Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why vegan?

I want to use this blog to help people adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle whether their reasons are for animals, their own health, the environment, or simply because they find meat icky. In order to understand where I'm coming from in my advice I thought I should share my own story of how I became a vegan, and some of my reasons for keeping it up.

When I was 16 I stopped eating red meat. I never really enjoyed eating it, but to be honest I can't really remember what caused me to give it up. However, I have a vivid image in my mind of why I stopped eating poultry and fish as well. I was on a weekend trip with my high school's drama club, and in the parking lot of the hotel we were staying at there were several dead deer in the bed of a pickup truck. That was the first time I had ever seen an animal that had been intentionally killed by a person, and that image made me re-think my relationship to animals.

Over the next 9 years of vegetarianism I was blissfully ignorant about the egg and dairy industries. I thought, "the animals aren't killed to give us eggs and dairy, so it's okay." I thought that keeping cows and chickens in captivity was the big issue for vegans (as well as the poor treatment of cows and chickens in captivity, which I tried to convince myself was better than the fate of cows and chickens killed for meat). Then I went to China. I saw some horrible things there including a box of skinned dog heads, a man shocking hamsters in a tiny cage to demonstrate a pest control product, exotic animal furs being sold in every shopping district, a circus with animal acts including a tight rope walking bear that had to be beaten on stage to perform, among other things. While these things aren't related to the dairy and egg industries, they opened my eyes to what goes on in places that value animals less than we do in North America. That got me thinking about what is permitted in our culture that I wasn't aware of. So I decided to take the blinders off and I read an article about the link between the dairy and veal industries. And then I read an article about what happens to male chicks born on egg farms. And then I watched Earthlings. What I saw in China cannot be unseen, and what I know about how animals are treated so that people can have meat, dairy products and eggs cannot be unknown. So I made the decision to no longer draw a line saying, "it's okay to use animals in this way, but not in that way." It is no longer okay for me to use animals in any way.

I should add that I am fully aware of the place of privilege I come from as a Canadian. I have an abundance of food to choose from, and can enjoy a healthy vegan diet. I am aware that many people around the world do not have an abundance of food to choose from, and cannot afford to be picky about what they eat. That being said, we are facing a global food shortage and one of the best things we can do is to consume less meat. This would reduce the amount of water and fossil fuels we use and forests we cut down. Below is an infographic explaining the carbon footprint of one hamburger patty:

Furthermore, over 1/3 of the world's grains are fed to livestock. The following infographic explains the impact of livestock farming on the environment, as well as the inefficiency of feeding so much food to our food:

My health reasons for being a vegan are much less fleshed out (pun?). While I believe that eating a plant based diet that covers all nutritional bases is the most healthy choice for me (and something I am working towards), I also recognize that simply not eating animal products does not equal a healthy diet, and vice versa. However, I'm striving to be an example of a healthy vegan because the reasons above are compelling enough for me to keep going. 

Now that you know my story, I will do my best to provide advice for people at any level of interest in consuming less animal products- whatever the reason, I support you! :)

Feel free to comment below! If you have a veggie story to share I'd love to hear it!