There are many reasons why a person may decide to go vegan, usually because of ethical, environmental or health concerns. Not only is veganism a compassionate life path to follow, there are numerous benefits to following a plant based diet.
What IS veganism exactly?
If you’ve ever been at a table in a restaurant with a vegan, you may have experienced a few confusing encounters with waiters who aren’t quite sure what veganism is. “Can you still eat gluten?” “Are potatoes vegetables?” “Do you eat fish?” These are common questions every vegan has heard before.
The official Vegan Society definition of veganism is as follows:
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
All vegans eat a plant-based diet free from all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey, and they also stay away from products like leather and anything tested on animals.
Find out more about where to buy vegan clothing and footwear here.
What are the health benefits of going vegan?
A well-planned plant-based diet tends to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, which helps lower the risk of some of our world’s biggest killers, like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Although going vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be healthy (after all, plenty of businesses have popped up offering ice cream, sweets and chocolate to vegans, which can be unhealthy in excessive amounts), vegans tend to have lower cholesterol than meat-eaters and often live longer.
A 2012 Harvard School of Public Health Study found that people who eat red and processed meat are much more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes or cancer. The study followed 120,000 adults who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the onset of the study and followed them for up to 28 years.
‘How Not to Die’ by Dr Michael Gregor is an excellent book about the health benefits of veganism. You can purchase it from Book Depository here or you can get it on iBooks or at Easons.
Try to find time to watch this fantastic lecture called ‘Food as Medicine’, as it does a great job of stating facts about the plant-based diet in a way that’s easy to follow:
What are the environmental benefits of going vegan?
Animal agriculture is devastating for the environment. It is one of the leading causes for ocean dead zones, greenhouse gas emissions, species extinction and deforestation, and is the main cause for water pollution.
According to Veganuary.com, eating plant-based has a more positive impact than giving up your car. Not only does it halve your greenhouse gas emissions, it also saves wild animals from extinction (as well as the ones that end up on our plates).
A public body responsible to the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Natural England, has acknowledged that “The single biggest threat of water pollution is from agriculture.”
Animal agriculture requires a massive amount of pasture land for farmed animals to graze and to grow the grain needed to feed them. The rainforests are bearing the brunt of this and entire habitats are being decimated.
The UN has urged a global move to a meat and dairy free diet in order to “save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change”. A 2013 study found that 36% of the calories produced are used for animal feed. Emily Cassidy, a researcher at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, has said: “We find that doing a doing a complete radical shift away from grain-fed animals, and stop producing biofuels, that you can increase calorie availability enough for 4 billion people.”
A UN report stated that: “Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions”.
Not So Green: Debunking Myths Around Irish Animal Agriculture is a good report to check out!
To learn more, check out the following video:
What are the ethical reasons to go vegan?
Animals that are commonly seen as “food animals” like cows and pigs and chickens are sentient beings who feel pain just like humans, and who are social and intelligent creatures.
There is no difference between a dog and a pig in terms of their ability to feel pain, their emotional capabilities or their intelligence. The only difference is our perception. We have been taught to see dogs as pets and pigs as food, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Despite human labels like “humane” and “free range”, farm animals still suffer every day. These labels only make us feel better. They certainly don’t make a difference to the animals we eat.
Dairy cows’ babies are still taken off them and either killed within a few weeks (males), or separated and impregnated (female). Chickens’ beaks are still painfully cut off. Cows’ horns are still burnt off. The tails of piglets and lambs are still cut off. Hens still produce eggs at such a rate that their bones break down. Chickens still can’t support the weight of their own bodies. These things still happen every single day, despite our labels. Animals are suffering. And we can choose not to be apart of that.
Watch this excellent speech by Gary Yourofsky on the ethics of eating animals:
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!