Thursday, 1 October 2015

Becoming a Vegan

The decision to become vegan was one that I never thought I'd make. In fact, growing up, I'd always had a strange aversion to vegans and veganism. For whatever reason, when someone mentioned that they were a vegan, I would instinctively roll my eyes and wonder how I managed to bag the hippy. Maybe it's because society places a stigma on veganism, but I associated vegans with those seeking attention, making a statement not of compassion, but of judgement. I believed that vegans were people who sat on their high moral ground and judged those who didn't follow their own ideals. How hilariously ironic. I used to think to myself, 'Why would anyone be vegan? You're not killing the animal to get its produce, what's the big deal?' That thought process is unfortunately very common, and along with it, there are many others, a big one is the belief that being a vegan is unhealthy for your immune system and makes you weak. These beliefs are borne from pure and simple ignorance. I don't say that in a judgemental way, I just say that out of truth. If you take the time to research into veganism, you'll soon understand that it isn't just about whether an animal lives or dies, and you'll soon realise that there are many ways to get every bit of nutrient that you need, that doesn't require animal meat or produce, in order to be healthy and strong.

The main reason for my decision to become a vegan is the environment. For years I've learnt about the effects we as humans are having on the environment, about climate change and the general degradation of the earth around us. It's difficult to know much about this when standing in a well developed country that reaps the rewards of this massive exploitation of the world's resources. But just because I can't see it from where I'm standing, it doesn't mean that it's not happening. Being a geographer has become part of my identity, my love of the natural environment and of sustainability, of leaving the wo
rld as I want my children and grandchildren to see it, it is all a part of who I am and what I deeply care about. One day I came to the realisation that I was a hypocrite. Talking my friends and family's ears off about how we as human beings are destroying this beautiful planet that we live on, all the while enjoying my cheeseburger. It's an oxymoron. The older I get and the more I learn about the planet, the more conscious I am of change. Geographers are often found banging their heads against walls at the pure greed and ignorance of many towards the limitations of the earth's resources. We are constantly talking about how things have to change. Nothing will get better unless something changes. Well, I've always been told that change starts from within so how can I expect others to make changes unless I make those changes myself?

Although my care for the environment has been instrumental in taking this step, it's not the only reason. Cruelty to animals is just another reason becoming a vegan feels completely right. I started off with a vegetarian diet and to my utmost surprise I didn't miss meat in the slightest. I decided to become a vegetarian for the environmental reasons that I mentioned above but at some point I found myself unable to justify killing so many animals for my own benefit. Everytime I ate meat, I began to imagine having to kill and prepare the animal beforehand and it seemed so unnecessary to have so many animals die for my sake. Becoming a vegetarian opened up discussions with so many people. You don't realise it when you're not a vegan or vegetarian, but it's a big conversation starter when people hear you going for the veggie option or when you mention that you're a vegetarian/vegan. Through these discussions, I had another one of those realisations. I am still a hypocrite. I say I care about the environment and animals, but i'm still drinking cow's milk, eating cheese, yoghurt, ice cream. All of these things are fueling an industry that, when on a large scale, treats animals with absolutely no compassion. I realised how stupid I'd been in my view towards veganism. There is indeed a fate worse than death, and that is a life of torture. How can I feel at ease, knowing that I'm just another person investing in an industry that does the most abominable things to animals. Not only that, but how can I consider myself an environmentalist when I am creating demand for dairy, which incidentally creates demand for cattle and intensive cattle farming continues. It's not just the meat production that is harmful to the environment, it's the amount of animals themselves and this issue will still be an issue if everyone became a vegetarian tomorrow, there would just be a lot more wasted, rotting flesh around.

I'm not going to say that I'll never eat meat or animal products again. If we lived in a world where everyone ate animals/animal products sustainably and in moderation, I would too enjoy the occasional piece of meat. But unfortunately we don't. We live in a world that consumes way too much meat in a very unsustainable way and the only way I know how to try and change that is to change my own lifestyle first and allow others in on my views. A lot of people don't take the time to understand, and I can't blame them really, it took me a while to really get a hold on what I believe and what that is is still changing even now. But if you've got to this point, I thank you for taking the time to listen and I urge that you spend just a bit more researching into this issue.

One source I would completely and utterly recommend watching is the documentary 'Cowspiracy' as it's truly an eye opener and it's easier to feel a connection to something you can see with your own eyes.

Oh, and one more thing. Being a vegan is not necessarily unhealthy. Just like being a meat eater is not necessarily healthy. If you take the time to buy the right food, it's surprisingly easy to hit those macro and micronutrient goals. As with any big change, it takes a lot of perseverance and motivation. It's up to you.


Useful Resources:
Cowspiracy (Also available on Netflix)
The Vegan Society
Meat Free Monday Campaign
Graham Hill's Ted Talk
Mark Bittman's Ted Talk 


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