This is an issue I’ve been struggling for many years now time now. I’ve been trying to switch to 100% plant-based diet, but I have to admit it’s been difficult. It’s hard to change if you’ve been eating this way for over 40 years, with my entire family against it, considering me crazy and irresponsible (as a mother) for even trying to give up meat, so it’s been a struggle.
I did manage to significantly reduce how much meat we all eat – which makes me somewhat happy – but I’m making a new commitment to limit it even further, and to become 100% vegan myself.
Here is why.
4 Compelling Reasons To Switch To Vegan Diet
1. Plant Eating for Health
Let’s start with what concerns us most – our own healthy body.
There seems to be a lot controversy surrounding the issue of whether or not animal foods are good for humans. Those who are in favor argue that meat and dairy have been an important part of the human diet for thousands (if not millions) of years. While it’s certainly true, many scientists argue that our anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and psychology all indicate that we are not carnivores.
A simple test about our true nature would be to put a child in a room with a lamb and a banana. Note which one he plays with and which one he eats.
“To say that carnivores eat meat does not accurately portray such creatures. Animals that live on other animals usually eat raw meat, straight from the carcass, devouring the muscle meat, organs, and sucking up the warm, fresh blood and other bodily fluids. They even crush, split and eat the smaller bones and their marrow. Most people don’t salivate at the idea of crushing the life out of a rabbit with our bare hands and teeth, and the thought of eating one in a freshly killed state is repulsive. The vast majority of people agree that if they had to kill the animals in order to eat, they would not eat meat ever again.” (from 80/10/10 by Douglas Graham).
Today, animal foods have a central place in the Western-style diet. Meat and dairy have grown into big industries, so there are also many interests at stake here – big corporations fighting for huge profits. These industries have successfully lobbied and influenced the government, resulting in favorable laws and subsidies – and resulting in advertising and marketing propaganda being fed to the general public of all ages, starting with children. They have been selling us the mistaken idea that we need meat dairy and eggs in order to be properly nourished.
Many of us have been raised believing that “we need our protein” and “we need calcium for strong bones”, as if that protein and calcium could only be obtained from one source: animal products. We even often use “meat” and “protein” interchangeably, as if they are one and the same, which of course, they aren’t.
Protein is a type of nutrient that can be obtained from various sources, not just animal products, but most (if not all) plant foods contain protein too. Some plant foods, such as greens or beans, contain a lot of protein that is easily available and healthy for humans.
There is lots of research out there that proves beyond a doubt that plant based diet is what humans were originally *designed* by nature to eat, and that these foods are actually best for our health.
Many scientific studies confirm that the plant based diet helps prevent many types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases, as well as slows down aging.
In addition to causing heart disease and cancer, animal products contain harmful contaminants—including bacteria, arsenic, dioxins, and mercury—that can affect our health both in the short and long terms.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Esselstyn, one of the world’s leaders in heart attack prevention, where he gives some interesting examples illustrating this issue:
“It is quite striking that even today if you are a cardiac surgeon and you are going to hang out your shingle either in rural China, New Guinea, Central Africa or the Tarahumara Indians in Northern Mexico, just forget it. You better plan on selling pencils because you are not going to have any cardiovascular disease because there is none. These cultures by heritage and tradition are fully plant based.
Yet by way of contrast when we look at the autopsies of our twenty year old GIs in Korea and Vietnam, fully 80% already had gross evidence of coronary disease that you can see without a microscope, though not enough to have their cardiac event yet. That study was repeated about forty years later in 1999. This time it was done in this country looking at young women and men between the ages of 17 and 34 who had died of accidents, homicides and suicides. Now the disease is ubiquitous. Everybody at that young age already had the foundation of coronary disease. So it is very discouraging to think that when you graduate from high school in this country, not only do you get a diploma but you also get a foundation of coronary disease.
We really have been doing some things wrong.
I think this is further accentuated from a very interesting phenomenon that occurred during World War II when the access powers of Germany overran the low countries of Holland and Belgium and they occupied Denmark and Norway. It was characteristic that the Germans would take away the livestock from these cultures, namely their cattle, their sheep, their goats, their pigs, their turkeys gone.
So now suddenly these Western European nations during the war years were deprived of animal food and dairy. It was quite striking to see the report in The Lancet, England’s premier medical journal, in 1951 by Dr.’s Strom and Jansen who reviewed the Norwegian experience with heart attack and strokes during those war years. It was quite striking from 1939 to 1945 deaths from stroke and heart attack in Norway absolutely plummeted, just plummeted.
As soon as there was a cessation of hostilities immediately back came the meat, back came the dairy, back came the heart attacks and back came the stroke.”
Although even most mainstream experts agree that most Americans would benefit from eating a more plant-based diet, meat and dairy producers successfully block any effective campaigns aimed at reducing the amount of animal products consumed, including actively interfering with the USDA Pyramid, and now “My Plate” recommendations for the American public, or suing public figures who dare to suggest people to eat less meat (Oprah comes to mind).
2. Plant Eating to Lower Your Environmental Footprint
Many people don’t concern themselves much about the climate change and the environmental destruction that is happening before our very eyes. We don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis and there is precious little information about these issues in the mainstream media.
However, let me ask you this question:
Why concern yourself with staying healthy, brushing our teeth, exercising, and other trivial tasks, if we destroy the only planet we know that is inhabitable for humans?
Or, why do we even worry about our children not drinking sodas and saving them from obesity, diabetes, and a host of other diseases – if we keep destroying this planet? Where will they go – is there a plan B?
Did you know that our entire food production system – from growing crops and raising livestock, through distribution, and waste removal – is responsible for approximately one-third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions?
While most people are well aware that meat and dairy consumption are associated with heart disease, cancer and diabetes; few of us realize that raising animals for food is one of the top contributors to the worst environmental problems around the planet at every level – from local to global.
Here are a few more facts for you it’s worth to know about:
– Livestock production alone is responsible for as much as 18 percent of the global climate change.
– Animal agriculture is a greater contributor to global warming than transportation, according to the United Nations. And due to their high methane output, cattle are one of the worst offenders of all farmed animals.
– The livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, about 40 percent more than the entire transport sector – cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships – combined (according to the UN).
– Nearly 10.2 billion land animals were raised and killed for food in the US in 2010. Globally, the number of land animals killed each year for food has exceeded 65 billion. Approximately 53 billion aquatic animals were killed for food in the U.S. in 2010.
– Animal agriculture uses enormous quantities of water, monopolizes land that could be more productive for crops, and contributes to deforestation of critical rainforest and other habitats.
– It takes over 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
– 55% of our fresh water is being given to livestock.
– Over 70 percent of the grain in the US is fed to livestock.
– 70% of rainforests have been slashed and burned in order to raise livestock.
– One acre of land, if used for vegetables, grain, and/or legumes, yields 10-20 times the amount of food in pounds than if devoted to meat production.
– Omnivores contribute seven times the volume of greenhouse gases that vegans do.
The UN summarized the environmental effects of the meat industry this way: raising animals for food (whether on factory or traditional farms) “is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. [Animal agriculture] should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale. ”
3. Plant Eating for Ethical Treatment of Animals
Animals suffer much more today than they did in the past. Up until the invention of modern farming, chickens would wander around the village, cows grazed the fields. The introduction of the factory farm changed all this. Today, the life of most meat animals is unimaginable suffering.
Welcome to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). CAFOs are animal feeding facilities that confine animals for more than 45 days in an area that does not produce vegetation during the growing season. In a CAFO, animals are crammed by the thousands or tens of thousands, often unable to breathe fresh air, see the light of day, walk outside, peck at a plants or insects, scratch the earth, or eat a blade of grass. They are notorious breeding grounds for disease and thus overuse antibiotics, and they pollute the environment in terrible ways. I won’t go into this in more detail, but if you are not aware of the conditions in factory farms, you should be.
Factory farms get away with it, not just because most of us don’t care very much where our food comes from. Many people know that things aren’t quite right with the factory farming, however, the conditions on these farms are so horrific that most people just don’t want to know. It’s easier to turn away, and our silent permission allows the horror to continue.
Here is what John Robbins says about our schizophrenic attitude that we have about animals: “On the one hand most of us love animals. We treat our pets very well in this country for the most part. We feed them. We pay for their food. We pay for their vet bills. They sleep on our beds very often. We consider them part of our families. We lavish our affection on them.
On the other hand though we call other animals livestock. We call them food animals. And we feel entitled to treat those animals with any manner of cruelty just so long as it lowers the price per pound.
There are laws in every one of the 50 states prohibiting some degrees of cruelty against animals. But in every one of the 50 states that legislation specifically exempts animals destined for human consumption. So if you are a meat producer or a dairy producer, you can treat your animals with any manner of cruelty that you wish and there are no legal restrictions on it as long as it’s considered standard farming practice the degree of suffering that the animals endure is not a factor in whether or not that is going to be allowed.
So routinely now factory farms treat animals with a degree of cruelty that if you did that to a dog or cat you would be put in jail but it’s called routine farming practice in industrialized factory farming. ”
That’s right. Farmers have carte blanche to treat animals cruelly as long as the animal is intended for the sale of food and the actions are considered common practice.
On top of that, several states are considering bills that make it illegal to film or photograph inside factory farms without permission. You can be named a terrorist and go to jail for exposing cruelty to animals!
Animals are much more intelligent and complex than most people realize, and scientists are providing more and more evidence of this all the time. They have a capacity to feel, form friendships, play, and suffer. They display personality, emotion, and though process. Pigs have the cognitive abilities to be quite sophisticated – more so than dogs, and more so than three-year-olds. Pigs can even play video games and are fond of walking distances of one to three miles per day. Chickens are inquisitive, have intelligence and can solve problems. Cows form complex social relationships, very much like dogs, licking their companion (animal or human) with their tongues out of love and comfort. Like all animals, cows form very strong maternal bonds with their children and therefore, on dairy farms and cattle ranches, mother cows can be heard crying out for their calves for days after they are separated.
I encourage everyone to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book will make you cry.
4. Plant Eating To Help End World Hunger
Study after study shows we can feed more people on a plant-based diet than on a Western diet that is centered around meat, eggs and dairy products.
The demand for animal products in developed countries drives resource depletion in developing countries as well as exacerbates poverty and hunger.
82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals that are then killed and eaten by more well off individuals in developed countries like the US, UK, and in Europe. One fourth of all grain produced by third world countries is now given to livestock, in their own country and out.
Globally, even with climate change issues and weather extremes, we are producing enough grain to feed two times as many people as there are in the world.
Conversion to plant based food systems for local regions in developing countries would feed more people more nutritiously with more efficient use of their resources, improve long term soil fertility, create economic opportunities, all of which would provide a path toward breaking the poverty and hunger cycle. Read more http://comfortablyunaware.wordpress.com/
The first step to switching to a plant-based diet is finding a good reason to do so.
The reasons I just gave you are something to think about deeply. This is something that shouldn’t be taken too lightly. Changing your eating habits can really have a big effect, so you need to consider why you are doing it. Those with good reasons are often able to stick to this change better than those without solid intentions.
The next thing to do is read up and do some research. That includes questioning the conventional wisdom about diet, the authors say. Don’t just accept recommendations from health authorities, the food industry, or the government, they advise. There are different levels of being a vegetarian and it takes different amounts of effort. Find out what it is all about and what you need to know about it. By learning these things you can brace yourself for what you are about to take on. It will also help you clear any questions that you might have and offer a good amount of guidance for you as well. During this time it will be good to look for forums or support groups which you can turn to during the process of becoming a vegetarian.
5. Plant Eating To Increase Food Safety
There are 76 million cases of food borne illnesses each year; 4 million caused by salmonella, 93% of which are caused by meat, poultry, milk and eggs. The remaining 7% of cases are from shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables. (Data according to : CDC – Center for Disease Control) The outbreaks are always reported in regard to which food source it was associated with. Typically, it is meat products, which is far under-reported or minimized. But there are many cases that involve plant-based foods, such as melons, tomatoes, salad mix, spinach, peanuts, and …sprouts.
Plants can only be contaminated by coming into contact with polluted water through irrigation, animal fertilizers, and using animal or human feces.Vegetables and fruits can become contaminated if placed in close proximity to or mixed with raw poultry, meat, or eggs, and unpasteurized milk, as all of these products have supply bacteria contaminants on them naturally.
Animal flesh and secretions used for food have a high propensity for distribution of pathogens, because they are found naturally on and within the animal itself during its life, as well as during the slaughtering process. This applies to all animal products, whether it is from livestock, dairy, or fish. This just adds to the ways that eating animals creates a depletion of our health. (Source: Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander)
How to Switch to Plant-Based Diet?
Whether you go vegan for the environment, for your health, or for animals, you have the power to change the world, simply by changing what’s on your plate.
With so many great vegan options, eating green has never been more delicious. Protein and calcium can be obtained from beans, broccoli, sesame seeds, and green, leafy vegetables. Include high-fiber foods in your diet. Whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oats, flax seeds, and vegetables supply fiber, which helps lower cholesterol.
The good news is – if done right – there’s no calorie counting to worry about with this vegan diet regimen. You can eat all the organic fruits, veggies, whole grains, and natural food you want. If you skip meat, fish, dairy, eggs, sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined flour, caffeine, diet sodas, and anything that contains chemicals that you can’t pronounce – you are likely not just to lose weight and improve your own health, but significantly reduce your environmental footprint as well.