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Eating Vegan: Why Bother?

Cow

After “I can’t live without cheese!” and “Where do you get your protein?” the biggest question omnivores have for vegans is “Why?” This might come off as a little bit defensive at times, but I think that often it’s just plain curiosity.

Why would vegans choose what seems like such a radical lifestyle?

The answer is different for everyone. Here are some of the main reasons vegans choose this lifestyle.

The Environment

Meat has a huge environmental impact. Our meat addiction is contributing to global warming and to world hunger.

Cows (and by extension meat, dairy, leather, and other cow-related products) are huge methane producers. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s even more harmful than CO2. Raising the number of cows that it takes to put steaks and burgers on everyone’s plates has a huge environmental impact, and cows aren’t the only culprits.

A UN report concluded that:

Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.

We’re learning more about the negative environmental impacts of meat all the time. A recent paper from researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada talks about more problems with livestock farming.

Hunger

We imagine those cows, pigs, and chickens out in pastoral fields grazing on grass and drinking from babbling brooks, but that’s not how it is at all. Livestock farmers need to feed those animals, and often their diet consists of grain, corn, and soybeans. This is terribly inefficient.

It takes around 16 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. How many hungry people would that grain have fed, if we’d dedicated that land to growing food for people instead of growing food for these animals?

Animal Rights

You can talk all you want about humane meat, but how humane can raising these animals be if you’re slaughtering them in the end? Even if they do live in that idyllic pasture setting I described above, is it really humane if, at the end of its life, you slit the animal’s throat or break its neck?

The fact is, though, most animals raised for their milk, eggs, and flesh don’t live this way. They’re raised in factory farms under horrendous conditions. Factory farming isn’t just terrible for the animals, it’s led to contamination problems. Remember that massive egg recall? Unsafe conditions in a factory farming environment led to that salmonella outbreak.

Health

Animal products are often high in saturated fat and in calories. While not all vegans eat a healthy diet, it can be much easier to make healthy choices when cheese, mayonnaise, meat, and butter are off the table.

I had very high cholesterol in my mid-20’s. It was so high that my doctors wanted to put me on cholesterol lowering medication. That seemed crazy to me. I was 25! Instead, I changed my diet. I was vegetarian at the time and cut out eggs and dairy. In three months, my cholesterol went from high to normal, and it’s been that way ever since.

I’d love to hear from some other vegans out there! What are your reasons for making the leap?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by foxypar4

6 comments
  1. Bea β“‹ Elliott

    Oh my reason was definitely animal interests. I was vegetarian for several years thinking that was enough. I never realized the connections dairy and eggs (leather, etc) had to “cruelty”. What terrible secrets I learned: suffocated male chicks, stolen calves… Such horrible things I was in the dark about.

    I’ll be vegan 3 years… Best decision I ever made. Great food, a healthier body… Doing my part for the planet. Vegan: It’s ALL good! ;)

  2. Justin Van Kleeck

    Definitely nice & concise. But the only one that really can pass muster with little skepticism and guffawing is the animal-suffering aspect. Almost no one would accept factory farming as acceptable, or condemn someone for choosing not to eat any animal products from factory farms. Of course, then comes the debate about “humane animal products”…which still misses the main point that vegans want to get out of the entire system of using animals as commodities, and to prevent any opportunity for unintentionally causing them suffering. Veganism is really the only way to feel mostly confident you can do that…though no lifestyle is completely free of impact.

    1. Becky Striepe

      That’s an excellent point – there is no such thing as an impact-free lifestyle. All we can do is be our best selves, and like you say I feel like veganism is a big part of that for me (and it sounds like it is for you, too!).

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