My diet is what I would call “veganish”. I eat a plant-based diet 99% of the time with a slip every once in a while. My transition toward a vegan diet began about ten years ago when I became mostly vegetarian and then about two years ago, after I got over my cheese addiction, I moved to a predominately vegan diet.
When someone learns that I eat a plant-based diet, they often ask me why. I am cautious when answering this question because I never want people to think that I judge what they eat because I don’t. One of the reasons I am vegan is because I love animals. However, I am fully aware that people can love animals and still eat meat. Everyone should eat how they want to. My decision is personal, and these are my reasons:
- It evolved – About ten years ago, my husband wanted to start eating a vegetarian diet and after some hesitation I agreed. It took a while to learn how to cook as a vegetarian rather than as a former meat eater. At first, I swapped meat substitutes into my old recipes and over time I learned how to cook quinoa, tofu, and beans, and how to incorporate more vegetables into my entrees. As I developed my vegetarian cooking skills, my taste buds changed. I started wanting more vegetables, beans, and grains and wasn’t interested in meat anymore.
- Health – The plant-based diet has been shown to not only prevent but also reverse heart disease. Furthermore, it can help reduce other diseases such as Type-2 diabetes. About two years ago my husband had his cholesterol checked and it was higher than I liked, so I wanted to modify our diet in an attempt to lower it. At the time, we were eating a lot of salads with hard boiled eggs and cheddar cheese. The first thing I did was cut out the eggs and cheese. The eggs were easy for me to omit because I was never a big egg lover. The cheese was not so easy. I was like so many people who say, “I could never become vegan because of the cheese.” However, after avoiding cheese for a while, I ate some and discovered that I was not that enamored anymore. Once I had that realization, it was easy to go vegan.
- Climate change – Methane and carbon dioxide are two examples of greenhouse gases. These gases absorb and trap heat from the sun in the atmosphere, which increases the planet’s temperature and is a major driver of climate change. Factory farming is a big producer of greenhouse gases. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization states that 14.5% of greenhouse gases are due to livestock, deforestation, producing food for the animals, and the energy needed to produce the meat (Statistic taken from the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation website). Below are some ways that factory farming impacts climate change
- Livestock produce methane through (to put it bluntly) their burping, farting, and manure. Methane is more destructive than carbon dioxide because over a 20 year time frame, it holds 84 times more heat (Statistic taken from ideas.ted.com)
- Factory farm animals are fed a mixture including corn, soy, and wheat. We grow a vast amount of these foods in order to supply the number of livestock in the United States. Based on our current agricultural system, these foods require a good deal of fertilizer to be grown. Producing fertilizer results in a large amount of carbon dioxide.
- To create room for the livestock, trees are being cleared from rainforests and other lands. Trees have an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide. By reducing the number of trees, we are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, we are eliminating habitats that can lead to an increase of endangered species and a decrease in animal diversity.
- Nitrogen found in manure and fertilizer can end up in the water supply. This can affect our health as well as kill fish by decreasing the amount of oxygen in rivers, lakes, etc.
- Animals – In my house, or what we sometimes call our zoo, we have two cats and a dog. We love them very much and they each have their own personalities. Our cat Maisy acts like a queen who should be served and is bitchy to everyone but my husband and me, and sometimes even to my husband and me. Our cat Scarlet is the sweetest goofball who loves to run around the house, especially at 2 am and tries to get into cabinets. She is not the smartest, but she is the cutest. And our dog Dodger melts our hearts every day. He is a ball of love with a bit of anxiety, is the best cuddler, and does not realize that at 90 pounds he really should not be a lap dog. They all need love and they all can feel pain. The same way I would not harm my animals, I do not want to harm a cow, chicken, or pig. They also feel pain. I especially do not want to support today’s practice of factory farming, which entails cramming animals together under cruel conditions until they are brutally killed.
- Antibiotics – Factory farm animals are given a large amount of antibiotics to combat the bacteria present due to their living conditions. 70% of antibiotics used in the United States are provided to farm animals (Statistic taken from the Farm Sanctuary Blog). Some animals develop drug resistant bacteria and we can become exposed to them when we handle meat or eat meat that is not properly cooked. Currently, there is a rise of “superbugs” — bacteria that are becoming resistant to all antibiotics — which is putting us at risk of a major health crisis.
Overall, I am happy with my decision and I love this way of eating. There is a plethora of food options and the food is delicious. This works for me. If you are interested in learning more about plant-based diets there is a vast amount of information out there. One that I recommend is Rich Roll’s podcast. Rich is a plant-based ultra-athlete, author, and wellness advocate and interviews many guests who intelligently articulate the benefits of veganism. If you want to find great recipes, check out Deliciously Ella’s website.