This page provides a very brief summary for readers who would like to learn more about veganism.
This includes the three main reasons people choose to adopt a vegan diet – ethics, health and the environment – as well as some really useful links to further resources.
First, something important to remember…
Is anyone’s diet and lifestyle perfect? Of course not. If something you read affects you today, why not make some small changes? Surely that’s better than nothing at all. Strive for happiness, inspire someone, refuse to bury your head in the sand to what’s around you – and eat a big slice of that ridiculously tasty cashew cheesecake!
Ethics and Morality
There are many reasons people might want to give veganism a go, but the reason most people choose to stay vegan involves the ethical considerations of eating animals through modern day farming practices. Due to the rapidly growing human population and the sheer demand for meat production, animals in factory farms suffer tremendously due to the strict procedures that are required to meet demands.
Over 150 billion animals are slaughtered every year for our consumption. That’s over 5000 per second. That amount of death simply dwarfs any other human war or natural disaster in history. Yet we claim it’s necessary?
There is no question that animals feel pain, experience happiness, build relationships and want to live. If we know that to be true, why do see killing them for food to be of such little significance? Why do we so deeply love and protect our pet dogs and cats, yet remain disconnected to the slaughter of equally intelligent pigs and cows?
Whether it be in the beef industry, the pork industry, chicken, egg or dairy industry, there are countless examples of extreme cruelty which are now routine practices worldwide.
If you’d like to find out more about this, some useful links are provided below.
We live in an age where there is no longer room for excuses.
Health and Nutrition
Deciding to follow a plant based diet can be extremely beneficial from a health and nutritional perspective. A catalogue of studies show plant based diets are associated with lower levels of chronic disease in comparison to those with a moderate to high meat intake; including a lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer.
There are also some important health reasons that might make you want to consider ditching the dairy. Dairy products generally contain a high saturated fat content, as well as high levels of hormones like oestrogen, and traces of broad spectrum antibiotics used excessively in agriculture (not to mention pus, blood and faeces!).
Another factor is lactose intolerance; many people suffer from lactose intolerance to some degree (after all, cow’s milk is made for cows!), causing unpleasant symptoms like bloating and cramping. These symptoms would simply go away upon opting for milk alternatives.
Of course, as with all diets – balance and moderation is key! The above information certainly isn’t to say that all vegans are prime examples of health, but a plant based diet can be a great contribution to an overall healthy lifestyle.
For more information on why a vegan diet can be optimal for health, Forks Over Knives is a really compelling watch. If you’d like further details on data sources and references, please feel free to contact me.
Can I get all of my nutrients from a vegan diet?
Something you may have heard about a vegan diet is that it can be difficult to obtain certain micro-nutrients. These usually include vitamins like B12, D, iron and calcium.
A plant based diet is more than sufficient to provide all almost vital nutrients, and as long as you eat wholesome, vitamin fortified food, there is absolutely no need to worry about deficiencies. Some examples of vitamin rich foods are provided below – these lists are certainly not exhaustive, you have plenty more options!
Calcium – Dark green, leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens; beans; legumes; fortified soy, almond and rice milks; sesame seeds; fortified orange juice; firm tofu.
Iron – Cooked spinach; lentils; quinoa; pumpkin seeds; peas; dried apricots; dried peaches; white beans; firm tofu; tomato paste.
Vitamin D – Almond and soy milks; fortified orange juice; fortified cereal; mushrooms. (For most of human history, we got our vitamin D from sunlight. Now, however, we rely partly the fortification of the foods we eat).
Omega 3 – Flaxseed/linseed; hempseed; walnuts. 1-2 tbsp of ground flaxseed sprinkled on your cereal or added to a smoothie provides your RDA of omega 3 (also a great egg substitute in baking!).
The only time a vegan diet may not be fully sufficient is when it comes to vitamin B12.
This is not because our bodies require animal products, but because modern day agricultural practices require plants to undergo harsh cleaning before being sold to the public – rendering them devoid of their natural vitamin B12. For this reason, it is recommended that vegans take a B12 supplement.
The Environment and Sustainability
The environmental and social impact of what we eat is staggering. The animal agriculture industry is widely regarded to be one of the leading contributors to environmental damage and climate change in our world today.
Of course, we all live in the 21st century – most of us have electricity, houses, cars and holidays. No one is suggesting we pack up and move to a mud hut! However, by making some simple changes in what we eat – we might be able to contribute a little bit less.
- 80-90% of the world’s crops (and 97% of soy) are produced to feed livestock; we could easily end world hunger with these resources.
- It takes 2,5000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In addition, factory farms create billions of pounds of manure each day – which ends up in our lakes, rivers and drinking water.
- Seven football fields worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create room for livestock and the crops that feed them. As a result, animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of deforestation in the world.
- Animal farming is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all of the planes, trains, cars, trucks and ships on earth.
- Producing just two pounds of beef creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving an average family car for three hours.
Some useful links:
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (a documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio!)
- PETA: Vegetarianism and the Environment
- Animal Agriculture: Is This Sustainable?