Since starting this blog multiple friends and family members have either gone vegan, are trying it out, or have shown an interest in learning about veganism. It seems like every week I get a text saying, 'hey my friend just went vegan,' or 'my parents just gave me all their food because they became vegans'. This new way of living is hitting the mainstream and is no longer considered just something those 'kooky hippies do'.
My life is changing in profound ways since becoming vegan, and I wanted to share some of the reasons with you. Hopefully these will resonate, or at least be informative when you hear about someone going vegan – or encounter someone rolling their eyes about it!
But first, some definitions.
My 10 Reasons
1. Reversing and Preventing Disease
As many of you know, my odyssey began with a decades long health crisis that just kept getting worse. In the end, I couldn’t go another day on the clear road to misery and early death I was on.
Most people are aware the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States is heart disease - about 2,600 Americans die each day from it. The most common form, coronary heart disease, also known as atherosclerosis, occurs when hard layers of plaque, usually cholesterol deposits, accumulate in major arteries and begin constricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. This arterial plaque is also a leading cause of stroke, the fourth greatest killer of Americans each year. In my family, we have these 2 diseases on both sides, just waiting to strike.
One of the single most significant causes of heart disease and stroke is dietary cholesterol. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we will ever need, so when we eat animal products, we are forcing excessive levels into our bodies. Animal products are also loaded with saturated fats, which cause the liver to produce more cholesterol.
Guess what food doesn’t have cholesterol? That’s right - plants!
For most people, preventing coronary heart disease is as simple as eliminating animal products, eating a healthy plant-based diet, exercising, and not smoking. Not only will a plant based diet likely prevent coronary artery disease, its been scientifically proven to reverse it. Doctors have observed the plaque buildup in arteries decreasing on its own when a person removes animal products from their diet. I for one love knowing that every vegan meal I eat is reversing the damage I have done to my heart and saving me from those impending by-pass surgeries, angioplasties, and endless pharmaceuticals.
But, it doesn’t end there. A whole foods plant-based diet can prevent, and in many cases even reverse, other terrible diseases including type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
So why would you wait even one more day to adopt a plant-based diet?
2. Ending the Torture and Slaughter of Innocent Animals
We all know in the back of our minds that burger we’re eating used to be a cow, and the bacon we love so much was once a cute little pink piglet, but somehow we reconcile it and happily eat animals anyway. We picture them on a farm, living a happy life. We tell ourselves this is why they were born, or that we are helping keep the animal population in check. Any number of things - but if we truly examine it, we will see we are horribly wrong.
Here are some facts to consider before your next meal:
Only 1% of the 59 billion animals killed worldwide are raised on grass fed farms. The rest are raised in some kind of factory farming scenario.
These farm animals are jammed in cages where they can’t move, and they stand or lie in their own waste, often forced to live among other animals who have died of infections at their feet.
Common practices are tail docking, teeth clipping, dehorning, declawing, beak clipping, and castration.
Animals are forced into repeated and unnatural breeding cycles for high yields of meat, milk and eggs.
Turkeys and chickens have been genetically manipulated to grow twice as fast as their ancestors, causing severe heart and lung problems that kill millions before they reach the slaughterhouse. Since their legs are not capable of supporting their abnormally heavy bodies, they often become crippled.
Ducks and geese raised for foie gras are force-fed enormous amounts of food daily through pipes shoved down their throats until their livers swell up to 10 times their normal size.
Female pigs often spend most of their lives in metal gestation crates barely larger than their bodies. In addition to lameness, which comes with being immobilized for years, they suffer from open sores caused by constantly rubbing their bodies against the bars of the crates.
Millions of unwanted male chicks are discarded every year because they don’t lay eggs. They are disposed of by being thrown into high speed ‘grinders’ while still alive.
Dairy cows have been bred to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk. As a result, production puts their bodies under extreme stress and they are often slaughtered after just three to five years of life.
Calves raised for veal often live their entire lives tied by their necks in wooden crates where they can’t walk, turn around or lie down comfortably. The calves are purposely fed a diet deficient in iron and fiber, producing borderline anemia so the pale-colored flesh can be marketed as ‘fancy’ or ‘white’ veal.
Farmed animals are excluded from the Federal Animal Welfare Act and are not protected by most state anti-cruelty laws.
While the Humane Slaughter Act dictates that cattle, pigs and other livestock are stunned before their throats are cut, this law is routinely violated. Horrifically, industry reports indicate that even when animals are stunned, there is still a large failure rate. It’s not uncommon for improperly stunned animals to be dismembered or boiled alive in scalding tanks while fully conscious.
Farmed animals have unique personalities and emotions, just like our cats and dogs. They feel joy, pleasure, affection and form friendships and family bonds. They also feel pain, fear, grief and loss.
Farmed animals are not the only ones suffering from Big-Agra. 30 million wildlife animals have been brutally killed by a secretive branch of the USDA that is primarily employed to destroy wildlife deemed a threat to animal agriculture. They are killed in the most violent methods imaginable: gunned down from helicopters, poisoned, gassed, torn apart by trained dogs, strangled to death in neck snares, and caught in leg-hold traps where they slowly die.
Unlike animals who must kill other animals for food, we have a choice. Taking a stand against this vast moral injustice by refusing to purchase meat and dairy products will make a difference. Each vegan saves about 198 animals each year. That’s no small thing when you add us all together!
3. Planet Earth
Even if you aren’t a global warming crusader, you certainly love our planet. It is home after all - and the only one we have, so doing the best we can to care for it only makes sense.
Consider the following:
One person going vegan saves over 1.3 million gallons of water every year.
A plant based diet cuts our carbon footprint by 50%.
The meat and dairy industry in the U.S. use almost 50% of our water to raise farming animals.
70% of grain grown in the U.S. is fed to farm animals.
Farmed animals use 30% of the earth’s entire land surface.
30,000 pounds of manure is produced every second by animals raised for food in the U.S. Think about where that all ends up…
Animal agriculture is now the single greatest human-caused source of:
The United Nations has called for a global shift to a vegan diet wherever possible as the most effective way to combat climate change, world hunger, and ecological devastation.
4. World Hunger
Of the 7 billion humans living on earth, about 1 billion people are malnourished and 6 million children starve to death every year. When you consider the food and water it takes to support the animal agriculture industry it’s clear we can - and should, make a shift to save lives.
Raising farmed animals takes more food from the global food supply than those same animals provide. This is because in order to use these farmed animals for meat and dairy products, we have to grow the crops necessary to feed them. This amounts to many more crops than it would take to feed humans directly. For example, we feed grain to 60 billion farmed animals every year but there are only about 7 billion humans on earth.
Calculate these facts: It takes thirteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef (USDA), while crops such as soy and lentils produce, pound for pound, as much protein as beef, and sometimes more. One acre of land can yield between twelve and twenty times more plant food than animal-based foods.
Feeding half the world’s grain crops to farmed animals is a criminal use of valuable protein, and a massive waste of natural resources. It takes more land, water and energy than just growing the plant foods people could have eaten in the first place. Better use of existing croplands could feed four billion more people.
In 3rd world countries, 82% of children living next to livestock are starving. The meat from these areas is sent to the 1st world for us to eat. By cutting meat and dairy from our diets we could increase available global food calories by as much as 70 percent.
Seems like a plan to me.
5. Looking and Feeling Your Best
Who doesn’t want to look and feel great? While a lot more than food goes into this, what we eat is a vital component.
If you become a vegan here are some of the consequences you can expect:
Feeling great after eating a meal – no more gluttony naps or caloric guilt.
Returning to and maintaining your ideal weight – vegans are generally 20 pounds lighter than meat eaters and maintain normal BMI’s.
Less pain from inflammation in the body.
Normal digestion from all that amazing fiber intake.
Carbs are once again your friend.
Lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Skipping the hormones and antibiotics injected into meat and dairy products.
Increased energy and mental clarity.
Slowing down the aging process.
Clear, glowing skin.
Stronger, longer hair and nails.
Your body will smell better and you will have fresher breath (It’s true – there’s no more rotting flesh petrifying inside you!)
6. You’re Not a Carnivore You’re a Frugivore
While I know our love for bacon makes us feel like carnivores, carnivores kill prey with razor sharp teeth and claws and rip meat to shreds - all without a steak knife. They also have very short intestinal tracks, so all that dead flesh can move through their bodies quickly and efficiently. We have very long winding intestines - not a good place for meat to digest. Additionally, we don't produce the enzyme uricase, which breaks down the uric acid in meat. Instead, we absorb it when meat is eaten, allowing calcium-urate crystals to form and concentrate in our joints, leading to arthritis and other maladies.
Our flat teeth and loose jaws were made for chewing and grinding up plants, not locking onto a fleeing gazelle. In fact we most closely resemble a chimpanzee, gorilla or orangutan when it comes to what our mouths and stomachs were meant to do.
Check out this handy chart to see what a lovely frugivore you are.
7. Living Your Values
Aside from the health benefits I’ve experienced from going vegan, the knowledge that I’m living in line with my values about animals for the first time, has made me a much happier person. I find myself smiling at strangers more, feeling generally more centered and peaceful. I feel good when I go shopping and leave dead animals out of my cart. I feel connected to the world in ways I never did before. I feel like a small part of the solution, and not like a part of the problem.
I love animals – like, I really love animals. My dream jobs all include animals and I would make my home an animal sanctuary in a hot minute if I could get away with it. So why was I eating them, wearing them and enjoying products created through their suffering? I have no idea. I think it was just because I always had, and it seemed too hard to think about doing everything a different way.
Deep down I knew it went against everything in my heart. Veganism gives me the opportunity to live in my truth. To make my values a reality, because honestly, if we don’t live a value out, is it really a value?
Becoming vegan can allow you to connect to the kindness in your heart as you consider the suffering of others, the environment, and the bettering of the world for all.
Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. - Thomas Edison
8. Animal Products are Dirty
Still on the fence? Fire up Netflix and watch one of the many excellent food documentaries there to seal the deal. Meat and dairy products are all contaminated with feces, blood, and pus — all of which make animal products the top source of food poisoning in the United States. In fact one teaspoon of that milk you’re drinking can legally contain up to 2 million pus cells. Cheese – my former favorite food? Basically hardened pus.
Every time you sit down to a meal containing meat, eggs, or dairy products, you’re dining on bacteria, carcinogens, hormones and toxins that can cause serious health problems in humans. Conditions in slaughter houses, factories and dairy farms are so horrific there is no possible way to avoid your food becoming contaminated.
9. Being in a Much Better Mood
Plant based diets provide higher levels of antioxidants and better regulated serotonin levels in the brain which cause:
Vegans may have better sex. Not only will you have more energy, feel better physically and weigh less, all that extra zinc and vitamin B will be boosting your libido. With all that increased blood flow and stamina, what are you waiting for?
10. Saving Money
Sure, you can go out and buy a $400 food processor and re-do your entire pantry if you want to - but you don’t have to. As a vegan you can buy your grains, beans, nuts and seeds in bulk, which will cost you very little. You can save money on produce by purchasing things that are in season and from local farmers. Even better, you can grow some of your own food for mere pennies!
I’ve found that by sticking to the outer perimeter of the grocery store (where all the healthiest stuff is) my grocery bill is going down. When you focus on healthy, plant based, whole foods you skip right over all the processed snacks and extras you used to buy.
There are tons of great websites and YouTube videos about saving money as a vegan, so do a little exploring and find out what’s right for your wallet. My favorite cheap go to is the classic bean burrito. It just never gets old! A little bulk brown rice, bulk black beans and a tortilla and you have a ridiculously inexpensive and delicious meal. Add whatever you have on hand – salsa, tomato, lettuce, onion, olives, avocado - and enjoy!
On top of all that, you’ll be saving money on doctor’s visits, medications, leather boots, eating out, - you get the point.
Bonus Reason: It’s Never Been Easier
My first day as a new vegan I steeled myself for a life of celery and carrots, determined that I would do whatever was necessary. What I found in reality was that I picked the perfect time to become vegan!
Veganism is becoming so mainstream there are endless options of substitutes and treats, thousands of free recipes online, hordes of comfort foods and lots of accidentally vegan foods. (Did you know Oreos are vegan??)
There's a huge community of vegans, all supporting each others' journey through documentaries, blogs, websites, books, magazines and forums.
Restaurants are becoming more and more aware of their vegan customers and you can usually find something great on the menu wherever you are. Exclusively vegan restaurants are popping up all over and let me tell you, those places are like foodie heaven.
At the moment, my biggest struggle is to limit my vegan ice cream intake - it’s so good, I can hardly stand it.
So, there you have it - my top 10 reasons to become vegan today. I hope its helped you in some way, and I hope you will consider this journey for your own life.
Here’s to health, kindness and all the goodness life has to offer.