I have always considered myself an animal lover, environmentalist, and healthy eater.
I’ve always ooohhhed and ahhhhhed at cute farm animals and caged zoo animals. My family has had all kinds of animals throughout the years: dogs, cats, goats, snakes, fish, birds, guinea pigs, and even an actual pig! My best friends have always been animals. My dog, Violet, has been by my side since I was 10 years old. I’m 23 now, so that’s over half of my life!
I’ve always loved nature. I love hiking, camping, and anything else that gets me outside. I wanted to do something with my life that helped save the planet, so I chose environmental engineering, which uses tons of science to keep water and air clean. I got through my undergrad and started graduate school in the same field. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do to help the planet. Don’t litter. Recycle. Save energy where you can. Use reusable grocery bags.
I grew up eating the standard American diet. When I went to college, I became more interested in health. So I started eating more salads, buying organic meat, and ate less sugar (well at least I tried). I was still tired and needed a slow supply of coffee to get me through the day. I just thought that was what happened when you became an adult. You have less energy, so you have to find other ways to keep up with the constant busyness and handle the pressure to do so much in so little time without stopping to take care of yourself.
I tried so hard to be the person I thought I should be. I tried to please everyone around me and do what I thought was right. I was in a constant state of stress over how I was performing in school, as well as my other many commitments. I was drained, overworked, and burned out. And I was barely into my twenties. My life was great. I was privileged, paid to go to college, had everything I would ever need and more, but I was unhappy and unfulfilled.
It only took a few hours for me to realize that there could be more to life, that I could do more with less energy, and that I needed to change.
In fall of 2015, I came down with a case of bronchitis that lasted nearly a month. I rarely missed my classes, but I felt really terrible on one particular day, so I decided to stay in bed. I flipped through Netflix until I found a documentary that looked interesting: Cowspiracy. Cowspiracy uncovers the fact that animal agriculture is the greatest source of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farming is also the leading cause of rain forest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, and ocean dead zones. Some of the facts presented in the documentary are as follows:
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
442 – 8,000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
We are currently in the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.
A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.
Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels.
As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year.
Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second.
Ten thousand years ago, 99% of biomass (i.e. zoomass) was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass.
70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour.
We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.
82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
Vegan: 1/6th acre
Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan
Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan
A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food.
Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
Note: These are not made up numbers. These are numbers that are backed up by peer-reviewed sources and experts in their field. As mind boggling as these numbers are, how do we not hear about this every day in the public news? How are we destroying our planet, unknown to many of us, at such an alarming rate? More facts and sources can be found at http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/.
I was left in COMPLETE SHOCK by the numbers. I needed to know more about veganism. What did that even mean? So I watched another documentary on the same day: Veducated. This documentary followed three average Americans as they adopted a vegan lifestyle, and explains the many ways that a vegan diet is extremely good for your body. The film also showed a five minute long clip of what really goes on in a slaughterhouse. It was beyond disturbing. It’s a real life horror story. I remember pausing the clip halfway through and clinging to my dog as I cried. I wanted this for no animal, no matter how small. I had to change. I was finished with eating animal products.
The transition was a little scary. I contacted the only vegan I knew for moral support, and she graciously helped me through the process. (She is now one of my very best friends. Thank you, Lindsay.) I cut out meat first, then cheese, then sweets. Some people become vegans overnight. Some transition. I had to transition, which is okay. I did my best. I slowly felt better and better.
Since that day, I have educated myself on veganism almost daily. I find inspiration from Instagram, bloggers, YouTubers, etc on what to eat. I read books and watch documentaries to learn about nutrition and the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. The more I learn, the more I am sure that this is the lifestyle for me.
The effects of veganism are not for the animals alone. I have felt the effects of the peace that I have been consuming seep into the rest of my life. I know that I am making a difference to bring peace to our planet. I refuse violence that is manifesting in my backyard. I know that I am doing something huge to take care of the planet. I take care of my body and my mental health. I don’t let school and work control my life. I’m not tired. I’m a pacifist, an environmentalist, and I’m happy and fulfilled.
I want this for everyone. I wish for everyone to feel as wonderful as I feel.
If you are interested in learning more, I’m including some YouTube videos that really sum up veganism below.
This video, by Bite Sized Vegan, gives a very good introduction as to why veganism is important. She is a full time animal rights activist that creates videos, blog posts, etc on all things vegan. She puts a lot of time and effort into her content to provide reliable sources. This video was originally censored by YouTube because it contained around two minutes of graphic footage, even though the footage is for educational purposes, which is allowed under YouTube’s terms. Anyway, there’s no graphic images in this version of the video.
This video is by animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky, who gives a very good introduction to vegansim in under an hour. He talks about the health and moral reasons that veganism is important. There is about 5 minutes of graphic footage in this video, but I’m a strong believer that we should be able to comfortably watch the processes that create the food that we eat.
Here’s a TED talk by Julieanna Hever about the basics of plant-based nutrition.
OH here’s another good video. This is in case you’re worried about getting enough protein. Check out these vegan professional athletes.
So, now you have an idea of what it’s all about. I highly recommend watching the documentary Earthlings (Youtube), which is credited with convincing many people to become vegan. It discusses the exploitation of animals as pets (the ASPCA estimates that 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year because they are not adopted), and for food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research. I watched this after I had been vegan for about six months. I was afraid to watch it, because it is VERY GRAPHIC, and I can barely keep my eyes open through an episode of Game of Thrones. However, I wanted to see what I was rooting against. I wanted to strengthen my convictions. The fact of the matter is that even humanly raised and slaughtered animals are harmed and die for unnecessary reasons. They clearly fear death, and I believe strongly that no one should be harmed for my temporary pleasure. I am healthy with a plate full of peace.
There’s many more resources about becoming vegan. I urge you to educate yourself on what you are putting into your body, for your own health, the environment, and the health, future, and well being of all inhabitants of earth.