The word ‘vegan’ has slowly been reaching more restaurant menus and supermarket shelves across the country. Even fast food chains such as Burger King are starting to offer meatless burgers. Among this craze, however, many are beginning to wonder, why would anyone voluntarily cut out meat and dairy from their diet?
This was exactly my thought process, and as someone that never went a day without eating my precious meat and dairy products, I never would have thought I would cut these out of my diet completely. But what changed my mind? All it really took was a new perspective. Before going vegan, I never really thought about what was on my plate or where it came from. I liked the taste of meats, milk, and cheeses, so I continued to eat them. It was as simple as that. I viewed the veganism movement as more of an animal rights movement, which didn’t spark much interest in me. ‘What’s the harm?’ I thought, ‘it’s just part of the food chain, our ancestors have always eaten meat so I shouldn’t feel guilty about it’.
Turns out there’s a lot of harm. After watching the documentary, Cowspiracy, on Netflix, I was met with emotions of anger, confusion, and sadness that led me to the decision to transition to a plant based diet.
My family is one that is aware of the seriousness of global warming. We drive an electric car, invest in reusable products, and recycle constantly. Despite the steps we take to conserve our planet, as long as we kept eating animal products, we really aren’t making much of a difference. After abundant research, I learned the chilling truth behind the animal product industry that no one talks about. The fact that the meat and dairy industry produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry. The fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more than half of human-caused global warming. The fact that animal farming is behind 30% of water consumption, 45% of Earth’s land usage, and 91% of Amazon forest destruction. The fact that a single quarter pounder requires an excessive 660 gallons of water to produce.
With the immense population our Earth beholds, our world is just no longer equipped to the dairy and meat industries. This realization led me to ponder, why do we need meat and dairy? If the cattle we eat obtains nutrients from plants, what’s the point of wasting so much more energy to eat animal products? What’s the point of forcing animals to go through pain and torment if we can obtain the vitamins and minerals we get from meat and dairy in a way that doesn’t hurt animals or the environment?
With this in mind, I developed a new outlook on food. I began to fuel my body with a wide range of assorted fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains from the earth. I realized animals are not necessary in a human body’s diet. I began to lead a vegan lifestyle and felt better, emotionally and physically, doing so.
So why don’t more people choose this lifestyle? Well, mainly because of the various misconceptions about veganism .One of the most common of these misconceptions is that eating vegan is more expensive than a normal diet, which is far from true. Meat is one of the most expensive commodities in a grocery store. Replacing this with much cheaper plant based foods, is sure to leave anyones wallet happy. Of course, being vegan can be more expensive with the allure of dairy and meat replacements which tend to be more expensive than the real deal. However, these replacements are far from a necessity; sticking to unprocessed foods is much cheaper and healthier.
Another misconception is simply the fact that being vegan is challenging. Of course this varies from person to person, but as a former meat and cheese lover myself, I had no trouble making the transition. Whole foods are sure to keep anyone full and prevent them from missing animal products. Eating a wide variety of food never gets boring and keeps meals exciting. For those who tend to be picky eaters, like me, there are always replacements for well known animal products, which taste almost the same, if not better. Plus, many well known snacks and foods, such as oreos and french fries, are already vegan.
A common line I hear when telling people I’m vegan is, “how do you get all your nutrients?” Believe it or not, every nutrient which comes from animal products can also be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Soy products are high in vitamin D. Legumes and greens are high in calcium. Beans, lentils, and chocolates are high in iron. Cashews, chickpeas, and seeds are high in zinc. The list goes on and on.
At the end of the day, everyone has the right to fuel their body with what they choose. This doesn’t stop the fact that everyone should gain awareness of where their products come from, and the effect they have. Every consumer has a powerful effect on our economy, our environment, and our future. We have no choice but to use this power to our advantage.