"Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." - Donald Watson, 1944.
Veganism is so much more than just a diet. It's a lifestyle, a way of living, a way of looking at the world. The vegan lifestyle is based on compassion for all living beings and choosing to live and act in a way that minimises the suffering of others, including ourselves and our planet. I don't really like preaching about veganism, but to be honest, there are truly only positives about the vegan lifestyle so it's hard not to sometimes! There are three main reasons that led me to choosing to go vegan:
For the animals
I think a lot of people see animals as being inferior to us humans. But just because they can't speak our language and use mobile phones doesn't mean they are worth any less than we are. They live, breathe and feel just as we do. Animals feel emotions such as fear, pain and joy, and they form intense bonds and relationships with other animals (and humans!), just as we do. There is no humane way to kill any being that doesn't want to be killed. And most often, animals in the animal agriculture industry are subjected to lives filled with pain, fear and suffering, often not even having space to move around or see the sunshine. I'm not going to go into all the details here, but I highly recommend that every person watches the documentary 'Earthlings' to learn more about the cruelty behind consuming and using animal products. There are cruelty-free, ethical alternatives to pretty much every single food, clothing item and beauty product out there, that are just as good, if not better! So, in a world where we have the choice to live perfectly healthy lives without causing harm to other beings, why not choose compassion?
For my health
Plant based diets have been proven many times over to be the healthiest diets in the world! Not only do they provide us with all the nutrients we need (with the exception of vitamin B12), but they have successfully shown to prevent, treat and even reverse almost all of today's most common chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers and obesity. In fact, according to one of my favourite doctors, Dr Colin T Campbell, "80-90% of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented, at least until very old age, simply by adopting a plant-based diet". Populations who's diets are almost entirely plant based, such as the Okinawans in Japan, have the highest number of people living past the age of 100, as well as having the lowest rates of chronic disease (these are known as the 'Blue Zones'). Not only that, but plant based diets have incredible benefits on all aspects of health, such as great digestion, healthy skin, hair and nails, increased energy levels, and even positive influences on mental health! I believe a healthy relationship with food is just as important as being physically healthy, and going vegan gave me a new sense of connection with the world, peace with food and just a positivity towards life that I never had before!
For our planet
Our planet is suffering, there's no doubt about it. The amount of damage we humans do to the environment is devastating. And surprisingly to most people (I know I was surprised when I found out!), animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of environmental destruction and global warming. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, habitat destruction and water pollution. It is predicted that if we keep going at the rate we currently are, we will have empty oceans by the year 2048. This breaks my heart. By following a plant based diet, we can reduce our carbon footprint by 50% and save 3000 L of water (that's 2 whole month's worth of showers!) for every hamburger we choose not to eat. Even the United Nations released a statement in 2010, saying: "A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change". I urge everyone to watch the documentary 'Cowspiracy' (free on Netflix!) to learn more about the devastating effects animal agriculture has on our planet.
You may feel like one person can't make a difference to the world, but one person's actions influences the lives of so many others. We support that which we put our money and energy toward, and I promise you that you can make a difference. I know even if just one animal's life is saved because of my actions, I will be happy!
For more information, I suggest checking out the following references and links. I hope you've felt a spark of inspiration to make more conscious and compassionate choices!
- Forks over Knives website and documentary
- What the Health documentary
- Food Choices documentary
- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Cowspiracy website and the facts
- Gary Yourovsky's 'Best Speech You Will Ever Hear'
- 101 Reasons To Go Vegan
- Books: 'The China Study' by Dr Colin T Campbell, 'How Not to Die' by Dr Michael Greger, 'The Starch Solution' by Dr John McDougall