If you’ve ever wished to solve the world’s biggest problems, or even your own, becoming a vegan might be the answer you’ve been searching for. A plant-based diet works wonders for you, the environment, animals, and all of Mother Earth, even if it’s a practice you enjoy just a couple days a week. So let’s all cheers to Meatless Mondays & Tofurkey Tuesdays!
Top 10 Reasons to Become a Vegan
- •Support a greener planet
- According to a 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report “livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.” The meat industry is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s automobiles combined. Farmed animals suck down 8% of the planet’s total water use and pollute the rest with animal waste, ammonia, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. Livestock production threatens biodiversity by promoting deforestation and the transformation of wildlife habitats into factory farms, pastures and cropland.
- •Prevent and cure chronic disease
- Leading health organizations and experts such as the American Institute for Cancer Research, the American Diabetes Association, and Dr. T. Colin Campbell agree that vegetarians and vegans are at a much lower risk of several diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease than those who consume meat and dairy. Some bacteria and diseases are directly transferable from livestock to humans, such as E. coli or Mad Cow Disease. In many cases, plant-based diets can even help reverse the effects of disease. For instance, dark leafy greens contain antioxidants and detoxifying chlorophyll proven to help fight cancer.
- •Become a better athlete
- World-class sprinter Carl Lewis once said “My best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.” Balanced plant-based diets rich in organic non-GMO beans, peas, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and soy products provide all the protein needed for the best levels of strength and stamina. While protein is an essential nutrient, our bodies do not require the extreme amounts that 8 ounce steaks and protein supplements provide. Contrary to popular belief, the average person only needs 1 calorie out of every 10 to come from a protein source. In fact, daily meat and dairy consumption often pack too heavy of a protein punch, which adds on the fat and actually reduces bone strength (“Are Dairy Products the Answer to Osteoporosis?”).
- •Slim down on food costs
- A vegetable casserole costs much less to cook up than a filet mignon. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Meat Price Index hit a record high in May 2011 for the global cost of meat. You might also want to consider other costs not included in the price of a steak dinner, like air and water pollution, animal cruelty and even your own health. Vegetarians and vegans are generally healthier than omnivores, reducing medical costs and saving money in the long run.
- •Fight animal cruelty
- According to PETA, more than 30 billion animals are killed every year for human consumption. Corporate-run factory farms breed most of these animals and subject them to torturous and horrifying lives. Chickens, cattle and pigs are crammed into dark and filthy sheds mired in ammonia, feces and the corpses of other animals with barely any room to move around. They are pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones until their heart, lungs and legs can no longer withstand the weight of their own bodies. Most animals arrive at the slaughterhouse with ammonnia, too crippled to walk, or already dead. The survivors are violently forced into shackles before having their throats slit. Chickens and pigs are often scalded alive as they are plunged into boiling hot hair and feather-removal tanks. Cattle are castrated, branded and have their horns removed without any pain killers. Pigs have their tails chopped off, ears mutilated, and teeth trimmed with wire cutters. When mother cows can no longer produce milk they are executed and ground up for burgers. Their male babies are taken at birth and killed after a few short months of life chained in tiny stalls. They are sold in the supermarket as veal. Possibly the scariest part of all- the USDA often certifies cows with cancerous lesions and stomachs inundated with the bacteria E. coli as safe to eat; they have no more concern for you, the consumer, than the millions of animals violently slaughtered every day.
- •Lose weight without counting calories, carbs or fat.
- Vegan plant-based diets are naturally high in appetite-curbing fiber and low in the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants common in meat and dairy products. (This doesn’t count, however, if your idea of going vegan means potato chips, soda and candy for breakfast. Such high-calorie foods and refined sugars are not part of a wholesome vegan diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins.)
- •Fight world hunger
- About 33% of the world’s arable land is used to feed animals instead of humans, acording to a 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report . This is not sustainable. Competition increases for grains between the world’s starving poor and well-to-do omnivores as the meat industry continues to thrive. David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, believes that the US alone could feed 800 million people a year with the grain used for livestock production.
- •Increase your energy level
- Eating cooked and, especially, processed animal products puts our digestive organs into overdrive to produce their own enzymes from a limited source of white blood cells- leukocytes- which are meant to fight off disease and illness. This phenomena called digestive leukocytosis is the defense mechanism of a body responding to infectious and toxic stress introduced by food consumption. In other words, our immune systems react to meat and dairy entering the bloodstream the same way it would to foreign pathogens. Since our white blood cells are preoccupied with our food, we are more susceptible to illness. This should raise a few eyebrows- isn’t food meant to be nourishing? Why is our body reacting as if it’s harmful? Most vegan foods in their natural, raw state, on the other hand, have the exact type and amount of enzymes necessary for their proper digestion and optimal assimilation. The less your body has to fight against the food you eat, the more energy you have for the important things in life.
- •Get in with the in-crowd
- Let’s face it: all the cool kids are doing it. More and more stories of celebrities turning to vegetarian and vegan diets are popping up in headlines around the globe. From Socrates and Sir Isaac Newton to Lisa Simpson and Natalie Portman, consciousness is continually rising around the negatives effects of meat and dairy consumption. Paul McCartney has been reported as saying “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. …It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”
- •Support world peace
- Eating factory-farmed meat is a very violent thing to do; over 30 billion animals die a year for no reason other than to satisfy human hunger for flesh. Humanitarian Leo Tolstoy wrote in his essay The First Step,”[It] is dreadful!…that a man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity – that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself – and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel.” Respect for life is the foundation of peace. Today more than 700 million tons of grain has been diverted from the mouths of the world’s poor in order to feed farmed animals headed to the slaughterhouse. The world will never be at peace as long as global poverty continues to exist.
Whether for moral, environmental, religious, or fad reasons, becoming a vegan is the way to make a difference. But if you insist upon consuming meat and dairy, please do so in a conscious way- buy local, buy organic, buy grass-fed, buy from small farms, not Perdue.