Ethical vegan or plant-based dieter?
It doesn’t matter what brings you to veganism, but both will keep you on the lifestyle for good. I often get asked why I became a vegan and for a moment I hesitate as a handful of answers zip through my brain: should I bring up the health benefits? Cite the agricultural waste, deforestation, or global warming statistics? How about the animal cruelty and suffering caused by factory farming? I usually pick one and leave the conversation feeling like I didn’t get the opportunity to adequately explain myself.
Personally I became a vegetarian around the age of 14. I grew up in a household that didn’t emphasize the consumption of meat, it was a side dish, never the focus of a meal. I wasn’t particularly attached to the taste of meat, I had a vegetarian friend, I desired to be unique and express myself as an individual, I wanted to make my own choices, and I had some vague belief that I needed (and would) lose weight (silly, but as a female I desire to be thin…) None of those reasons were particularly ethically based, until I became a vegan.
I want as many people as possible to be exposed to veganism and try it for themselves. That is the purpose of my blog and a focus of my interactions on social media. As a marathon runner I hope to relay the benefits of an all-plant diet. I strive to be a shining example of a thriving, healthy vegan because that’s how I believe I will convince most people.
Unfortunately, after many social encounters I am left feeling as though people either don’t believe me, or just don’t want to hear an argument against their diets. I am 21 years old, so I know I am young to be extolling the health benefits of any diet, you can get away with anything when you are young, right? I am also skinny, so I consistently feel as though people are put off my food choices and believe I have some sort of underlying eating disorder. I definitely have food consciousness and I am really picky, but having actually suffered from true eating disorders in the past, I feel confident that I am at a healthy place. I also have no credentials or qualifications after my name (yet). Nothing backs up my beliefs except personal anecdotal evidence.
All of that is fine with me. Don’t believe me. Even when I cite statistics and post articles about the ill-health effects of meat and dairy consumption, people will tune me out. They don’t want to hear it. Or they believe that I am a liberal, hippie, vegan extremist and that all my perceptions are hopelessly biased, like the sources I am using to cite my work. By the way, I believe in fair representation, and I make an effort to use sources that come from places that don’t necessarily promote a vegan agenda (in addition to the vegan resources I do use).
If I am talking to you, you can dismiss me as a crazy, skinny, sprite-y. A know-nothing….You can cover your ears and sing about how much you love bacon, I don’t care.
All I ask is you do one thing: watch any film clip of “standard industry practice” in factory farming. Any clip, really. Then see if you still want to eat bacon afterward, or order a cheeseburger or go get chicken nuggets.
It’s the compassion people have for the animals that gets them to stick to the vegan diet, no matter what!
I believe that the ethical argument for veganism is the most powerful argument to get people on the vegan lifestyle and keep people from straying once they are already there. Myself, I didn’t come to veganism for ethics. Of course, I cared about the animals but I didn’t really know how much they suffered to keep our grocery store shelves stocked with animal products. Now that I know better, my eyes can never tempt me, my nose can never trick me into taking a bite of animal food.
Instead, I close my eyes and I can picture the cruelty that takes place on factory farms. When I see films or pictures of animals behind bars, begging to be freed, I can almost physically feel their pain. When the animals scream or cry out in pain, my heart wrenches and my stomach gets tied up in knots. I want to cry because I feel so helpless. It’s so obvious that they are terrified and hurting. Their lives are short and cruel.
Pain is what these poor animals receive from the hands of man. Aren’t we, as human beings, supposed to do better than that?
I WILL NOT participate in the cruel process that takes an innocent being and commodifies, enslaves and slaughters it simply because people desire the taste. Especially because it is unnecessary! The healthiest foods for you on the planet are vegan foods, and if you don’t care about your health (which people will say when they talk about how much they love bacon), you can get almost any type of junk food product out there in vegan form at your local supermarket.
So try vegan. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.