Why Am I Vegan?

Written by Heather Lounsbury

Why am I vegan?

This is a question anyone who has an unconventional diet hears a lot. Why? How? It must be so hard. I could never….

Whether you're vegan, kosher, gluten-free, on a diet, or even just avoid red meat, we all hear it.

My short answer?

For the health of animals, myself, and the planet.

The long answer? Well, it's below.

I’m not writing this to sound preachy. It’s just that I’ve been asked this so many times, almost as many as times as I've been asked, Where do you get your protein? So I've decided to write an article about it.

I’ve also had my own struggles from transitioning from vegetarian to vegan for many years. So I understand "scariness" of the commitment. I hope these reasons inspire some of you to make changes to improve your life and those around you.

1. Animal welfare reasons: 

  • Just the number of animals consumed is astounding. Over 10 billion land animals and 53 billion sea animals are killed every year in the U.S. alone.
  • Over 200 million male chick offspring are killed annually shortly after birth, because they can't lay eggs and are not considered the right genetic breeding for consumption. They are usually ground up alive or suffocated in plastic bags or foam.
  • Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated to produce milk non-stop for about 5 years. Then they're slaughtered. Their offspring are taken away from them usually within 48 hours. The males are used for veal and the females become dairy cows.
  • "Free-range" means absolutely nothing. Birds and their eggs are considered free-range, if they have U.S. Department of Agriculture certified access to the outdoors. This certification doesn’t include size of or ability to access the outdoor area, amount of space allotted per animal, quality of life, or the number of birds living in a single shed.

If you think this is what will motivate you most, please check out the documentary Earthlings.

2. Health reasons: 

Our consumption of animal products has risen in the last 40 years. So has the incidence of heart attacks, diabetes, blood pressure, and cancer.

In 1970 the average meat consumption:

  • Beef: ~ 80 pounds
  • Chicken: ~ 27 pounds
  • Pork: ~ 54 pounds
  • Turkey: ~ 7 pounds

= A total of 168 pounds in 1970.

In 2005 the average meat consumption:

  • Beef: ~ 63 pounds
  • Chicken: ~ 60 pounds
  • Pork: ~ 48 pounds
  • Turkey: ~ 14 pound

= A total of 185 pounds in 2005.

  • Antibiotics: Because these animals are so sick, approximately 80% of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are for animal agriculture.  This overuse leads to weakened immunity, digestive problems, allergies, food sensitivities, and overgrowth of yeast/ Candida in the consumers.
  • There’s a higher incidence of food poisoning due to poisoning of water sources from runoff and people consuming sick animals.  This leads to e.coli breakouts like we experienced with spinach last year. An estimated 73,480 illnesses due to E. coli  (mostly from beef) infection occur each year in the United States, leading to an estimated 2,168 hospitalizations and 61 deaths annually, and kidney failure in children.

3. Environmental reasons: 

  • Greenhouse gas emissions: The livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the entire transport sector (planes, cars, buses, trains, etc..), which produces 13.5% of the emissions. Plant-based diets only require around one third of the land and water needed to produce a typical Western diet.
  • Clear-cutting of rainforests, a vital part of our ecosystem. The United States imports approximately 200 million pounds of beef from Central America. Needing more land for grazing means that every minute, rainforest equal to seven football fields is destroyed. In the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been clear-cut for animal agriculture.
  • Leather: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents near a tannery in Kentucky is five times above average. Cancer risks in tannery workers in Italy and Sweden is between 20% and 50% above the norm.
  • Overfishing: 3/4 of the world's fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Eighty percent are already fully exploited or in decline. Ninety percent of all large predatory fish, including tuna, cod, swordfish, shark, and halibut – have been wiped out. If current fishing practices continue, world food fisheries will most likely collapse by 2050.

4. Humanitarian reasons: 

  • Animals have to eat up to 13 pounds of grain to create just 1 pound of meat. This grain could be used to feed the world's hungry: 70% of all US grains feed livestock instead of people.
  • Almost one in three slaughterhouse workers suffers from illness or injury every year, compared to one in 10 workers in other manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor. Injury rates for slaughterhouse workers are 35 times higher than in other manufacturing jobs.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming vegan or just want to eat fewer animal products, please keep all these reasons in mind. If you’re already on your way, you now have some facts to share with family and friend For support, look for vegan Meetups in your area or start your own. Get some nutrition and cookbooks from your library. Become a part of the online community.  I’m sure you can find like-minded people who want to help.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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