Going Meatless is Stylish Because Compassion will Always be Chic!
I don’t eat meat. I rarely ever did. When I was young there were a few occasions when meat was presented to me, such as at Thanksgiving dinners, friend’s houses or at restaurants when I might have ordered fish or chicken every once in a while. However, these instances were infrequent and the older I grew, the less attractive animal products became. By the time I reached middle school, I made a natural, effortless, almost flow-like shift to veganism without making a conscious effort to do so. Veganism was the natural way to go for me, almost as if eating animals was never really an option. Perhaps it was because I hardly ate animal products to begin with, but as I reached my teens the idea of eating an animal seemed as gross as the thought of eating a bug. Eating something that once was living, breathing, thinking, and feeling and that died prematurely in an inhumane factory farm just seemed so unnecessary and cruel.
Meat is bad for us and that’s a fact. Red meats and processed meat consumption is correlated to an increased risk of all types of cancer, especially colon, breast and pancreatic cancer.[i] Studies also show that eating certain types of meat, like hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon and bologna increases the risk of depression and other mental health problems.[ii] Meat contains a heck of a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol, no fiber and far fewer antioxidants and other disease-fighting chemicals than plant foods. And most people have no idea that meat actually contains much more artery clogging fat than protein. We can certainly get enough protein on a vegan diet. The growing number of thriving vegans across the country, even vegan body-builders, are proving that vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are perfectly wonderful sources of protein and that no meat is required.
And these pigs are too cute to eat, right?
Meat is also toxic to the environment. I bet most people lack the knowledge that factory farming and the agricultural land used to produce animal feed takes up a whopping one-third of the earth’s total landmass.[iii] Or how about the fact that livestock account for over eight percent of global human water usage? I imagine most people don’t visualize fresh water being poured down the drain when they purchase a piece of meat, but this is pretty much what’s happening. The amount of water used to produce one pound of meat hovers around 2,400 gallons of water.[iv] To give you a visual approximation, that’s about 50 average sized bath tubes full per pound. This means that every time somebody forks over a few dollars to purchase a quarter-pounder from a fast food joint, twelve bath tubes full of fresh water are wasted. Yikes.
Factory farming is also the largest source of water pollutants, such as animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used to produce feed crops and sediments from eroded pastures. The production of animal products is responsible for two-thirds of human produced ammonia, a chemical that significantly contributes to acid rain and the acidification of ecosystems. I could go on and on about how livestock production contributes to the detriment of the environment and hastens the speed of global warming. Thankfully organizations like The World Preservation Foundation and EarthSave have developed websites loaded with scientifically validated articles by the world’s leading experts on the toxicity of factory farming to planet earth.
I understand there are certain circumstances in which eating meat is necessary for some people. Perhaps food is available in limited quantities and the only means of getting enough food on the table is something that comes from an animal. Perhaps meat is needed to provide enough nutrition to those unfortunate folks who do not have access to enough plant foods to eat. However, these situations are extremely rare in America and throughout the developed world. Most of us have access to grocery stores, farmer’s markets or other means of obtaining an abundance of hearty, filling, nutrient-rich plant foods. Thankfully, almost every one of us in America, we can choose to say no to animal products without risking nutrient or calorie deficiencies. And we can do so all while eating absolutely amazing, tasty vegan meals.
And that’s why meatless meals shouldn’t be considered weird and the plant-based lifestyle should be cool, classic and everlasting. It will always be chic to be kind to the planet and the animals we share it with and now we have access to more resources on planet-based living and the benefits of going meat free than we’ve ever had before. More and more people are learning about how animals are treated on factory farms and the extraordinary health benefits of eating more plant-based meals. Not everybody was like me growing up, but everyone can now make a change towards a healthier, kinder way of eating. I think we need to make planet-based eating a new way of life and a timeless thing that can start now, kinda like how Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress from Breakfast At Tiffany’s became an instance classic in the 1960s (I love fashion and couldn’t resist the analogy!). Obviously, the little black dress wasn’t always considered a classic, but when Audrey stepped out in that dress, it became an instant hit among her generation and for generations to come. That’s what planet-based eating can become now. It can start with a snap of the fingers after exposure to documentaries such as Vegucated and Earthlings or books like Eat To Live by Joel Fuhrman M.D., The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone or Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. We’ve got the resources and everything about following the planet-based way of life makes sense. It’s can be the new smart, sexy and cool.
When we make vegetarian or veganism a way of life, we are setting one phenomenal example for others that it can be done with little effort and a heck of a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction that we are helping ourselves, the planet and animals all at the same time. And just like the little black dress, with just a bit of exposure, planet based eating can be seen as more attractive and sophisticated among our peers. As more people gain exposure, others can see that it really does work. Friends may show curiosity, ask questions and want to adapt this lifestyle themselves.
The reasons to avoid meat are simply overwhelming when we combine the health and environmental benefits with the minimization of animal suffering. My motive for this blog post is for us all to remember the monumental difference we can make each day when we choose a meatless meal and why it’s just so darn classy and cool to do so. It’s easy to go through the day without remembering how much of a difference we can make when we choose to eat certain foods versus others, so sometimes we just need a reminder that we are doing something truly powerful. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing either. I may be totally meat free, but not everybody has to go completely vegan for us to see some real changes. We can be proud of ourselves for each meal we eat that is kind to animals and the planet.
We all deserve to acknowledge that our seemingly insignificant daily activities do affect the earth in powerful, tangible ways and that we can get others to make positive changes by setting a good example. To all who strive to make a difference, increasing our awareness about how going meatless benefits so many aspects of our lives is a great place to start. For all who have taken the initiative to go meat free or significantly reduce animal product intake, you deserve a huge pat on the back. You are chic, sassy and starting something that may just become timeless from here on out.
[i] Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein A, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172 (7): 555-563.
[ii] Akbaraly TN. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov;195(5):408-13.
[iii] Facts On Animal Farming And The Environment. One Green Planet. Nov 21, 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/facts-on-animal-farming-and-the-environment/
[iv] Robbins, J. 2,500 Gallons All Wet. EarthSave: Healthy People Healthy Planet. 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.earthsave.org/environment/water.htm