This post originally appeared on Sexy Salada.
Written by Flavia Bruce-Smith
Veganism (and vegetarianism) is hard to write about because I think it is a bit of an elephant in the room. When you think of a vegan, stereotypes pop into your head: hippy, free spirit, weirdo, self righteous, dreamer, animal lover etc. Well these were definitely stereotypes that came to mind for me and, much to my shame, I still over analyse a person when I discover that they’re vegan or vegetarian. What is it about someone’s eating habits that makes it possible to assert judgements and assumptions about said persons character?
Until about a year and a half ago, if someone told me they were vegan, I immediately began questioning them. Why were they vegan? Did they really think they were making a difference? Where did they get their protein from? The usual questions. It makes me cringe now because I really knew nothing about it and yet I felt that my opinion and entitlement to eat meat totally outweighed any explanations that were given to me.
In my first year of university, something switched within me and I changed the way I thought about food. I had a looootttt of time to kill and consequently, discovered the world of Netflix documentaries. I became hooked!! I found them fascinating, particularly the ones about food and food production. For the first time, I was learning about how the food you eat can affect your body and where it was coming from. I couldn’t believe how much information there was that was so readily available, but you only really found out about it if you sought it out. I don’t really understand why it’s not taught in schools, this is information that I really feel everyone should be taught!!
So what did I learn?? (this is a rough overview, for more info watch docs!!!)
1. Animal production for meat consumption is horrific. I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy animal lover. As in, I love my pets and coo at a cute lil doggy in the street but I’m not animal nuts. But the way animals are treated in mass production is foul. There is no humanity. They are abused and then slaughtered and it is a sight that cannot be unseen.
2. Along the same lines, dairy production is no less horrible. Cows are milked and milked until they collapse and are literally picked up by a bulldozer, groaning in pain to be taken off to be killed.
3. Eggs- the battery farming is awful in itself. Even chickens that are ‘free range’ aren’t really that free range. They live in their own waste and peck each other because they are so distressed. On top of that, male chicks are automatically killed because they don’t lay eggs.
4. Meat production is awful for the environment. Watch Cowspriacy. One (amongst many) statistics that they cite is that ‘livestock and their byproducts are accountable for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse emissions.’ Another statistic that shocked me was that it takes the equivalent of 2 MONTHS of showering (water) to produce 1 hamburger!!! Just 1!!!!! Madness!!! Cowspiracy explains that the reason that this is not widely known is because there is so much money in the meat industry. It is really dangerous to ruffle up feathers amongst the big dogs so environmental charities such as GREENPEACE and OCEANA don’t mention it. It sounds totally crazy but honestly watch COWSPIRACY, your eyes will be opened…. Follow this link for more: http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/
5. Fishing is destroying our oceans. People often seem to be able to come to terms with not eating meat but are surprised when you don’t eat fish. I’m not sure why. But mass fishing is literally scraping the bottom of the oceans. Fishermen use huge nets to maximise their catch, but obviously there is no method that ensures that they catch only the desired fish. Other fish get caught up in their nets. Fish that they don’t want or need. They die and are simply thrown back into the ocean. How tragic is that?? I found this in a BBC article: ‘Large areas of seabed in the Mediterranean and North Sea now resemble a desert – the seas have been expunged of fish using increasingly efficient methods such as bottom trawling.’ Here’s the link: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120920-are-we-running-out-of-fish We are totally destroying our oceans and yet nothing is really being done to stop it, with more people eating fish than ever.
6. Rain forests are disappearing rapidly. Again from Cowspiracy: ‘The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops.’ and ‘110 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction.’ These are just a couple of so many pretty eye opening stats.
These points barely even begin to describe the perils of the industry!! I use the word peril because I really think that we are on a slippery slope but it’s still very hush hush.
So why do people still eat meat, dairy etc?
Well it tastes really, really good. Don’t get me wrong, I bladdy luv steak, hamburgers, chicken, bacon, I could go on. It is so delicious. And then dairy is in so much. Cake, chocolate, milk with your cereal, melted brie, whipped cream…. so much goodness, it makes you drool just thinking about it!! The thought of giving it up is just too much to bare! What can you eat instead? Lettuce!!! So bleak! You picture yourself turning into a rabbit, living on lettuce and carrots because there is literally nothing else. Luckily, this actually isn’t the case. I have found that since giving up meat, I am actually way more creative with ma cookin’ plus I save on dolla because meat is pricey (even when it’s really shitty and mass produced). One of the reasons I set up this blog is to show what you can eat as a vegan. Sexy Salada is uber healthy which I know is not everyones aim but if you want to be an unhealthy vegan, you definitely can do that too!! You wanna gorge on chips… no problemo…pasta…go for it… copious pieces of toast with peanut butter and jam… knock yourself out. You get my point.
Another thing that people take issue with is protein. The big P. Can you get enough without meat? Is it possible? People actually seriously overestimate how much protein your body requires. It is incredibly rare to find someone with a protein deficiency and if they are, it is normally because they are actually malnourished. Many vegetables contain protein (shock horror!!) such as kale, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms… the list goes on. Then you have your beans, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, all great sources of protein so no meat, no worries!
Finally, animal products are culturally really significant to most people. Meat plays a huge part in our meals. Think of Christmas, Sunday Roasts, Thanksgiving (for those in the US). At most meals, meat is the centre piece. I certainly used to think that a meal was not complete without a hunk of meat and I know this view still stands true for many. I don’t think that this factor should be underestimated in its value for why people continue to eat meat. It is hard to break a habit, particularly one that has been going on for thousands of years, one that you have grown up with, that your parents have grown up with and so on. Realistically, is the whole world going to become vegan? How would this affect the economy? I think that certainly meat consumption will decline at some point because it will have to. We cannot carry on eating animal produce in the same way, it’s just not efficient. I don’t believe that you should shy away from changing what is habitual to you. We are constantly learning more about ourselves, evolving and changing and just because it is tradition for us to eat meat, does not mean that this cannot or should not change.
The point of this post is not to make people feel guilty for not being vegan, or to make me feel good about myself or morally superior. I totally understand the difficulties of changing eating habits. It can be hard at home, hard when you go out for meals or going to friends. My sister (not unkindly but bluntly) told me that it was inconvenient that I was a vegetarian for supper parties because people have to find something else for me. Whilst this is true, I always offer to bring my own food and I’m not doing it to try and be difficult! My hope is that, if you read this article, you will think more about your food. I don’t expect people to jump aboard the vegan train just because I have tried (not very well) to explain possible motives. I’m not actually a fully fledged vegan myself. I try to be vegan when I cook for myself but I draw a line for going to friends because people really freak out when they find out that you don’t eat dairy or eggs either.
The main point of this is just to try and get people to educate themselves. Watch documentaries, read books, do some research because food has such a huge impact on the world we live in. Once you know the dirty deets, go from there. At least then you know and can make your decisions with all the facts. Maybe just try a meat free Monday. Baby steps 😉
Some final facts to leave you with:
Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
Vegan: 1/6th acre
Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan
Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan
If you are even slightly interested, have a watch of these docs:
KNIVES OVER FORKS
HUNGRY FOR CHANGE
Finally, I am aware that many of my facts come without a reference, but they are all from the documentaries that I have watched or from the links provided! Links used: http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/