January is a popular time for people to give up things they feel their body does not need, things such as alcohol and cigarettes, in an effort to detox after the Christmas holidays. This year however Veganuary has been the latest experiment, giving up meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey for 31 days. However, as many will soon discover, it is not so much a challenge but a much healthier lifestyle.
This is its third year running and statistics show that 50,000 people have signed up for it, over double the amount that participated in it last year. What has interested me the most this year however (aside from the astonishing number of people partaking), are the reasons why people have decided to give it a go? For me, the reason I turned vegan initially was purely because of animals, after looking into factory farming and realising how awful the animals are treated. However, over the years, it has also opened my eyes up to the many different reasons why being vegan is actually better for not only the animals, but also for our planet and our own health.
There are actually far too many ways in which animal agriculture is destroying our planet. For starters, the grain used to feed livestock could solve world hunger. Think about it, giving up meat could not only save animals’ lives but also humans too. Surely that on its own is worth thinking about?
This next one really stumped me. 660 gallons of water are required to produce one hamburger. That equates to two months’ worth of showers! This industry is wasting more water than anything else in this world.
Animal agriculture is causing species extinction. Almost half of the fish caught each year are disposed of and countless sea creatures are discarded as by-kill. This includes the likes of whales, dolphins and seals. Another example is that natural predators are murdered so that they don’t kill livestock, only for the cattle to go on and be slaughtered not long after. Humans are slowly killing the animal kingdom with no consideration of the lasting effects.
The meat and dairy industries have taken over 45% of the worlds land, almost half of our planet, and it will not stop growing as long as there is still demand for it. If this continues most of our planet is going to be taken over by livestock, destroying natural habitats such as the Amazon rainforest, which 80% of has already been destroyed to make room for cattle.
As if that isn’t enough, the oceans are also on their way to destruction. There are already parts of the ocean, which are classed as ‘dead zones,’ meaning that oxygen is lacking, making it impossible for marine life to live. By 2048, our oceans will be fishless and it is all down to thoughtless exploitation.
Lastly the factory farming industry is causing a serious source of air pollution, emitting more greenhouse gases into the air than all transportation in the world put together. I think it is safe to say (and hard to deny) that factory farming is the leading cause of climate change. So as you can see, animal agriculture is having a huge impact on our planet and not in a good way.
What I have found really interesting recently however is the research behind the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The documentary Forks Over Knives discusses the ways in which a plant-based diet can actually control, or even reverse degenerative diseases and that by staying away from animal-based and processed foods, you can live a much healthier life.
Obesity and diabetes are two very common illnesses nowadays, especially amongst our younger population, whilst heart disease, cancer and strokes are the three main causes of death. Could it be that there is such a simple solution to these problems, that something as simple as going vegan could help solve many of the health issues that people face. Hippocrates once spoke very wise words, “let food be thy medicine.” As did Thomas Edison, “the doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”
The idea of food as medicine is put to the test in Forks Over Knives. The documentary is about two Doctors (neither of which knows one another), who both discovered that most illnesses that they treated were in parts of the world where animal products are highly consumed. Throughout the documentary, the audience follow patients who have chronic illnesses, from diabetes to heart disease. These patients are recommended and shown how to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet as the main approach to treat their conditions and the outcomes are phenomenal.
As mentioned before, the reason I initially turned vegan was for the animals. In regards to the animal rights argument, I know that Peta have upped their advert game recently and ‘Go Vegan’ ads are now being seen all round London, on buses and at underground stations. I believe that this has definitely made people more aware of the situations involved in factory farming, and hopefully will make people look into it more.
Sadly approximately 10 billion animals are killed each year through factory farming. As once quoted by Paul McCartney, ‘if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.’ For many of us, consuming animal products is something that we have grown up with and we have never given thought as to what it actually is and where it actually comes from. As we are not the ones forced to partake in the slaughter or mistreatment of the animals, majority of the time it is easy to forget that it even happens, and we have accidently disconnected ourselves from the feelings of the farm animals.
I know that we are half way through January now but if you are not already giving it a go, why not try now? Whether you do it for the animals, the planet or your health, they are all good enough reasons to want to try it, especially with how accessible vegan food is nowadays. Supermarkets stock pretty much everything you need and there are some fabulous recipes you can find online. The myth that a plant-based lifestyle is more expensive is also false. I have been vegan for three years now and I do not spend any more than when I was a meat eater. So stop thinking of excuses and take the plunge, I can guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.