Three years ago, my wife and I decided to be vegan and maintain a plant-based diet. Prior to that, I technically was a ‘pescatarian,’ but would often call myself a ‘flexitarian.’ Sometimes I’d eat meat, others times I wouldn’t. Prior to that, though, I was like a professional meat eater. My personal food pyramid was all meat with an apple here or there . After reading a lot of books, articles, and documentaries as well as consulting with friends who are vegan, we decided it was imperative for us to make a change to our diet.
As I have tried to formulate the reasons why I maintain a plant-based diet, I thought it would be good to share them for others who might be interested. I have found people get quite passionate about what other people should or should not eat, which is understandable. Changing the way one eats, changes one’s life style and that is not an easy change. I’m not writing to convince you to become vegan, I only want to share my journey and answer some of the questions I often get.
Maintaining a plant-based diet is a lot easier than we had expected once we retrained our brains to look at ingredient labels and question exactly what was in our food. And, being vegan does not mean we only eat cardboard. We eat good, I must say, we simply do not eat any animal products (meat, fish, dairy). And, we eat plenty of protein, in case you were wondering. For someone who has little self-control with donuts, m&m’s, and all sorts of other sweets (gummy bears have animal product in them I’ve learned), being vegan has become a built in self-control method for me.
I have settled on four main reasons why I became vegan. They are health, environmental, ethical, and spiritual. Although I’ll introduce each below, this won’t be a long post. There are countless resources out there to help answer your questions, this is simply my sort of elevator speech.
My doctor suggested that in the coming years I would probably need to get on high cholesterol medicine since it runs in my family and mine was always borderline concerning. My total cholesterol was usually over 260. After being vegan for three months, I was retested and my cholesterol dropped to 205. Some vegans have cholesterol lower than 75 because they are not putting any cholesterol into their bodies.
The World Health Organization has recently classified processed meats as carcinogenic. There are also studies that show a plant-based diet can reverse cancer growth and heart disease, eliminate autoimmune diseases, lower cholesterol, and more. I strongly recommend the book The China Study. It blew my mind. After reading it, I went vegan cold turkey (odd pun, now isn’t it).
I’ve come to believe that it is impossible to care for our environment without caring for what and how we eat. The pollution from the industrial food production in our country, such as raising cattle for instance, out pollutes all cars, trains, boats, trucks, and airplanes...combined. The waste from the animal industry poisons communities, waterways, and more, while the amount of water used to raise one cattle to maturity is staggering.
Sure, I turn the lights off, walk or bike when able, compost, and recycle, but maintaining a plant-based diet is, by far, the greatest way to currently care for the environment and decrease one’s carbon footprint.
There are also ethical reasons why I decided to become vegan. This is the gross part, but we all must face it or we simply chose to be willfully ignorant. We currently raise and slaughter over 10,000,000,000 animals each year; that's ten billion. This doesn’t include fish and sea animals that are caught through industrial fishing methods, such as bottom trawling that uses nets as big as a 747 aircraft to catch anything and everything. Most chickens, cattle, turkeys, and pigs are caged in CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, where they endure horrific living conditions. They are also pumped with countless chemicals and antibiotics, which are then transferred to us as we consume them.
The way we slaughter animals is anything but humane, ethical, or sanitary. Many animals are still alive or conscious as they are put in scalding baths and butchered. Sadly, fish and sea creatures are unable to adjust to the water pressure as they surface because nets are drawn up so quickly. There are even reports of the negative impact on the emotional and mental well-being of those individuals who work in these environments. Horrific, yes. Google it and read more at your own risk.
We also have enough land to grow ample amounts of food so every living person can have enough to eat. Instead, the majority of our crop is fed to the billions of animals that we then eat. We’ve turned raising and eating animals into an industry; a beautiful creation into a commodity.
When I think over the reality of our current food industry, things aren’t right. They are not working as they should. For so long, I chose to be willfully ignorant and maintained an ethical slumber because I knew I would have to make a change. When I think about all of these reasons, what I eat and how I care for creation becomes a spiritual issue. It is one way I can honor and care for all of creation; humans, nature, and animals. It is one way I can live out my spiritual life to be a co-creator and co-laborer with the Divine. And it is one way in which I must live a life counter to the culture.
I’ll confess, though, I will still kill that disgusting looking spider in my bathroom...I’m not perfect, but am working on it.
If you’re looking to learn more, I recommend the following books and documentaries.