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Ok kids, today we’re going to learn about all the reasons to go vegan. Exciting, no?
Trust me, as a lifelong congregation member in the church of cheese, I needed to know all of this before I made the change.
For the final, proper time.
After about five aborted attempts. And that’s a conservative estimate.
It wasn’t even that hard. As it turns out, I can live without cheese (and I must, for vegan cheese is gross). I can check if the cream is ok at work (make some other sucker taste it). I can enjoy a Christmas dinner without Yorkshire puddings (and I must, for my experience making them was rather unsuccessful.
Btw, affiliate links will be marked with an asterisk like so*. My full disclaimer is in the footer. I will only link to products I own myself and use regularly unless I’ve expressly said otherwise. If I offer an alternative product (say, the product I have is no longer available) it will be based on the most similar product that is well-reviewed and at a similar price point.
There are three main areas of, er…existence in which veganism can have a positive impact: the environment, health and of course, the animals.
Btw, technically speaking veganism, in its true form, only really cares about the animals, but we’ll include people on a plant-based diet too.
(I’m yet to meet anyone who follows a plant-based diet whilst wandering around Seaworld in a pair of snakeskin pajamas.)
So, Caroline, I hear you cry. Educate me! What are these magical reasons to go vegan? So here we go:
1. Climate change
Don’t roll your eyes in the back, it’s happening, whether we caused it or not (we probs did).
64% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced as a direct result of animal agriculture; 51% directly due to livestock (cow farts, pig poo etc. etc.) and 13% from transporting said animals and their products.
According to the people over at Cowspiracy HQ, a plant-based diet can reduce your carbon footprint by 50%.
That is a hell of a lot for something that is, contrary to popular belief, extremely doable.
Especially in this day and age, where Quorn fish fingers and Gregg’s sausage rolls exist.
I have a whole post explaining this, if you’re sat there thinking ‘how does being vegan help the environment?‘
Not eating animal products is a really low price to pay for living on a planet with a breathable atmosphere.
2. Habitat loss
You know how we’re all mad about palm oil? It’s not the only reason rainforests are being destroyed and species forced out of their natural habitat.
Vast swathes of the Amazon have been cleared, 91% of this was to make way for animal agriculture – far more than palm oil.
To be clear, I’m not endorsing the use of palm oil (I’ve done a whole post on it though if you’re interested), I’m merely saying that it’s not the worst thing out there.
It’s like the demonisation of plastic straws all over again – find one contributing factor to an enormous mess and make everyone that can’t survive without that thing feel hella guilty. Not cool.
3. Fishless oceans
I loved Blue Planet and I LOVE David Attenborough, but I was dismayed, nay, SHOCKED when they devoted a whole episode to the sorry state of the seas and then neglected to mention that nearly half of the plastic and general rubbish being chucked into the sea is from the fishing industry.
Maybe they didn’t bother to mention it because it’s predicted that by 2048 there’ll be no fish left anyway so the problem’s kind of solved itself.
NB. If, like many people, you think fish are gross and are glad they’re dying, please remember that it is estimated that 650,000 other marine animals (dolphins, whales, all those guys) are killed every year as a direct result of fishing vessels. Sheesh.
I’m not even going to discuss the bycatch, except to whisper that an estimated 40% of fish caught is unwanted and unused.
63 billion pounds of fish a year, wasted.
(Try the Quorn fish fingers; they’re seriously good dupes).
By all means, eschew plastic straws and disposable coffee cups, but the biggest way to save the oceans is to stop eating the fucking fish.
I know, I know, they’re delicious, but the fake versions are improving all the time. If you’re a bit grossed out by the fake fish taste, remember that fish taste fishy because of the algae they eat. Said algae is then used as a flavouring for the fake fish. Neat, eh? And algae is green, and is therefore suuuper good for you.
4. Animals lives are wasted
So back in the day, farmers couldn’t afford to be wasteful. You bought a few hens and a cockerel and had chicks. The boys were eaten and the girls were kept to produce eggs.
See also cows, goats, and sheeps (milk though, not eggs, just in case anyone was unsure).
I’m not saying this was ideal, but erm, things have changed.
For farmers to make a profit nowadays, it can’t work like that.
Boychicks (Grammarly assures me that it’s all one word but I remain unconvinced) are popped through the grinder (which grinds ’em up, alive and everything) because they’re not bred for meat and therefore won’t sell.
Same with cows – male calves are shot at birth because they’re bony as hell and not good for beef. Holsteins are bred to produce shedloads of milk, and as a result, have inferior meat.
Isn’t that shamefully wasteful?
Try as we might, we can’t blame the farmers – they’re doing exactly what all businesses must do – responding to consumer demand.
Well, we can blame them, but it won’t help.
We got all up in arms about wonky veg being left to rot in the fields when the real wastefulness was happening behind the slaughterhouse walls.
5. Animals endure unnecessary cruelty
Anyone remember the F Word, Gordon Ramsay’s show?
In one of the seasons, he raised a couple of geese for meat. He arranged for a mobile slaughtermobile (?) to come and electrocute the birds in his garden. The poor sods hadn’t a clue what was happening.
Predictably, it got a load of backlash from the public, even though that was probably the least traumatic way for the geese to go, bar living to a ripe old age and slipping away in their sleep surrounded by their spouse and many goslings.
*eyes roll for days*
However good an animal’s life has been, slaughterhouses are horrific places to die. Faceless, frightening and impregnated with the stench of fear and death.
The workers are often traumatised and develop mental health issues, never mind the constant risk of injury from both the machinery and the animals.
It’s also a cold, hard fact that most farm animals have horrific lives. That vision of a cow standing in a field eating grass all day is a rather edited image. For a start, if we raised all cattle on green pastures we’d be in more of a pickle environment-wise than we already are.
I would urge to watch documentaries like Earthlings and Land of Hope and Glory if you want to see the evidence for yourselves. I personally haven’t, because they make me cry, but if I was having trouble becoming vegan and loved animals, I’d force myself to watch them. We owe the animals that.
6. Better skin
Let’s move on to more tangible benefits, shall we?
Dairy is a nightmare for the skin. I don’t know why, and when I googled why, I found a lot of statements that I don’t think were properly researched, so I’m just going to state the facts: a lot of people with acne find it improves if they eliminate animal products (especially dairy) from their diet.
In the interests of transparency, It should be noted that some people notice no difference at all.
Here is a link to an article written by a doctor about why veganism is great for the skin. I picked it because it’s not sensationalist and seems fairly sensible.
Personally, I have v well-behaved skin, except it likes to go hilariously red at inopportune times. Veganism did not alleviate this.
You know why veganism did do though? Made my hair grow like a weed. Strange no? On head, eyebrows, lashes, the lot. It’s either going vegan or I’m turning into a werewolf.
Which would be most inconvenient for a vegan.
7. Hit your 5 a day, no probs
Avocado and/or tomatoes on toast for breakfast, a mid-morning apple, some veg soup or beans on toast for lunch, salad with tea…
When I was just veggie I ate shockingly few fruits and vegetables. I just ate a lot of bread, cheese and Lind McCartney cheese & red onion plaits. They used to do vegan sausage plaits but they don’t any more but it’s fine and I don’t even care.
Now I don’t even have to try. Fruit and veg are just…there. I have three of my five a day in my breakfast smoothie (ok, that’s the most pretentious sentence ever, and I apologise). Another in my inevitable beans on toast lunch. Chips, sausages, and salad for tea add another two or three depending on the size of the salad.
Five a day, done.
8. Fibre, fibre, fibre
Everyone becomes a nutritionist when you tell them you’re vegan. Protein, calcium, iron, blah blah blah.
I read How Not To Die by Michael Greger.
Christ, what an eyeopener. I highly recommend it, even though I don’t follow much of what he says.
But I do eat a lot of fibre, even if I also eat a lot of Tesco Free From rocky road.
Fibre, it turns out, is instrumental in preventing a few kinds of cancer. Fibre’s one of those things the armchair nutritionists (that inevitably crawl out the woodwork when you say you’re vegan) never seem to mention.
BECAUSE IT COMES FROM PLANTS.
And only about 4% of Americans have enough. I don’t know about here in the UK, but I’m not sure we’re any better.
Why do we need fibre (apart from the cancer thing)?
Er, to poo, obvs, but it can also help prevent heart disease and diabetes.
It also fills you up, so if weight loss is your goal, let fibre be your friend.
A quick world of advice though – too much fibre too soon can lead to bloating. In my first few weeks of being vegan I ate a lot of bread and chickpeas (I found a delicious recipe for a ‘tuna’ salad made from chickpeas and ate lots) and was extremely uncomfortable. It passed though (hehehe), and now I can eat beans three days if I choose (which I don’t. Who would?).
9. Feed the world
Now, I’m not entirely sure this one is as cut and dry as it first appears, but I believe the maths is sound even though the distribution system is lacking.
Basically, if we stopped farming animals and only grew plants, we’d have enough food to feed the world.
Mathematically, that’s true.
However, where there’re war and corrupt governments, there’s famine – look at the situation in Yemen. There is food, but no one can afford it.
In some parts of the world, droughts have been so bad that no food can grow. If, as it is suspected, climate change is exacerbating the problem, then yes, indirectly, stopping animal agriculture could feed the world.
Apparently, we could free up about 76% of farmland if we only grew crops to feed people, rather than livestock. The freed land could return to whatever it was before. In the case of the UK, that’s oak woodland. Trees are great for not only taking in carbon, but also for providing homes for wildlife, and even reducing flooding (trees are v thirsty).
10. Feel better
Tbh, I didn’t feel much different when I first went vegan.
(Except I ate waaay too many beans that first fortnight and was bloated as hell, but we don’t talk about that)
Other people boasted benefits such as sparkling eyes, bags of energy and sleeping like a baby for fourteen hours a night.
I felt better though. Just a bit, on the inside.
You see, I’d tried going vegan a few times before, but it had never stuck. I knew about the horrors of the dairy and egg industry but couldn’t quite shake the addiction.
I’m not one of those vegans that hates meat and eggs. Sausages were my favourite food and I LOVED cheese. But finally on 13th July, 2017 (I think. It might have been August) I finally made the switch, and the peace of mind it gave me was astounding.
By the way, I still love cheese. I wish vegan cheeses were comparable to dairy cheese every day. Sometimes multiple times. But I don’t eat them. It’s not hard as such. It’s more a kind of envy – like when you see someone with a slide in their house on Pinterest. Do I wish I could have it? Yes. Would I risk someone else’s life for it? No.
11 – It’s unnecessary to eat animals
Therefore, to do so is immoral.
This is an important one, because it stops all those annoying ‘lions tho’ responses.
So I’m just going to say it once (lies, I have a whole post on it): lions need to eat meat to survive, and that’s ok. If you need to eat meat to survive, THAT’S OK. But the vast majority of us don’t. We’re just greedy bastards that like the taste of meat.
12 – Improved heart health & can reduce other diseases
Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not To Die* is the best resource if you want to learn how, er, not to die. Not only is a plant-based diet EXCEPTIONAL for your heart, but it can also help with the prevention of certain cancers, such as bowel, breast, and lung, and can even reverse type 2 diabetes.
It’s not even a complicated, expensive diet. It basically boils down to eating more broccoli, mushrooms, and flax seeds. AND THEN YOU’LL LIVE FOREVER (ok, there’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s v much the gist).
13 – There’s no such thing as humane slaughter
So stop kidding yourself. The process of slaughtering animals is so traumatic that there are abnormally high rates of suicides among slaughterhouse workers. So even if you don’t care about the animals (gross), at least care about your fellow man.
14 – Align your values
You know that killing animals unnecessarily is wrong. Hell, you’ve maybe even signed a petition to stop the Yulin dog meat festival. Perhaps it’s time to actually live in a way that aligns with your morals.
There is no difference between eating a pig and eating dog in terms of whether or not it’s ‘right’. In the West we don’t eat dogs – instead, we keep them as little friends in our house, and would never DREAM of eating them.
It horrifies us, but not because eating a dog is worse than eating a pig, but because of the way we view dogs and pigs.
Dogs are friends, pigs are food.
If someone from another culture dares to challenge our cultural norms, out come the petitions.
15 – Save money
If you eat a relatively unprocessed, super healthy, whole foods plant-based diet, you’ll save money hand over fist. Read all about being a vegan on a budget here. Not only are a lot of the plant-based foods cheaper, but they also have a longer shelf life than their animal-based counterparts.
If you go out and buy a lot of fake meat and fake cheese, then you’re probably going to end up out of pocket, but stick to fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains and your bank account will be ever so grateful.
Say you have a cheese sandwich every day for lunch. Now replace that with beans on toast, and you’re probably spending about the same. BUT consider how much more fibre and protein are in the beans. It’ll probably see you through until teatime, rather than having to nip out for a quick chocolate bar.
Let’s wrap things up here
Ok, so hopefully I’ve given you a few things to think about and at least one of these reasons to go vegan will resonate with you.
If you’re interested in saving the environment this post may be of interest to you.
If you really want to go vegan but are worried you’ll have to learn to cook, try this post (hint: oven chips are vegan).
Should you be desperate to go vegan but you need someone to hold your hand throughout the process, then sign up for my free email course below. It’s only five days and it’ll give you a great insight into everyday life as a vegan. It’ll also remind you that you’re trying to go vegan (I forgot a few times on one of my many failed attempts).
Any great nuggets of advice? Please leave suggestions, recipes, anything really, in the comment section below.