This article was originally published on The Mission.
I was once ignorant and rolled my eyes at vegans. I stereotyped these plant-first eaters as potheads who listened to too much public radio and defended my reasoning for eating animal products with the untimely argument of ancestry.
The earliest humans, our brothers and sisters, were hunter gatherers, I said. They ate plants as well as meat. Eating meat is a natural thing, part of evolution.
I still believe this to be true, but I’ve realized over the last year that there’s usually nothing natural about eating meat in today’s societies.
Most of the animal products we eat come from the animal agriculture industry which is a commercialized hell. Animals are born, ripped away from their family, and either slaughtered or impregnated for the rest of their life. All so we can have a plate of burnt flesh or glass of baby animal growth food (milk).
Have you read or seen The Handmaid’s Tale? It’s a story about fertile women being rounded up, tortured, and raped by upper class families who are considered the superior species in a future dystopia. And it’s only partly fiction because animals, sentient beings who think and feel, are living this dystopia right now.
Today we have the technology to mass produce plants and plants are not sentient beings. They’re also a far more efficient form of food. Instead of producing plants to feed entrapped animals, we can eat those plants ourselves.
I’m not currently a vegan — I still cheat with some fish or ice cream on Saturdays — but I’m getting there, and in this post I’ll tell you why you might want to join me. Not by referencing obscure studies and statistics, but by tapping into common sense and human decency.
Why I’m becoming vegan
In November 2016 I saw my doctor because I was constipated, bloated, and lethargic. He recommended trying veganism. He said many of his patients’ ailments had gone away after they switched to a plant-based diet so I gave it a shot.
I was vegan for a month and, to be honest, felt pretty much the same. My bowel movements were back to normal (you’re welcome) but I still felt lethargic and bloated. Disappointed that veganism didn’t heal everything, I went back to my old eating habits.
Nearly a year after I had tried veganism for the first time, I watched the documentary Cowspiracy and What the Health. They confirmed some beliefs I had about the cattle industry and offered new information about the industry’s impact on the environment.
The main takeaway of these documentaries is intended to be that animal agriculture is bad for our environment and our health. But the main takeaway for me was that a vegan’s life is a life of love rather than one that condones entrapment and torture.
Animals are others
I don’t subscribe to one religion; rather, I try to listen to the wisdom in all of them. “Do unto others that you would have them do unto you” is a favorite of mine because it’s undebatable.
For instance, do you like being cut off in traffic? Probably not, so why do it to others? Other people are individuals who think and feel just like you. The anger and fear that flows through you when you get cut off flows through others when they get cut off.
If you believe differently, you think you’re more important than others and you don’t have the compassion to contemplate the question: Are animals not others?
They think and feel. They have many of the same organs and limbs as us. They fear death and cry out for the children when they’re ripped away from them, much like human mothers would. This is undebatable. So why are we entrapping them, torturing them, and slaughtering them?
Because they’re different than us? History shows we end up regretting this type of thing.
Animal food is inefficient
Animals are unnecessary “middlemen” for food production. They eat plants, generate waste, and take up space until they’re slaughtered, diced up, and served on our plate. We’re all about efficiency from 9 to 5, but when it comes to food we turn a blind eye.
Plant → Animal → Human
Plant → Human
One is undebatably more efficient than the other, and being inefficient with our food is inexcusable when the population is growing at a linear rate and the land we have to produce food on and live on remains constant.
Instead of commercially raping entrapped animals and feeding them plants so we can commercially rape more entrapped animals, we should stop this hellish process and feed the human population.
(I’m talking about dairy cows here who need to be impregnated throughout their lives, often with a long rod, to keep producing milk.)
All of those fields for growing hay for feed, all of that land for growing grass for grazing (for the lucky cows), and all of that water and energy used to grow the feed and grass: This should be used to produce food for humans. Giving food to animals first is not efficient.
Put simply: More efficiency means more food. More food means less hungry people (or fatter people, but that’s a topic for another article.)
Animal food is unsettling
When you think of what most animal products are, the thought of consuming them is unsettling.
Eggs are the byproduct of a chicken’s menstrual cycle. Beef is dead flesh of an often-tortured cow. And dairy milk, according to Dr. Michael Klaper, is the lactation secretions of a large bovine mammal that just had a baby.
Compare animal products with plants: edible forms of energy produced from the energy of the sun.
How to become vegan
I realized that becoming vegan was the right move for me after a year of experimentation and contemplation, and I’m still not a true vegan yet. A transition like this is hard and takes time. But the payoff is worth it.
Start with one day
Eating vegan for one day may help you realize that veganism is satisfying, even delicious. To try it out, you can follow my favorite vegan meal day below. (I get fresh produce from Whole Foods or farmers markets and buy other food from Trader Joe’s.)
Put the following in a blender: water or almond milk (8oz), frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries, frozen coconut, frozen spinach, half banana or avocado. Blend until smooth, then break half a bar of non-dairy dark chocolate into pieces and add to blender. Blend for 5 seconds. (The larger chunks of chocolate are a satisfying treat in the morning.)
If you need more food, toast some whole wheat bread and spread peanut butter on it. You can also add the peanut butter to the smoothie if you’re gluten intolerant.
If you have a Chipotle near you, go there for ease. Get a burrito or burrito bowl with rice, beans, sofritas (seasoned tofu), corn, salsa, and guacamole. If you don’t have a Chipotle nearby, you can easily make a similar rice and bean bowl at home. (If you don’t feel like making guacamole, just mash up an avocado.)
Make a salad with arugula, sunflower seeds, pomegranate seeds, sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, olive oil and any other plant-based foods. For your main meal, bake one or two regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, or yams. This should be more than enough food, but if you’re still hungry…
If you give this a shot, let me know about it. At the end of the day, do you feel lighter on your feet or pretty much the same? How about ethics wise? Do you feel good that you’re not supporting the animal agriculture industry, or are you still apathetic?
If you’re still apathetic, give Cowspiracy and What the Health a watch, both available on Netflix.