By Isaac Evenson
When I tell people that I’m Vegan, I get a wide array of responses, but most fall in the realm of negative judgment. Suddenly everyone becomes an expert on nutrition, evolution, biology and ethics at the mention of it. They seem to all claim that Veganism does everything backwards or wrong, but when I press for facts or evidence on this, it seems most who condemned it cannot back up their claims. So the following is some information about Veganism that may help to stop some of the negative knee-jerk responses against it.
One of the first comments I receive when telling people I am Vegan is that Veganism is unhealthy and that you cannot get what your body needs without eating meat. This is false. There is only one vitamin that cannot be found in a plant based diet, and that is Vitamin B-12, and this can be compensated for by eating fortified foods like soy milk and cheese, Vegan meat replacements like Seitan or veggie burgers and tofu that are often staples in Vegan diets. The rest of the 13 essential vitamins are already found (often in large doses) in a plant diet. Iron in greens, protein in beans, nuts and seeds, calcium in oranges, spinaches and broccoli, etc. Therefore you are getting all of the essential vitamins and you won’t be getting the negatives of meat and dairy in your diet. Too much meat and dairy are pumped with hormones that have led red meat to being the second leading cause of cancer and dairy being one of the most common causes of arthritis and osteoporosis. (Yes, the hormones in milk overpower the benefits of its calcium, actually causing osteoporosis, not preventing it) Virtually all of the unsaturated fats will be eliminated from your diet when going Vegan, your salt intake drops drastically, and your caloric intake decreases (but can easily be increased for those trying to bulk up instead of shed the pounds) and your blood sugar levels become much more balanced (to the point where it has been shown to alleviate diabetes). So, in short, there are very, very few negative health effects in a plant based diet.
The environmental aspect of Veganism is another major benefit that is often overlooked. To start, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, where as it takes only 15 for lettuce, 22 for tomatoes and 55 for oranges. So, at 2,500 pounds of water per pound, imagine how much is used for a week’s supply of meat in your diet? A month’s? A year’s? It’s an astounding number and a plant based diet decreases that amount of water dramatically. Next, let’s look at the carbon emission produced by the meat industry. Cattle eat plants that could be absorbing carbon dioxide and release methane (a gas 16% more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide) through their gas. Forests are often clear cut to make room for cattle grazing. The current estimate is that by 2050 the Amazon Rainforest will be entirely gone if it is clear cut at the rate that it is being now for cattle farming. Again, this eliminates an unimaginably large number of plants that we need to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. In short, the effects of the meat industry are very harmful on the environment and it has been recently proven that going Vegan is actually a more effective way to reduce your carbon footprint than switching to a hybrid car!
There is also the obvious ethical factor involved in going Vegan. In making that commitment you are not supporting an industry that makes its money from killing innocent creatures and that treats them horribly while they are alive. It is very hypocritical for any person to say that they love animals if they eat meat at meals that has come from an animal being treated terribly and then killed for the sole purpose to end up on the dinner plate. The ethical dilemma seems to boil down to a very simple question to me; why support cruelty when you don’t have to? So, going Vegan is really a smart decision. It’s good for your body, it’s great for the planet and you wouldn’t be participating in a cruel practice that hurts and kills millions every day. A few years ago the United Nations called for a global shift towards a Vegan life style, and I hope that after reading the benefits of Veganism you will consider it. I am a Vegan and I couldn’t be happier about the decision.