People seem to be very defensive when it comes to diet, so I just wanted to write a little disclaimer saying that I'm not here telling you how to eat, I'm not telling you you're an unethical person, I'm merely providing my reasons as to why I've decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle and sustain it. I'd really love it if no one name-called or acted like an asshole, but I do encourage educational discussion, so if you must argue, do it respectfully.
So, here are my reasons for being vegan:
For The Environment
I've always loved the environment, it's also a big part of my culture being a Native American person. In short, we believe that it's our moral obligation to do everything in our power to protect our Mother Earth, especially since she provides us with everything that we need to survive and thrive. Think of it as your rent lol. I lived my life with this belief, and did everything from recycling, composting, thrifting, biking, taking short showers, and attending almost every single environmental rally that was ever held on Parliament Hill here in Canada. I've opposed uranium mining, diamond mining, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and I was especially pissed off when Stephen Harper reduced our number of protected lakes and rivers from 2.5 million to only 82. I never once stopped to think about what kind of environmental impact my dietary choices were having, and honestly, I didn't believe there were any, but after watching Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, I learned that not only were my dietary choices negatively affecting the environment, but it was literally the most damaging industry on the planet. The Cowspiracy website has a "Facts" page that lists every single source used in the documentary, so feel free to go there if you'd like sources. I learned that animal agriculture was the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions (more than all forms of transportation combined), I learned that roughly 56% of all freshwater in the U.S. was used for animal agriculture (500 times the amount that fracking used which was something I had protested against in the past), and I learned that animal agriculture was the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction, and desertification. I learned that a single farm of 2,500 dairy cows produced the same amount of waste as a city with the population of 411,000 people. I learned that we could potentially see fishless oceans by the year 2048 and the number one reason for that is overfishing. I also learned that for every one pound of fish caught, there are five pounds of unintended marine species caught as by-kill, meaning that 40% of all fish caught globally are discarded. I learned that animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon rainforest destruction (and then realized how ironic that The Rainforest Cafe claims to help save the Amazon when they don't even offer a single vegan option on the menu, thus destroying the Amazon with the food they choose to serve). The movie even explored grass-fed, free-range farming and found that even though it's better for the animals, it's actually worse for the environment because it requires more land and resources to produce, whereas on any given space of land, you can grow 15x more protein with plants than you can with animals. Just one day of being vegan saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq. ft. of forested land, 20 lbs of CO2 equivalent, and the life of one animal. I realized how hypocritical it was of me to claim to care about something so deeply, yet choose to destroy the environment every time I chose to eat.
For The Animals
I actually never really cared for animals that much, I hated horses because I went on a field trip to a ranch with my class and my horse would not stop shitting all over the place and trying to have sex with the other horses, which was actually super traumatizing and embarrassing for 10 year old me hahah. I didn't like cats, because let's be real, they're assholes. I didn't like small dogs, because of all their yapping (super annoying). I didn't like reptiles, because they were gross and sometimes slimy, BUT I always acknowledged that they were living beings that did not deserve to die just because I didn't think they were cool enough. I also acknowledged that these beings felt pain and had a strong desire to live, obviously. It wasn't until one day my boyfriend, who is not a vegan at all, showed me a video someone shared on Facebook called If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls... narrated by Paul McCartney that showcased undercover footage from factory farms.
I had seen videos like this before and to this day, I don't know why this single time affected me so much, but I was really invested in this video and it touched me more deeply than I had anticipated. I was crying and though I didn't go vegan then, it definitely planted a seed. I continued to eat animal products because I was easily able to push the truth from my mind as we've all been doing for our entire lives. Eventually, I decided to sit down and watch Earthlings, another documentary about animal cruelty, and this time I knew that veganism was something that I wanted to do or rather something that I needed to do in order for my values and my behaviour to be in alignment.
I mean, I've always lived my life believing I was a compassionate, loving, non-violent person, but eating meat directly opposed those values of mine and I realized I could no longer support something that I was against. I stopped believing that my taste buds held superiority over the lives of others and the environment. Here is a quote by William Ralph Inge that really helped me put things into perspective as well: "We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form."
Something else that I'd learned while watching Cowspiracy was that we are currently producing enough food to feed 10 billion people, but this number confused me because there are only 7 billion people on this planet, yet 795 million people are currently starving. Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock instead of people. 82% of starving children in the world live in countries where food is fed to animals that are then eaten by Western countries. Cows eat 24-27 pounds of food per day, so in the course of their lifetime (1-2 years old at the age of slaughter), they would have eaten somewhere between 8,760 to 19,710 pounds of food to produce 490 pounds of beef. That doesn't sound logical to me whatsoever, it's just a huge waste of food that could have easily went straight to a human being. Veganism could potentially end world hunger and not only that, but it can easily sustain our growing population unlike an omnivorous diet.
The great thing about all of this is that it is 100% possible to completely healthy on a vegan diet, and this has been confirmed by the American Dietetic Association who's stated that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes". There is not a single essential vitamin, mineral, fatty acid, or amino acid that humans require that cannot be found in non-animal sources. Anything you can get from animal products, you can get from plants, only with less saturated fat, zero cholesterol, heme-iron, and lower levels of IGF-1 response among other things. Vegans not only live longer, but have lower risks of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, macular degeneration, cataracts, arthritis, osteoperosis. Vegans also have healthier body mass indexes, have higher energy levels, improved allergies, migraine relief, quicker muscle recovery, and women also experience improved PMS symptoms. Even if I suddenly became a sociopath and had absolutely no compassion for people, animals, and the environment, I'd probably still be vegan just for the health benefits alone. A great documentary on vegan health is Forks Over Knives (on Netflix). Books I reccommend are The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Preventing and Reversing Diabetes, The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas Graham, A Diet For A New America by John Robbins, and Meat Is For Pussies by John Joseph (for you tough guy "meat is manly" type bros). Dr. Michael Greger also runs a website where he reports the latest in nutritional science called nutritionfacts.org and is extremely helpful with any question you could possibly have regarding health, including vegan health (he's also vegan himself, as many of the doctors I mentioned in this video are).
Female Specific Issues
Seriously, having absolutely no PMS symptoms is like a gift from God. I never knew that there was any way to completely get rid of period symptoms without being heavily medicated until going vegan. Not only is my period lighter and shorter, but the severe cramps and migraines I used to get are completely gone. I made this its own point on the list because I really wanted to explain the reason why vegans experience this. The reason women get cramps is because of something called prostaglandins and the body releases these into the bloodstream when menstruation begins. They constrict blood vessels in the uterus and make its muscle layers contract, causing painful cramps. When these prostaglandins enter your bloodstream, they travel around your body causing everything from migraines/headaches to diarrhea. We can actually reduce the amount of prostaglandins in our bodies, therefore reducing the of pain of PMS or get rid of it altogether, but in order to do so, you must reduce the thickness of the endometrial cell layer. It might sound confusing, but studies have actually found that a change in diet is more effective for reducing period pain than taking pills for it. Prostaglandins are what cause period pain and the higher your serum estrogen levels are, the more prostaglandins your body will produce, so in order to level out the estrogen in your body and bring it down to a healthy level, we must be eating a high-fibre diet (rich in plant foods) because fibre helps the body adjust hormone levels and eating much less foods containing estrogen (dairy and dairy by-products, meat coming from a female animal, and soy). Eating a diet lower in fat helps as well.
Food Borne Illnesses
"CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Estimating illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for various types of diseases is a common and important public health practice." E coli, salmonella, listeria, along with every other food borne illness is the result of animal product consumption. Though risk of contracting a food borne illness is heightened when a human eats an omnivorous diet, vegans are also at risk because fruits and vegetables are sometimes contaminated with animal products which really fuckin sucks if you ask me. Like why. I'm not even supporting the animal agriculture industry and it can kill me too. Brutes.
Time to get a little superficial, but these are good reasons too. Since going vegan, I've lost 20 pounds and am still losing which is great. Personally, I've experienced stronger hair and nails with faster growth, my skin has completely cleared up (my profile picture is unedited and without makeup if you'd like to see for yourself). I've also noticed that I have less body odour and this isn't as exciting, but my morning breath is significantly less disgusting haha.
There are quite a few ways in which a vegan diet can improve your sex life. The first being that vegans experience an increase in natural lubrication because of how hydrating plant foods are. Fruits and vegetables have a naturally high water content, whereas animal products do not. The second reason is increased blood flow. Since a vegan diet is so low in saturated fat and completely void of cholesterol, this diet is the only diet that will literally clean out your arteries of atherosclerotic plaque, making for increased blood flow to your nether regions lmao. Not many people know this, but erectile dysfunction is actually one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease. So uh, vegan men have harder erections and women have an easier time orgasming. The third reason is that vegans actually have better tasting cum. Naturally, all diets that are high in fruits and vegetables will improve the way you taste, whereas consuming meat, dairy, eggs, and beer all make the cum more acidic and bitter tasting. It's true. No word of a lie.
This specific reason might not be for everyone, but nevertheless I'd like to explain how veganism is in alignment with most religions and/or spiritual beliefs. As I've mentioned, I am Native American and was raised in accordance with my tribe's spiritual beliefs. Basically, the Earth is a symbol of our Mother and the Sky is symbolic of our Father, but the thing that binds them together is the Great Spirit or Kitchi Manitou as we say in Algonquin. You can think of this as Yin and Yang being bound together in a circle to make the Yin-Yang symbol or the Taijitu. The Great Spirit exists within us all and in everything from the rocks to the animals, which is why indigenous people believe in a sense of oneness among all living and non-living things alike. Everything is connected, and we can observe this when learning about ecosystems and food chains. "Humankind has not woven the web of life, we are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together, and all things are connected (Chief Seattle, 1854)," A huge part of living in accordance with Native American spirituality is learning to live in harmony with the world around you and this means respecting all living and non-living beings, it means respecting the environment, always doing what's best for mankind as a whole and dedicating yourself to the greater good, always doing what you believe to be right, being kind, truthful, and honest, value mental and physical well-being, and take responsibility for your actions and their consequences. Veganism really does fit into any religion, as I've met Muslim, Jewish, Christians, and Buddhists who've all said that their dietary lifestyle has given them a strong connection to their religions, to nature, to animals, and have given them a deeper ability to empathize and have compassion for other human beings. There's a quote by Aristotle that I heard in my Intro to Philosophy class, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." It really is true though, when you practice love, compassion, and non-violence at every single meal, you become more in tune with those emotions and abilities.
Interested in a more compassionate lifestyle? ❤️❤️❤️
Ethics 101 Reasons to Go Vegan (YouTube), The Greatest Speech You Will Ever Hear (YouTube), Earthlings (YouTube)
Environment Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (available on Netflix)
Health Forks Over Knives (Netflix), Forks Over Knives Presents: The Engine 2 Diet (Netflix), Food Inc. (Netflix), Vegucated (Netflix), Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days (YouTube), Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (Netflix).