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Veganism: Good for the Animals, Good for the Environment, Good for You
In a country where food is centered around meat, in a place where many wouldn’t even dream of going without dairy, it can be hard, nearly impossible to see a different way of life. So many people around the world, especially in America, find no fault in their ways. Many don’t see the trouble in continuing their lifestyle of the consumption of meat, dairy, and other animal products. However, our country does a good job of hiding the truth about the food we eat. For many, the persistent belief that animal protein is necessary helps to lead thousands of people each year into fighting battles with chronic illnesses like cancer. Too many people think that it’s perfectly fine to continue going on this way. Not enough realize that by simply cutting out animal products from our diet, that we could be much healthier. And shouldn’t we, as the dominant species on this planet, have a responsibility to all the rest- to protect the weak, to help the struggling, to graciously and considerately use only the recourses that we need? Not to senselessly murder, and feast upon those who cannot defend themselves, not to exploit the recourses that we should be ever so grateful to have. So I ask of you this. Reconstruct your diet. Remodel your lifestyle. There is a chance to turn this around. My solution? A vegan lifestyle.
When people hear the word “vegan,” they often begin to panic. I understand. There are many questions and concerns about being a vegan. Some wonder, “how do I and my kids get the nutrients we need?” “Does going vegan even matter and make a difference for the planet?” “This had better be pretty dang good for me to give all animal products!” And the obvious one, “What if I love meat and dairy and am worried that I won’t love food as a vegan?” Let me clear up your concerns.
It’s a pretty well-known bit of information that animal products supply the nutrients we need to survive. Unfortunately, it’s much less understood that plant based foods supply even more of these nutrients. In truth, these plant-based products supply an abundance of essential nutrients, while giving you much less saturated fats. Many worry about the vegan's intake of protein. These are the same people who forget that meat and dairy aren't the only sources of protein on this planet. According to the Vegetarian Research Group, the only foods not containing protein are alcohols, fruits, and fats. Actually, beans and other legumes, dark leafy greens like chard, spinach and kale, as well as other green vegetables, tofu, nuts, and seeds provide more than adequate amounts of protein. Most believe that the cow's milk is the best source of calcium. Untrue: in fact, according to the China Study, the consumption of milk and other dairy products actually greatly increases the chances of getting osteoporosis. Some vegan sources of calcium include: leafy greens, broccoli, nut and soymilks, rice, and tofu. For many, the question of iron intake is pressing. Many females are iron deficient as well as males, without being on a vegan diet. However, by eating a plethora of different fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes and beans, iron deficiency can be avoided.
It is natural to worry that children might not get the right fuels they need from a vegan diet. However, children who consume a vegan diet receive more nutrients, fiber, and less saturated fat than omnivores. Also, children who have been raised vegan are more likely to develop good adult eating habits, and are less likely to become obese, According to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But there is a side to veganism that many are unaware of. These are the benefits to the environment. Did you know that for every one gram of animal protein produced, 18 grams of plant protein are made? Are you aware that it takes more water to produce meat than it takes to produce plants? Although this may sound strange, it's true. One of California's top water consuming crops is alfalfa. The alfalfa produced is used to feed the beef you buy at the store. In the Midwest, corn is produced in abundance for the same reason. Also, the livestock industry creates even more carbon emissions than even the transportation industry. By becoming vegan, you are reducing your carbon footprint. Not only is going vegan good for the environment, but prevents a lot of wasted lives. For every 5 tons of leather, only 1 ton will actually be utilized for clothing and other things. The rest...is sadly scrap? Cows aren’t the only ones going through human induced torture. According to PETA investigators, sheep are horrendously treated to harvest their wool. “…gentle sheep were punched in the face, jabbed with electric clippers, slammed into the floor and stomped on by impatient workers. Some sheep died from the abuse, including one whose neck was twisted until it broke.” Every year, hundreds of horses are forced to be pumped full of drugs to mask the pain in their hoofs, hips, knees, and heart, in order to race. Yet every day, more of these gentle beings are injured, and, unable to race, are sent to slaughterhouses where they are shot in the head, then, are left, still alive, to die a painful, cruel death. You may even see their meat for sale in the store. Animals all over the U.S., and even right here in Reno are subject to unjust and torturous experiments that none of our fellow earthlings should have to endure. Some of these experiments done on monkeys include making a mother unconscious while her baby looks on in panic and desperation. Rats, according to PETA, are whacked against surfaces in an attempt to kill them. This leaves them twitching, gasping, and struggling for life, before being frozen to death. Elephants in circuses like the Ringling Brothers are taken away from their mothers as babies. They are then chained, and forced into uncomfortable positions necessary for doing circus tricks. They are jabbed with electrified prongs, and beaten on the tender parts of their body like the face, regularly. These endangered animals naturally roam miles every day, but in the circus, they are forced to stand still in small cement enclosures, when not performing, causing them to develop painful arthritis.
For some, all of these benefits may sound great, except you may still be unsure that you will feel the same, and for athletes, train the same as when you consumed animal products. Fortunately, the myths about going vegan and not feeling strong are, well, myths. Take the Tarahumara tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. For generations, the tribe has sustained themselves off of plant-based foods, staying connected to the earth and the land. These people are born and bred runners, regularly running up to 100 miles at a time. This amazing tribe is living proof that a plant-based diet is a powerful one. On top of all this, going vegan is great for your body, and may even save your life. By giving our bodies simple foods that are easy to digest and utilize, we are preventing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers like liver and breast cancer.
Despite the evidence that a vegan diet is best for the planet and body, you may still be concerned that you won’t love food without animal products. Don’t worry; I don’t blame you for seeing meat as the food of life. After all, there are festivals all over the country celebrating the “greatness” of meat. Advertisers go crazy making milk and dairy products seem a necessity for the strength of bones. But don’t be so easily fooled. Look a little closer and you’ll see that vegan foods are just as tasty and beneficial. Still, I know that one day eating meat all three meals and the next day eating tofu for three meals can be a shock. Your transition to a vegan lifestyle doesn’t have to be this way. Nor do you have to eat tofu three meals a day. Try by edging slowly into being vegan. Eat a vegan sausage (which is personally one of my favorite snacks, and tastes great) with a glass of coconut, soy, rice, or almond milk (my favorite is almond) for breakfast. For lunch, go with (if you’re desperately craving a meat substitute) a tofurkey sandwich loaded with fresh veggies like pickles, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and spread with hummus and avocado. However, a meat substitute is not at all necessary for a delicious vegan meal. For dinner, try a brown rice, black bean or quinoa burger with avocado, mustard, ketchup and tons of veggies. Many automatically assume that because someone is vegan, the food they eat must be terrible. This is anything but the truth.
It’s time to stop denying the obvious benefits of a vegan lifestyle and start forgetting about the industries that tell health benefit lies, while hiding the truth about how our fellow animals are being treated. It’s time to start caring about the planet and the disastrous effects that humans have on it by making simple changes to our way of living. The time for going with the traditional, fattening, and blood pressure raising foods of America is over. Now is the time to act to save the planet from the impending doom it is facing today, and to save ourselves from the health conundrum that we have put ourselves in. Let us not wait until it is too late. Although many may try to deny the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, once you try it out, you may find that you feel more rested, stronger and unable to return to being an omnivore.
1. Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas M. Campbell. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2005. Print.
2. Norris, Jack, and Virginia Messina. Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-based Diet. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2011. Print.
3. Brazier, Brendan. Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo/Lifelong, 2008. Print.
4. "Animals Drowned, Frozen Alive in the Pet Trade." PETA's Animal Times 2015: n. pag. Web.
5. "Fads and Diets." HealthyChildren.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.
6. Mangels, Reed. "Protein in the Vegan Diet." -- The Vegetarian Resource Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.