List of reasons why I am 99.5% vegan

Categories: Eco-Conscious Living Tips,Uncategorized,

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“We rarely, if at all, challenge the fundamental ways in which we humans approach the environment and our belief in our rights to consume it as a resource.” ~Dr. Nik Taylor, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Flinders University, Australia

The earth is becoming quite a place to live in. Let’s begin with my ride today on LA’s 405 freeway. It was a summer Sunday and it should not have been an overflowing seemingly toxic wasteland of cars inching along, but it was. And it gave me time to think. We were barely moving and neither was the smog enveloping us.

If there was ever a time to contemplate the enormous effects humans are having on the planet, it is now and it was in that moment. The world we live in now is riddled with complex environmental problems, which is why it is paramount to address not only what we are dealing with, but how we can all make tangible contributions to improving our world which aren’t difficult to implement. It would be too easy to feel hopeless, but that is not a choice we have to or should make. We shouldn’t feel hopeless because there is no need to and hopelessness doesn’t help, after all. Making lifestyle changes does!

What I’ve been told and what I have seen amongst people that follow me and my friends working and blogging in the health arena is that people don’t like posts about climate change or the health of the environment. I get a lot more “likes” on Instagram and Facebook when I post a recipe or a selfie {not kidding} than when I post about anything related to a topic that is much much muchhhhhhh more important than a recipe or a a fleeting photo. MUCH MUCH MUCH.

Guys, let’s get down to serious business. Anyone who cares about the cleanliness of their body should care about the cleanliness of the environment too. Loving our bodies and loving the planet are similar because they both involve showing respect for life, maximizing our happiness, and enhancing the quality of our days. Thankfully, the reality is that the foods best for our bodies are also best for the planet. It’s a win-win!

THE DOMINO EFFECT IS POWERFUL

We can feel empowered that yes, we can take concrete, yet not overly burdensome actions and yes, those differences can add up exponentially. What is required to make a significant difference does not have to affect the pleasure we get from food or out of life either. All that is required is an open mind, a bit of brain retraining and perhaps a Yelp search of the most delicious vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurants, ice cream shops {yes, they exist!} and supermarkets near you.

How can each of us reduce our environmental footprints the most? Go plant-based or even better, vegan.* The wonderful news is that it’s not as hard as you would imagine. You can beat those annoying double bacon cheeseburger radio ads!

Below is a list of reasons why I am 99.5% vegan {because I admit to rare slipups too}:

What the numbers tell us. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization called Livestock’s Long Shadow, at least 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture (i.e. feed and animal production, processing and transport). This is a striking statistic meticulously calculated by the UN, but upon combining with other figures, such as the number of animals killed each year for human consumption, this statistic becomes even more startling and to some, heart-wrenching.

Normal is not always best. “It remains the case that meat and dairy consumption are ingrained in modern (western) societies; they are so taken for granted as to be believed normal and natural.” But seemingly “normal” and “natural” does not always mean should. Normal is a word that connotes what the majority of people are doing. It does not connote how we should behave to maximize joy and health and minimize world suffering.

Flipping words on their heads can be a good idea.  The word vegan is becoming more accepted than it ever has been, but if the US population is similar to the UK population {which I certainly believe it is!} there is still a huge stigma and negative connotations associated with the word. Some parts of the country are more accepting, but overall we have a long ways to go before veganism is likely to become normal and mainstream.

An interesting, yet perhaps a bit outdated study was conducted in the UK in 2007 employing a pool of roughly 400 articles which used the terms vegan, vegans and/or veganism. Perhaps not surprisingly, only 5.5% of the articles were coded as ‘positive,” while 74.3% were coded as ‘negative’ and the rest were ‘neutral.’ The disparaging discourse fell into 6 broad categories:

1) Ridiculing veganism
2) Associating veganism with asceticism
3) Imagining veganism as impossible to sustain
4) Thinking of it as a fad
5) Describing vegans as oversensitive
6) Describing vegans as hostile

These assumptions are all culturally based and associations we are taught from a young age. Long standing, entrenched and powerful social forces which are in our best interest to deconstruct for a multitude of reasons. While I don’t believe that 100% animal product avoidance is necessary to result in massive improvements in society, our health and the environment (and of course, animal rights), deconstructing the negative associations we have with veganism may be the most effective means of communicating why these antagonistic beliefs are hurting all of us.

The taste factor. How important is the taste of animal products to omnivores?  Polls point in the direction of no, but friends say yes. Let’s tackle this one! Polls have indicated that taste isn’t a primary or even secondary concern of omnivores when it comes to discontinuing animal product consumption. This information shocked me as I had assumed that the taste of meat and dairy was a humungous, gigantic, primary, likely #1 reason why omnivores decided not to significantly reduce consumption or become a vegetarian or vegan. I thought it was all about the taste. According to polls, I was very, very wrong.

“The various authors of research into this area are all at pains to point out that bringing about any large scale changes in meat-based diets can only occur if the structural and cultural aspects of meat consumption are deconstructed and critiqued. They point out that there is a belief that humans are supposed to eat meat, that it is natural to do so, and that this is particularly the case for men who, as a result tend to have a higher environmental impact due to food choices. They also demonstrate that meat eating practices are so ingrained in our culture that those who choose alternatives often face considerable prejudice and pressure from others who do not support their choices. This leads the authors of one report to conclude that “structural support for a communications campaign should come from a broad base” if attitudes are to be changed at a cultural level.”

The culture factor. 

If from birth you are taught that eating meat is the right way and everyone else around you walks the belief talk with meat-eating at meals and social gatherings, it is not an easy street to contest the meat-eating walk of everyone around you. One of the most effective tools we have now is flipping this cultural belief on its head. We should twist it and turn it and crush it.

The convenience factor.

Psychology Psychology Psychology

This isn’t and shouldn’t be a matter of labels. Of course the term vegan is needed to distinguish those who completely avoid animal products from those who don’t, but what labels can do is alienate or separate people into groups. This should not be the case. I like the word plant-based better than vegan because it is less of an all or nothing term and leaves some leeway for imperfection, which works better for some people. Significant reductions in animal product consumption has enormous benefits and there should be no alienating of people. As for vegans, I am fortunate to know probably more than most. I would say that vegans possess personalities as variable as the population at large, yet I know none that are hostile. As for the word oversensitive, I don’t think caring about animal welfare should be considered oversensitive. Most of the vegans I know are also the most empathetic and kind I’ve met. Of course I am generalizing to my own life, but I believe that sensitivity is not a bad thing and we cannot care too much.

Some people don’t care about their health as much as others do. Some people don’t care as much about animal welfare. Some people don’t care as much about the environment. But for me, they all add up and they add up monumentally. I care about posterity too and setting a good example for other people. Most people don’t realize that livestock production is the #1 contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As Bill Nye the Science Guy recently proclaimed in his

Omnivores are not passionate about being omnivores. The research we have indicates that omnivores are not as resolute or passionate about consuming meat as vegetarians and vegans are regarding abstinence. “Most meat-eaters display some form of ambivalence towards eating meat; in one study this was as high as 69% of respondents reporting ambivalence about their meat consumption, compared to just 4% of vegetarians reporting that they felt ambivalent about abstaining from meat consumption.” When omnivores did indicate concern about giving up meat, it wasn’t for taste, it was because of nutrient concerns.

Dismantling the health concerns. This ambivalence tends to centre on perceived health related issues with respondents to surveys indicating they have concerns over the health implications of meat-eating. Despite this, meat-eating remains a routine, and indeed culturally embedded, part of the diet for many humans. Reasons given for meat-eating are both intrinsic (e.g. taste) and extrinsic (e.g. social and peer pressure). Reasons for adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet are broader and include ethical and moral motivations, disgust and/or dislike of the taste/texture of meat, health concerns over meat consumption, and peer or family pressure.”

Why I educate myself. I educate myself because failing to do so will leave the world worse off. If I choose pleasure of foods containing animals over educating myself about how eating them regularly hurts myself, animals and the planet, then I am doing myself a huge disservice with my own life and how I affect the world around me. I would be hurting myself, hurting other creatures and polluting the Earth if I did not read and learn about why eschewing animal products is connected to a better, cleaner world with less suffering.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Is it really that difficult not to eat foods with animals? Or at least significantly reduce consumption? I don’t believe this is an all or nothing issue. What if eating a plant-based diet let’s say 90% of the time was a far superior alternative to the attitude of “veganism is not for me!” or “meat is just too tasty!”? I’ve found that the less people eat a food, the less the food is craved too. This has been found in studies as well.

You can become a more adventurous eater. And it can be fun! It turns out that more traditional eaters, the ones who viewed meals as, “meat and two veg” for instance, were less likely to give up meat than those who were more adventurous and turned to ‘combined’ meal formats, such as pasta dishes. I think adventure is calling your name!

Do animals taste so much better than plants that all other factors must be outweighed? At least when we educate ourselves we are making conscious choices about how what we eat every single day truly does add up enormously. Lately I have been hearing comments from people in my life revolving around the same concept, which can essentially be wrapped up in the words, “Animals just taste too good.” Yet, I find it hard to imagine that animals taste so amazing and plant-based meals taste so subpar that improved taste in a fleeting moment overrides all aforementioned values. I’ve also found that the less a food is eaten, the less it is desired. The opposite is also true. The more a food is eaten, generally the more it is desired. Especially when it is mouthwateringly delicious!

Yes, food deserts exist, but most of us have access to plentiful quantities of fruits and vegetables. I know how fortunate I am to be able to eat delicious plant-based meals. I know not everyone can. Food deserts exist, even in the U.S., and world hunger is a serious issue around the world. I don’t claim to be naive or sheltered when it comes to both national and global food availability and scarcity, but most of us in the U.S. do have access to fruits and veggies, albeit not always organic. Most of us do have a choice to eat plants or animals.

Peripheral benefits. The crazy thing is that our actions really do have unexpected chain reactions that we wouldn’t expect or realize unless pointed out to us. In the case of giving up meat, an unexpected chain reaction has been shown to be fewer cases of violent crime. Research and anecdotal evidence has found that familial violence as well as other crimes and social problems are higher amongst populations of factory farm workers. Fascinatingly, yet sadly and not altogether unsurprisingly,

“When researchers examined arrest rates across a number of communities comparing those where either a large animal-processing facility or a large-scale manufacturing plant (with similar sized workforce and demographic factors) was present they found increases in arrests for violent crime (including rape and other sex offences) were only observed in communities surrounding meat works. This led them to conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support the existence of the ‘Sinclair Effect’—i.e., that the unique and violent nature of the work involved has a deleterious effect on employees.”

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