The word vegan is becoming more mainstream. Trends in grocery product sales and internet searches indicate that people are becoming more interested in living a vegan lifestyle and trying out vegan products. Many people are curious about veganism and some try to go vegan but feel unsuccessful. They are unable to make the switch completely despite their best intentions.
Making a complete lifestyle and dietary change can be overwhelming. Aside from having support, the single most important factor in determining whether you’ll be able to stick with such a profound new change is having a strong connection and conviction in what you’re choosing to do. Making massive overhauls in life requires focus, determination and truly believing in what you’re doing so that no matter how challenging it may feel at times, you can recall your reasons for the change and feel secure in knowing it’s the best choice for you and that it’s worth it.
When wanting to make the shift to a vegan diet and lifestyle, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to go vegan. Did you hear it was good for your health or perhaps read some studies or saw a documentary that indicated it? Perhaps you saw footage of a factory farm and were shocked and horrified at what truly goes into the meal on your plate. Whatever your reason, it’s important to have a strong connection to it and know as much as possible about it to keep you committed to the changes you’re making.
We share the top reasons to go vegan, the impact they have, and resources to learn more. We want you to be armed with all the information possible to make your lifestyle and dietary shift as easy as can be and help you to stay committed so that if it seems challenging, you’ve got a solid base of information to recall and therefore can continue on with your choice.
What is vegan?
Before embarking on a vegan lifestyle and diet, it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re shifting to. Many people are unsure of exactly what a vegan lifestyle entails or what a vegan diet excludes. So it’s important to establish those before moving forward. According to The Vegan Society:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
The Vegan Society
Veganism at its core is a lifestyle that has an ethical foundation based upon reducing death and suffering of animals. This lifestyle includes a shift in diet to eating completely plant-based foods and excluding all animal products and by products including fish and meat, dairy, animal fat, eggs and anything else that has come from an animal. The dietary aspect of veganism is often what is most associated with the term vegan. Often people may refer to themselves as vegan even if they simply follow the diet and do not have ethical reasons for being vegan. Veganism also encompasses not using animal by products in any other form or way such as in cosmetics, clothing, shoes, and medicine when possible.
Why do people go vegan?
People are often inspired to go vegan through a variety of sources such as seeing a documentary, reading a book, reading a study, or even influence through a social media account. We share examples of these sources below for each of the reasons we give to go vegan. Most people go vegan for one or all of the following three reasons:
These three are the most compelling reasons to go vegan and while there could be other reasons, they all include at least some aspect of the three we mentioned.
Going Vegan for Health
Going vegan as a way to prevent disease and improve one’s health is one great reason to go vegan. Vegan diets are based solely on a variety plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, which are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates. A well planned whole foods based vegan diet has been implicated in the prevention of a variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.
In fact several vegan cardiologists such as Dr.Joel Kahn, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr. Kim Williams all promote a plant based, vegan diet to their patients to help reverse symptoms associated with heart disease such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol. There has even been success in reversing heart disease using a low fat vegan diet by Dr. Esselstyn and Dr.Ornish.
It’s not just cardiologists who are promoting a vegan diet for optimal health either. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is made up of over 12,000 physicians who advocate for a plant-based diet as a preventative method to ward off disease. They strive to improve people’s lives through plant-based nutrition and even conduct research on how a plant-based diet impacts a variety of health concerns and diseases.
If doctors and studies aren’t proof enough that a vegan diet is extremely beneficial to our health, even the American Dietetic Association states that a vegan diet is healthful, saying:
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
It’s clear that a whole foods vegan diet is one of easiest ways to give yourself the best chance of having exceptional health.
Resources to Check Out:
Going Vegan for the Environment
Going vegan is one of the most profound ways to have a positive impact on the environment. Animal agriculture is devastating to our planet, from using huge amounts of land and clearing out important ecosystems such as the rainforest, to producing huge amounts of methane gas from the animals that contributes to the greenhouse effect, to having the waste run off into our waterways and supply, to transportation and the pollution from it of the animals and meat to their various destinations and even decimation of species, it is one of the worst pollutants of our time.
The popular campaign Meatless Mondays was created in part as an effort to help reduce the environmental destruction, but the surest way to make a dramatic and lasting impact is to go vegan. The research that has been conducted thus far is more than sufficient in proving just how bad meat eating and animal agriculture is for the planet, beyond any doubt.
Cowspiracy is our go to source for concisely compiling all the current research, statistics and evidence on just how detrimental animal agriculture is to our planet, so be sure to read their facts page as well as check out the documentary for the numbers and figures to further reaffirm this.
Resource to Check Out:
Going Vegan for Animals
“Think about it: virtually every atrocity in the history of humankind was enabled by a populace that turned away from a reality that seemed too painful to face, while virtually every revolution for peace and justice has been made possibly by a group of people who chose to bear witness and demanded that others bear witness as well.” Melanie Joy
The most compelling reason for many people to make the shift to a vegan lifestyle is the treatment of animals in every industry whether it’s agricultural, entertainment, or fashion. Animals are exploited and killed in astonishing numbers, with the daily number in the United States estimated to be around 22.5 million per day. Not only are animals killed in mass numbers, but their lives are spent in terrible living conditions and are often cut dramatically short. Animals are living, conscious beings that feel pain and can suffer. And that is reason enough not to kill them and treat them so terribly. Additionally, animals are intelligent and form strong social bonds just as humans and some of the animals humans don’t generally kill, such as dogs and cats.
Animals deserve the right to live freely for their entire natural lifespan, not as commodities to be profited from no matter what the cost to them. It’s especially important to remember that we shared above that the outdated notions that state we need to eat animals to live are just that, outdated and that we can in fact thrive and be far healthier if we abstain from eating animals and their by-products.
We share some of the mistreatment of commonly raised animals below. However, it is just a small view into the world of suffering and mistreatment animals endure and is in no way comprehensive. The resources we share at the end are exceptional ways to educate yourself about what animals experience, whether we have a right to own them or treat them as commodities, and how we continue to treat them as such despite research and the efforts of some groups to stop animal mistreatment and death.
Whether raised for dairy, beef or veal, cows live far shorter lives than they would naturally and filled with trauma, both physical and mental. Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated only to have their calves removed from them within hours of birth. Dairy cows suffer immensely from the strain of losing their calves, constant impregnation, constant milk production and a variety of ills caused by it. Because these cows live on huge farms, they rarely get medical attention and suffer for long periods of their short lives. When they are no longer profitable either due to slowing milk production or they can’t support pregnancies any longer, they become meat.
The female calves that are taken at birth suffer the same fate as their mothers and the males either are destined for beef or for a short and confined existence to become veal. Beef cows are routinely subjected to physical trauma whether it’s branding, tagging or waddling. Regardless of how the cows start their lives, those that survive for slaughter face a traumatic and brutal death. The animals that are physically able to walk to slaughter are routinely killed alive in rather violent means as the stun gun intended does not always work to stun them prior to being killed. The life and death of a cow is extremely traumatic and sad and is in no way an acceptable way to treat a living being capable of feeling pain and wanting to live.
Pigs are well known to be extremely social and intelligent creatures, yet this does not stop them from enduring a hard and cruel life. Mother pigs are kept in very tight crates they can’t turn around in and are kept there practically their whole life whether impregnated or to feed their piglets for a short period of time. Although the piglets are not allowed to stay and be close. The mother pig is continually impregnated until she is no longer able to be of monetary use. Then she is sent to slaughter.
Pigs that are not for breeding are kept in huge, overcrowded spaces that are extremely stress-inducing, creating a traumatic experience that causes them to bite each other and sometimes even eat each other. As a preventative, farmers cut off pig’s tails and the tips of their teeth without anesthesia. When pigs are sent to slaughter, they suffer a similar fate to cows. They are supposed to be stunned prior to death, however many are killed alive in scalding hot baths.
Chickens live under some of the most distressing conditions of any farm animal. Chickens live packed in huge sheds, rarely seeing the outside, sky or grass. The confinement of the chickens causes them great stress and as such are prone to injuring and killing one another. As a preventative, farmers often use an incredibly hot blade to cut off the tip of the chickens’ beaks so they can’t damage one another.
In addition to the stressful conditions, chickens have been bred in ways that force them to grow far too quickly and their legs can often not support their weight, making them break or simply not being able to use them. The conditions in these sheds due to overcrowding and not being able to move results in chickens getting a wide variety of illnesses and diseases which are rarely treated. Chickens often suffer broken limbs and wings when loaded onto trucks for slaughter. Once at the slaughterhouse, chickens are handled roughly and shackled upside down where they are run through an electrified bath of water to simply make sure they don’t move. The chickens are alive and often conscious when it comes time to be killed, and those that somehow manage to avoid the knife go conscious into scalding hot water.
It’s important to address the idea of small farms versus factory farms as well. Some people question that all farms are like this and say surely small family owned farms are a much better option. Their animals see sunlight, and live happy lives where they are treated with respect, and maybe even are fed appropriate diets, right? While some farmers may feed their animals appropriate diets, give them access to grass and perhaps even give them loving pats on occasion, the truth is there is no humane way to kill a being who does not want to die. The question shifts from how the animal is raised and treated to why are we killing beings that don’t want to die?
Resources to Check Out:
“All sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property” Gary L Francione
Gary L Francione
Regardless of the reasons you choose to go vegan, whether it’s an opportunity to feel better, a way to help preserve our planet for the future, or as a way to protest animal cruelty, there has never been a better time. We live in a time of abundance where fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains are available to us at almost any grocery store in the country. Vegan alternatives such as coconut ice cream, chik’n tenders, beefless patties, and cheeze shreds are all becoming more accessible as well as even places like Walmart offer them. The internet provides a vast array of support and community and the amount of books, blogs and vlogs published on the topic grow daily.
The opportunity to make such as dramatic impact in the world is accessible to us now, and all we need to do is educate ourselves and commit to making the changes in our life that will allow us to live in alignment with our ethics. The best part about veganism is that no matter why you choose it, just doing so makes an amazing impact on the world, the people, and the animals around you. Few other lifestyle choices can have such a positive impact on the world, and it’s beautiful to be able to contribute.