Why I Went Vegan

Sunday, 10 July 2016


I’ve discussed briefly my reasons for going vegan in the past, and as it’s nearly been a year since I officially made the switch, I thought it was about time I wrote a post detailing why I went vegan and why I still choose to be vegan. Interestingly, my reasons for wanting to stay vegan now are different to the reasons why I initially chose to become vegan, as over time and throughout my own soul-searching and research and chatting with other vegans, my views and opinions have shifted a wee bit throughout my vegan journey.

So, if you want to find out some of the reasons why I’m vegan, keep on reading!

GIVING UP ANIMAL PRODUCTS HAS EASED MY MEDICAL ISSUES
Part of what initially triggered my slow transition into vegetarianism and then veganism was my ongoing struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Back when I used to eat it, meat and red meat in particular were serious trigger foods for me and would result in severe, uncomfortable bloating that would mean that I often had to plan meals with meat around whether or not I could go and lie down afterwards. I eventually gave up red meat, and all other animal products followed later.

For me, a vegan diet has essentially cut out all of the foods that my digestive system takes issue with. My bouts of bloating and symptoms of IBS are now few and far between, and are usually only triggered by stress and hormones as opposed to food, and although eating out as a vegan comes with its own challenges, I now no longer have to worry about carefully selecting items from a menu to make sure I don’t feel sick and in agony afterwards.

Note, also, that I did say my medical issues. Veganism isn’t a cure for health issues and IBS in particular can vary drastically from person to person, so what worked for me may not work for you if you’re thinking of trying a vegan diet to help ease your own digestive problems.

VEGANISM HAS IMPROVED MY PHYSICAL HEALTH & FITNESS
On top of helping me out with my IBS, switching to a vegan diet has contributed massively to my total body health. Now, this will not be the case for everyone – it’s a widespread myth that vegans are all skinny, toned and live of raw fruits and vegetables. Some vegans are, sure, but definitely not all of us, and vegans who are fussy eaters in particular can struggle with eating both healthily and ensuring that they’re getting all of the right nutrients from their diets. Choosing to switch to a vegan diet involves research and an awareness of nutrition and your body’s needs; you can live off Oreos and plain pasta and still be vegan, but that’s not a healthy or nutritious diet.

I have a hell of a lot more energy since going vegan than I ever used to when I was vegetarian or ate meat, and believe it or not I haven’t even had so much as a cold since before I went vegan, when previously I had been a bit sick on and off pretty much constantly. Because I enjoy almost all plant-based foods, my diet is varied but very low in processed sugars, fats and so on and I’m actually getting more iron, protein and so on now than I did before simply because I’m much more careful of what I’m eating to make sure I do get everything I need from my diet. I’ve been going to the gym regularly for the past year and a half or so, and stepping this up, combined with eating vegan, has resulted in muscle gain and fat loss despite eating a lot, not giving up treats and always eating when I’m hungry. In short, I feel amazing and it has had an effect on my physical appearance, too.

ANIMAL AGRICULTURE IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT
I had been toying with the idea of going vegan for a while, but what finally sealed the deal was learning about all of the environmental issues that are caused by animal agriculture. I watched a number of documentaries and started reading Farmageddon, and didn’t even have to finish the book before I had made up my mind and decided that I no longer want to contribute to the environmental destruction that animal agriculture causes.

Producing meat and animal products is a hugely resource-wasting industry; food that could go directly to people, instead goes to animals to produce only a fraction of the quantity in meat, dairy and eggs. Even the fishing industry is woefully inefficient; we assume that farmed fish, for example, must be more environmentally friendly but yet more fish still have to be caught wild or bred just to feed some of the other species of fish that we farm in order to eat.  That’s not one but two links of a food chain that we have to catch or mass produce before we get the fish on our plates.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) (2003) states that, on average, it takes about 6kg of plant protein to produce just 1kg of animal protein and according to UNESCO (2010)It takes over 15,000 litres of water to produce an average kilo of beef. This compares with around 1,200 litres for a kg of maize and 1800 for a kilo of wheat.” Logically speaking, a lot of time, effort and valuable resources are wasted to produce animal products compared to a vegan or even vegetarian diet.

Of course, it’s not just the illogicality of it, it’s the pollution and disruption it causes to the environment, too. Large farms filled with animals produce vast amounts of waste, which ultimately end up contaminating the natural world and causing ill health to people in the areas and who work there. Pig slurry is apparently far more polluting than raw domestic sewage, and animal agriculture is responsible for many environmental issues such as algal blooms.

Our planet can’t sustain our populations’ increasing desire for animal products, and as a lover of nature and our planet and as a person who appreciates the incomprehensible vastness of our universe and how lucky we are to even have our planet, I don’t believe it’s worth it.

WE DON’T NEED TO EXPLOIT OR KILL ANIMALS FOR FOOD
The fact that there are so many vegetarians and vegans or even just people who live largely plant-based diets is living proof that biologically speaking, we as a species don’t all need meat or animal products to survive anymore. There may be some who have to continue eating meat, dairy etc. due to their own medical or dietary issues and of course location, accessibility, finance, mental health and so on are all factors that play into whether or not someone is able to be vegetarian or vegan too. But, having said that, there is no need to continue to consume animal products at the very high rate we’re doing it – science has already proven that the amount of meat and dairy that many people eat isn’t healthy, and that the vast majority of nutrients we need to survive can be found in plant-based foods and vegan alternatives.

Given that the amount of animal products we eat at the moment is detrimental to our health rather than improving it, and the fact that the vast majority of us don’t actually need them to live a healthy, happy life, it simply doesn’t make sense that we continue to increase demand for these things and continue to contribute to animal suffering and exploitation. If I can be fit and healthy eating beans and chickpeas and drinking almond milk instead of chowing down on pork and drinking milk, then why would I want to be contributing to pollution and for a pig to die and cows to suffer when there’s a perfectly reasonable alternative out there, instead?

Which leads me nicely into my next point…

EDUCATING YOURSELF BUT CHOOSING TO IGNORE THE FACTS IS SELFISH
This is likely a divisive point and it’s one that I’ve been mulling over and trying to get to grips with for quite a while. I didn’t initially feel this way when I became vegan – it was just the right choice for me at the time – but the more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I was unhappy with the idea that simply wanting to eat x over y absolves someone of the moral and ethical dilemma behind their diet. I fully respect that it is up to others to decide what they eat, however these days I find myself with less patience for people who have been educated, who are aware of how problematic these industries are, and yet consciously choose not to even reduce their meat and dairy intake. (Note that I say reduce – I don’t expect everyone to give up everything, because a mere reduction of these foods would still hugely contribute to environmental and animal welfare.)

I used to be okay with the argument that some people just choose to eat meat anyway ‘because it tastes nice’ and believed that that was a valid argument and they were entitled to their pleasure, but now, I’m not so sure. ‘Because it feels good’ is’t a valid argument to do harm to anything else, so why do we accept it when it comes to the harm caused by consuming animal products? If someone said so much as they squish bumblebees or beetles whenever they see them because they think it’s nice and they just like doing it, we’d find that awful and unjustifiable, but it’s okay to slaughter a pig or separate mother cows from their calves and exploit their bodies until they’re no longer useful because some people think bacon and milk are nice and they just like it. We challenge those who support bullfighting as a form of entertainment, condemning the justification ‘because it’s a cultural tradition and is fun to watch’ while we eat beef burgers made from stressed, scared, unhappy animals ‘because it’s just what you eat and it tastes good’.

Ignorance is understandable, and I get that. There are plenty of people out there who genuinely have no idea what really goes on in farms, or the scale to which animal agriculture threatens the natural world and the planet we live on. Facts like those are, conveniently for the industry, hard to come by during everyday life. Even environmental organisations find it easier to preach environmental friendliness by encouraging people to give up their cars instead of giving up meat or dairy, despite the fact that the latter contributes to more greenhouse gases than the entire transport sector. But if you’re aware of the problem and you’re able to contribute even just a little to trying to end it; if you’ve seen the videos of animal cruelty, if you’ve read the facts, seen the documentaries or even just know that you feel uncomfortable with the idea an animal dying for your food, and yet still don’t want to even think about reducing your intake of animal produce ‘because it tastes nice’ then, well, as defensive as it can make people, that’s the very definition of selfish.

There are a lot of other reasons to be vegan out there, these are only a few of mine and I hope they’ve been a good read or if nothing else, given you something to think about. There are a lot of reasons to go vegetarian or vegan that I am still coming to terms with myself – for example, I still don’t consider myself ‘vegan for the animals’; I’m an environmental vegan because my first and most important goal (beyond not being cramped and bloated all the time, that is) is to reduce the harmful impact I have on our planet. My views are still constantly shifting though, and I find myself more and more leaning towards the ‘for the animals’ line of thinking, too, if only because I’ve come this far and I can’t justify to myself the decision to hurt or take a life for me to eat a meal anymore after going so long without.

Whether you’re trying to make a difference by reducing your animal product intake or you’ve given it up altogether, be kind to yourself and think carefully and critically about it. However you’re doing it and whatever the reasons, it’s a long journey and we’re all bound to make mistakes and to evolve along the way!

If you’re veggie or vegan too, what are your top reasons for making the change? And if you’re not, what are your thoughts?

5 comments

  1. I am not veggie or vegan, though I have worked on reducing my consumption of animal products, particularly red meat. My main reason for continuing to consume animal products is cost driven. The building block of veganism/vegetarianism are fairly cheap in my location (Atlantic Canada) but items like nuts, soy, tofu, most fresh produce even in season are not cheap at all and to switch to a wholly plant-derived diet would be extremely cost-prohibitive at this point in my life (early twenties, currently in a contract position until November, paying off massive student loans). And finally, I currently live in a rural community that is not friendly to alternative diets. I'm lactose-intolerant and have had a devil of a time finding dairy-free substitutes. My neighbourhood grocery store, one of a large chain across Canada, doesn't have a Natural Value section (what they call vegan/veggie foods). At all. There's a few random sprinklings of veggie/vegan friendly foods, but for the most part, very little.

    I also acknowledge I'm pretty selfish about it. Is that right? No, but it's where I am. At some point I intend to move to a larger centre, where I might consider doing a bit more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting! It's such a shame that so many vegan alternatives are inaccessible or expensive in so many places. I'm lucky enough to have pretty well-stocked supermarkets near me, but even then I miss out on a lot of things that other vegans eat as staples just because it's so expensive - if I could live on cashew nuts I would, but not at £8 a kilo... I think it can be a lot tougher in North America than it can be here too just because of how isolated rural neighbourhoods can be, and how food deserts are actually a thing in some areas which is (as far as I know) pretty unheard of here.

      Do what you can do and try not to feel bad about it. ♥ We can only do what our circumstances or what our health etc. can allow in the end.

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  2. I am one of these people who tries really hard to ignore the facts. I feel awful about my consumption of meat sometimes however it is really difficult to come out of your meat bubble and accept the truth.

    I was a vegetarian for many years and I am such a food phobic that I ended up malnourished when I was young. Eventually I ate meat again because I was fed up of being unable to eat in restaurants and was stuck on such a boring diet.

    Posts like this are pushing me more and more to get back to cruelty free living and not just cruelty free beauty. I look forward to reading more!

    Rebecca Claire, libfemblog.com xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so true and I agree with you every single issue you've brought up. I am in process of transitioning into a full on vegan, still have dairy if we go out for a meal. Since I've cut out cheese I actually could run much faster and longer as silly as it sounds! Also my boyfriend, who absolutely hates all this veganism thing, is starting to consider going vegetarian. So proud ahah. Well done mate, loved this.

    http://www.thisissimplyme.com/

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  4. I absolutely loved this post, and I agree with pretty much everything. I'm a vegetarian with an unnatural obsession for cheese, which is why I'm not a vegan yet. Frankly, I think it might be impossible for me to go fully vegan as I have a hard time trying to get enough protein outside of eggs, milk and cheese without spending so much money on meat substitutes and nuts. Hell, I'm still trying and failing to make seitan products successfully, and I've been vego for almost five years.

    Stephii Mattea xx

    ReplyDelete

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