When someone takes a guess as to why I don't
use animal products, they usually summarize "because
you like animals?" And it's as cut and dry as that.
(Another common guess is "for your health?",
which is funny on a couple levels.)
But my real answer is a few pages longer.
Yes, I need to eloquently summarize myself for every potential
vegan/vegetarian who inquires, but the reason I will not
ever use animal products again is more of a seminar than
a weekend retreat (*unh*)
I'm thankful for the increasing ease
of being a vegan. It must have been hard 20 (or even 10)
years ago to try and live a vegan lifestyle, but every
humane convenience is available at my fingertips. However,
even if this were not the case I would still be living
my convictions. My veganism is not a matter of what
I can conveniently achieve, or a "better" alternative
to omnivorous practices. It's an all-or-nothing refusal
to participate in something that I know is wrong.
In the same way that a Pro-Life woman would never have
"just one abortion", I am appalled at the thought of using
any items that were created by ending a life. A little
casein in my "non-dairy" coffee creamer or a
little egg in my store bought bakery still supports in
the death of two creatures. Thankfully, those heavy-on-the-conscience consequences are pretty easy to avoid with a well planned vegab lifestyle. Yah!
Concern/Animal Rights & Welfare
The first, and only, reason that I originally went vegan
was to appease my conscience regarding other living
In 1998 I was lucky enough to begin working in an environment
with several vegans and vegetarians. Although none of
them were preachy I began to question their motives and
do my own research as to why anyone would give up the
deliciousness that was dairy and eggs! After about 4
years of being a lazy vegetarian my conscience
easily weighted down by all the heart breaking new things
that I was learning about the meat and dairy industries.
couldn't believe I had wasted all those years thinking
that "being vegetarian was enough".
The decision I made was a conscious,
adult commitment, but my upbringing helped pave the way.
family and almost all of our friends had a lot of animals,
so I was exposed to tenderness to non-human animals from
the beginning. I didn't know any vegetarians until I
a teenager, but the respect for other living things was
still important in our home. (Children
learning to care for animals is vitally important for
all kids to learn!) Throughout my life I have seen
animals for what they really are: sentient
beings who are 100% capable of feeling pain, terror,
sadness, and happiness. Their differences from us (namely
a smaller frontal lobe or "comparable human intelligence")
don't make them less worthy of the respect that simply being
alive awards them. It boggles my mind that vegetarians
are sometimes written off for "thinking animals
are better than humans", when the concept is
just to give respect where it's due. If I saw a nicely
woman who needed help, or a shabbily dressed man, or
a dog, I would stop to help all three of them. They're
sentient beings who can feel pain, end of story.
Every year 25
billion animals are slaughtered for food in the US.
Before their lives are actually ended, their fate is sealed
by the almost 300,000,000 Americans who refuse to admit
that these animals feel. They feel terror as they
are roughly crammed into trucks, they feel sadness as
they are separated from their mothers or offspring just
days after birth, and they feel pain as they are skinned,
boiled, suffocated, or bled to death. (This
most definitely includes fish!)
Update: Vegan Outreach has compiled some great info on vegetarianism and global warming at their A Truly Inconvenient Truth website. It's totally sourced, so you skeptics will have trouble "debunking" the connection. Check it out!
Animal agriculture is the number one pollutant of America's
waterways. Animal excrement (often contaminated with toxic
chemicals and hormones) runs into groundwater, rivers
and topsoil, ruining potable water and land. Ammonia emissions
from this excrement trigger acid rain and produce greenhouse
gases. More than 1/3 of the fossil fuels used in the US
are used to raise animals for food. Water, land, and plant
food are grossly misused to produce drastically smaller
amounts of animal-based "food" in the end.
water usage in the US for...
An omnivore : 4,200 Gallons
A vegetarian: 1,200 Gallons
A vegan: 300 Gallons
land usage in the US for food...
An omnivore : 3.3 Acres
A vegetarian: 1/2 Acre
A vegan: 1/6 Acre
make one pound of "food"...
Pound of beef = 2,500 Gallons of water
Pound of apples = 49 Gallons of water
Pound of lettuce = 23 Gallons of water
make one pound of "food"...
Pound of meat = 7 pounds of grain or soy
Pound of grain or soy = 1 pound of grain or soy
Those numbers sound INSANE, don't they? But the math makes sense. If you grow plant food to feed animals that you eventually intend to eat, then you must expend much more water and land, and create more food and pollution in the process. To learn the facts behind what meat (and
all other animal) production does to our world and then
to continue to eat meat is like giving the finger
to every living thing on Earth. It's acknowledging that
we have a limited number of resources (which, hopefully,
we all ready knew), and that we're running through them
at as much as 14 times faster (vegan to omnivore comparison),
just as a matter of preference. We prefer to eat
certain things, and that's really just more important
that starving countries, fatally polluted waters, land
that's too desiccated to produce food any longer, or the suffering of sentient animals.
One of the most confounding misconceptions
about vegans is that they "only care about animals"
and think of humans as second class citizens. Unlike someone
who admittedly believes that certain species are more
inferior than their own (omnivores, I'm looking at you), vegans share a value
for all life. There's bad apples in every bunch, so
of course there are vegans who don't fit this exact mold,
but no vegan I have ever known (or heard of outside an
urban legend or smear article), would wish harm upon another
human. I saw a "Feed the Children" infomercial
once and was shocked to learn that the fundraising campaign
was to drill wells so these emaciated and sickly people
could just have clean water to drink. The thought
that the simple selection of one's food affects whether
other nations starve or have enough to eat and drink is
powerful. Feeding 7 pounds of vegetables into an animal
to get 1 pound of meat makes no sense. The water it takes
to create 1 pound of beef could provide all the water
needs of someone on a vegan diet for over a week. Imagine
that. One steak dinner is equivalent to over 8 days of
life saving water and 7 pounds of food.
There's always someone who flippantly counters these staggering
and homicidal facts with "but meat tastes good",
or some such thoughtless nonsense. But all jokes
about tofu and tree hugging aside, it comes down to a
matter of one populations taste preferences being deemed most
Some people seem programmed not to comprehend the magnitude
of this fact, but I choose to take responsibility for
my actions, and you can, too. It's not a problem you can blame on the government
or bad luck or an unsolvable force. I am vegan due in
part to a concern for the lives of other humans around
me, and the world that we live on. I refuse to let something
as trivial as the food I eat destroy either.
I don't know if this is reinforcing a bad stereotype or
shattering it, but health is really at the bottom of my
priority list in reasons for going vegan. In the beginning I knew that veganism could be "healthy", but it took some more research to discover that veganism is not a health compromise: it's the healthiest way possible to eat!* I was eating
a lot of junk food for the first few years of being a
vegan and it never really bothered me that I wasn't eating
well. I've been lucky enough never to have serious medical
problems, and outside of childhood colds and a couple
head/neck injuries (which are very funny stories, really)
I'm very healthy looking and feeling. It wasn't until
around the beginning of my 4th year of veganism that I
began to look into nutrition as I was getting more hounded
with health questions from omnivores. The quest for snappy
comebacks lead me to discover some solid nutrition information,
and since then I've been working towards an ever-increasingly
Just like your tastebuds wake up after you
switch to a vegan diet, I've felt my body improve when
I eat smarter. On days when I aim to get more raw foods,
or don't eat processed foods, I feel more energy and a
lighter feeling that makes me want to get up play. I'm
also motivated by making intelligent choices. When I found
out that I was bamboozled by claims of dairy being a healthy
food, I got angry and make the switch to soy, almond,
and rice milks. I don't like relying on hearsay that's
stuck in the back of my mind or accepting any nutritional
belief before finding out it's origin. After the meat
and dairy fiascos (I was raised on them, too) I've started
to become more interested in what I'm eating. It's my
body for goodness sake, why wouldn't I be impeccably
careful about what I put in it? Learning about nutrition
and what I can eat and do to help keep my body functioning
at maximum rock out capacity is important to me
now. I like waking up refreshed and not wanting to fall
asleep after a meal of heavy food tries to lull me into
narcolepsy. This knowledge also helps me see through marketing
ploys that I might otherwise have missed. I'm not just
more aware of what's going into my body, but of everything
I purchase and consume.
It's an awesome cycle. I started caring
for other creatures, which helped me to care for my fellow
humans, which brought me to caring for myself. If it wasn't
the absolute truth I'd be rolling my eyes at the sappiness
of my tale. But veganism has helped me become a more conscientious
person, and that helps out me and everyone I'm around.
Almost every day I learn
a new fact that continues to strengthen the position
of veganism in my
mind, but the above mentioned 3 items are the biggest
issues for me. One good reason would be enough to make
the switch, but it makes the decision all the more satisfying
when every pieces fits together.
* There are many foods that are vegan and are terribly unhealthy, empty-calorie garbage. Being a junk food vegan will probably make you malnourished, and like ANY diet, veganism requires a little research and meal planning in the beginning. A healthy vegan diet consists of a wide variety of veggies (including lots of leafy greens), fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, plenty of water, and either a B12 supplement or B12 fortified foods.