, she needs to be pregnant. Cows are forcibly artificially inseminated to produce milk. When their babies are born, if it is a female, she is pumped with antibiotics and steroids to grow, and face the same fate as her mom. Males are sent to the veal industry where they are killed shockingly young.
A pig is most likely smarter than your dog. However, they are among the most brutalized animals in the animal agriculture industry. They are shot, beaten, and anally electrocuted in order to die and for us to take their body parts. They are simply seen as product and not as a living being.
I'm sure you can think of all the ways that animals are exploited even out of the animal agriculture industry. Animals such as rats, mice, bunnies and dogs are injected, dissected and mutilated in the beauty industry for testing on products. Mink, fox, rabbit, snakes, and other animals are skinned (usually alive!) for their fur and skin in the fashion industry.
Animals are harmless beings. Why would we want to contribute to their suffering when we can make a compassionate change that helps them?
Be a part of the movement
Many people think that going vegan is not worth their time because "one person can't make a difference." I beg to differ! Here are some of the vegan wins from 2017:
- Canada reassess Food Guide to be more vegan-focused
- Michael Kors goes fur-free
- Baileys releases vegan drink
- Mc Donald's announces a vegan burger
- Demand for meat-free food increases by 987%
- Rihanna releases cruelty beauty line
- Denver bans declawing
- Pizza Pizza launches vegan cheese
- Airports stop using glue traps
- Gucci goes fur-free
- Starbucks adds more vegan options
- Sport Chek and Atmosphere Ban Fur
- Birkenstock offers vegan styles
- Croatia bans fur
- Netflix Wins Award For Vegan Films Including 'What The Health' And 'Okja'
- and more...
These are hardly a complete list of all the vegan changes that have happened only in the last year. But as you can see, you can become a part of something bigger than yourself. With your influence on your friends and family, the companies you purchase products from, and your contribution to supply and demand, you can be a part of making a difference!
If you are ever feeling like you are not making a difference as a vegan, remember this:
Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
Some of my favourite resources for when I started going vegan are listed. They may help you find yummy recipes, make your vegan grocery shopping a little easier or provide you with helpful information.
- Hot For Food - fantastic and easy vegan recipes
- Simnett Nutrition - nutritional and work-out inspiration
- James Aspey - vegan activist
- Cronometer app - input what you eat to see if you're meeting your requirements. I suggest doing this for the first two months of being vegan to learn "how to eat" (in order to get all your vitamins!)
- Barnivore - vegan alcohol search
- Happy Cow - find vegan options in your area
- Peta2 - sign petitions to make a difference, but accumulate points to win prizes
- Cruelty-Free app - check if your product is cruelty-free!
- Is it vegan? app - find out if your product is vegan
- Plant nanny app - ensure you are drinking enough water!
- Cowspiracy - Netflix film on environmental impacts of veganism
- What the Health? - Netflix film on health impacts
- Earthlings - Film
- Okja - Netflix film that will pull on your heart strings regarding animals
- See if you have a local vegan group in your area! I am from Kitchener/Waterloo and we have the KW Vegan Society. It's a great way to make friends, vent, and actually go to something vegan-centered!
Good luck! I know whatever you put your mind to you can do it. Remember that even simply reducing your meat consumption greatly lowers your ecological footprint. Make 2018 a year of being more conscious and striving for a better you, better society and better planet!