Thursday, March 25, 2010
So many people ask me, what is a vegan? Or, what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? Well, I’ll tell you.
A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat animals – period. Yes, that includes those animals in the sea whom we call fish.
A vegan is someone who also doesn’t eat animals; furthermore, they don’t eat anything that comes from a living being, such as milk, eggs and honey. In addition, vegans strive to live a more compassionate life beyond just what they eat. Vegans seek to avoid all forms of human and animal exploitation, especially shunning anything that uses animals for clothing, personal care products, entertainment, experimentation, and anything else. Vegans seek cruelty-free living, not just by what they eat – or who they don’t eat – but through what they buy, who they choose to support, and where they shop. Ultimately, vegans choose a diet and lifestyle that mutually benefits humans, animals and the environment as a whole.
The planet’s climate is in crisis. Humans are maxing out on everything: food, water, land, oil, etc. Obesity rates are spiking and 10 BILLION animals are unnecessarily slaughtered every year just for “food.” This number doesn’t even include fish; those directly killed for food and those mistakenly caught in nets and discarded.
It’s time for a serious “gut” check! While confronting our stodgy American diet, we must also look at our choices and how they impact just about everything and everyone else around us. There are plenty of reasons to go vegan. Here are just seven of them:
1. Eat Delicious Food: An ever growing number of cookbooks, restaurants, websites and television shows have finally brought veganism to the mainstream. The vegan food market is growing rapidly with all kinds of meatless and non-dairy options. Many are learning that their once limited meat and dairy selections can easily be replaced, and their menus expanded, with a variety of dishes containing whole foods: grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. In addition, retailers like Whole Foods and Wegmans are also making it easier to identify vegan packaged foods using the letter “V” or labeling the product simply as “Vegan.”
2. Have Better Health: According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), low-fat vegan – plant-based – diets are the easiest way to trim excess weight, prevent diabetes, cut cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent and reverse heart disease, and reduce cancer risk. According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his best-selling book, The China Study, “No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein. People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.” Those who forgo eating animals also decrease the likelihood of contracting E-coli poisoning or any number of the deadly superbugs now resistant to antibiotics due to their overuse in farm animals. In fact, 70 percent of the antibiotics dispensed in the U.S. are given to farm animals.
3. Help the Environment: The planet can no longer sustain the unhealthy diets we have become accustomed to. Seventy-two percent of grains grown in the U.S. are strictly used to feed livestock for slaughter while only 11 percent of these grains go to feeding people. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef and 990 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, compared to just 25 gallons of water needed to produce one pound of wheat. In addition, livestock production accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, greater than all transportation combined. Commercial fishers have also devastated our oceans to such an extent that large fish populations are only 10 percent of what they were in the 1950s. And if all these numbers don’t change your mind about eating animals, consider that even the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has asked people to eat less meat. Choosing not to eat animals is one of the single, biggest ways people can help curb the effects of climate change in their personal lives.
4. Be a Kinder Person: The farm animals whom we deem “food” spend most of their short lives in horrid conditions before dying a cruel death. By removing animals and animal products from our diets, we help reduce unnecessary suffering in the world. Regardless of how we think and what species we are, we are all conscious beings who are capable of feeling pain and suffering. When we choose to end cruelty in our diets and lives, not only do our bodies feel better, but our heart grows bigger, too – figuratively, of course - with compassion and an awareness of our interconnectedness to all who share this planet with us. In addition to helping animals and the planet, going vegan also helps our fellow humans. If the grains grown to feed cattle were fed to the poor, we could easily wipe out hunger. Many low-paid slaughterhouse and factory farm workers endure the same severe lung infections and other ailments that farm animals suffer due to their overcrowding and lack of ventilation. The resulting noxious fumes also spread to poor communities surrounding these factory farms. Choosing to go vegan means no longer contributing to this misery.
5. Learn to Say “No:” One out of every three people in the United States is overweight or obese, and with diabetes on the increase and the planet in peril, now is as good a time as any to say “no” to what is neither healthy, nor sustainable, nor humane. Sure, vegans read labels more studiously than most, but this also helps them to identify what certain ingredients are made of and which ones are best to avoid. Knowledge is, indeed, power. By saying “no,” vegans acquire the discipline to choose what is good and healthy over what is simply easy – without giving up taste or enjoyment.
6. Change is Good: Transitioning to a vegan diet has never been easier and is a life changing experience in so many ways. Becoming vegan opens our world up to new restaurants, new foods, new people, new ways of cooking, new ways of living and new ways of seeing – not just ourselves – but how we relate and interact with all those whom we share this planet. All in all, veganism challenges us to be the best people we can be to ourselves and one another, and encourages us to never stop learning, growing and evolving. Change doesn’t come overnight, but small steps day by day put us on a path of enlightenment and self-discovery.
7. The More, the Merrier: Veganism is becoming more popular every day. In fact, many people in various fields have transitioned to a vegan diet. Here are just some notable vegans:
• Alanis Morissette (musician)
• Alice Walker (Pulitzer Prize winning author)
• Brendan Brazier (Pro Ironman triathlete)
• Carl Lewis (track and field Olympian)
• Dennis Kucinich (Democratic Ohio Congressman)
• Jane Velez-Mitchell (television news journalist)
• Jason Mraz (musician)
• Natalie Portman (actress)
• Russell Simmons (entrepreneur)
• Thom Yorke (lead singer for Radiohead)
• Woody Harrelson (actor)
Want to get started today? Order your free vegetarian starter pack at VegStarterPack.com.