Why I’ll Never Be A Quiet Vegan

How do you know someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

I used to be too embarrassed to tell people that I was vegan. I’d order something from a menu that appeared to be vegan, often to find that the side salad was smothered in mayo or such like, but I’d just leave it untouched rather than go through the rigmarole of having them exchange it, because I didn’t want to be one of those vegans. That’s why the above joke is a little unfair; we often have to mention that we’re vegan just to get by, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t eat.

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I think part of the reason that I didn’t like to tell anyone was because, well, vegans are not very well liked, generally speaking. It was in the news last week that a freelance writer had pitched an idea to the editor of Waitrose’s in-house magazine, William Sitwell, to run a series of plant-based recipes. The response that she received from him was nothing short of hateful, proposing instead to run a series with ideas on how to kill off vegans one by one. He likely meant it as a satirical joke, but if you replace the word “vegan” in his response with another minority group, you’ll quickly realise why he had to resign from his post. He publicly apologised and said that he didn’t hate vegans, but his opinions are clear as far as I’m concerned, and it isn’t the first anti-vegan comment that he’s made.

Sore Point

I remember getting into a discussion once when a friend enquired after my husband. I explained that he too had become vegan, but was a little more vocal in his views than I was. For example, if I were eating a meal with someone and they ordered steak, I would sit at the table with them and not say anything, whereas he would probably have to put in his two penn’orth. My friend grew agitated by this and pointed out that what she chose to eat was nobody else’s business. I can understand why non-vegans have this viewpoint and she’s certainly not alone. I’ve heard countless times people saying “if you want to be vegan, that’s fine, but don’t push your views onto others, eating meat is my personal choice.” I would counter with individual choice: yes, personal choice: no.

“Personal”  implies that the choice doesn’t affect anybody except for the person making the decision. The reality is that the choice to eat meat is destroying the planet, a planet that I (and 7.5 billion other people) share. I wouldn’t call that personal. Furthermore, the grain and crops that are fed to farmed animals are grown in the same countries where there are starving people; every time you eat meat, you take food from someone else’s mouth. Would you tell those starving children that your choice to eat steak from a cow fattened up with food that could’ve been fed to them, is a personal choice? And without wanting to state the obvious, if you say that eating meat is a personal choice, then you’re forgetting the animal on your plate that died for those fleeting moments on your tastebuds.

It’s not me, it’s your conscience

I’ve had several conversations with people who have strangely attempted to use the fact that they “don’t like how smug vegans are” as some sort of justification for their eating meat. I can’t speak for all vegans, but I don’t feel superior to anybody else because of my choice not to partake in these cruel industries. If that were the case, then I wouldn’t be trying to convince others to go vegan too, I’d just sit up there on my pedestal by myself, looking down on the masses. If that’s how vegans come across to non-vegans, I believe it’s more of a reflection of them. Maybe they feel that way because deep down, they know that veganism is the correct moral position. They don’t agree with violence towards animals, yet they understand that one had to die in order to sit on their plate. Where are they supposed to put that? They’re at odds with their own beliefs and this manifests itself as anger towards those who are a physical representation of that malalignment.

I don’t feel smug, it’s really not about that, it’s about taking a stand against injustice. I obviously believe that what I’m doing is the right thing and I believe that eating meat is wrong, so there’s really no getting away from me looking “self-righteous”, but I don’t believe that I’m better than them. The meat-eating default is not their fault; the decision to eat meat was likely made for them when they were weaned off milk. I ate meat for a long time until I learnt the truth. I think the reason that most people eat meat is simply because they’re a product of the system, killing animals for food has been normalised and the truth has been concealed. Once people take a step outside of the system and have their eyes opened to the horrors, I believe most people would make the right decision, so that’s what I want to do; reconnect people with their conscience.

I believe there are some people who genuinely don’t care and would be happy to kill and eat an animal themselves (if not, relish it). But I appeal to those that recognise that it’s morally wrong, for those who couldn’t kill the animal themselves, who cover their eyes when slaughterhouse footage is shown. If you have to look away, you know in your heart that it’s wrong and you should question why you’re still paying for this to happen when you don’t have to. You may not be the hitman, but you’ve paid for the hit by purchasing the products, which makes you equally responsible for their murder. It’s to those people that I appeal, because they’re already vegan at heart.

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Photo credit: @anonymousforthevoiceless Instagram

The “Angry Vegan” Stereotype

There’s a sweeping generalisation that all vegans are angry. It’s difficult not to be angry when it comes to something that you’re so passionate about. But let’s not forget that it works the other way around too, non-vegans equally can be angry when having a discussion with a vegan. Carnists don’t want to hear about the vegan agenda, I get that. But at least they can mostly avoid it.

Vegan: in a non-vegan world

During the Summer Solstice and over a period of 10 days, a dog meat festival takes place in Yulin, China. It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 dogs are consumed, some after public slaughter, as it’s believed that eating dog meat during the Summer months brings good health and fortune (to the consumer, not the dogs). You’ve likely heard about it because Westerners have petitioned against this since it’s beginnings in 2009.

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Photo credit: @lavacastyle Instagram

The Chinese have been brought up to eat dog meat just as we have to eat pork, beef, lamb and chicken, etc. Dogs in China are bred for meat in much the same way as our “meat” animals are factory-farmed. But when we hear about the Yulin Festival, we think it’s abhorrent. People get so angry when they read about it or see images on social media. A lot of these are the same people that go to Christmas markets and chow down on hog roasts rotating on a spit. There’s a hypocrisy in that, that goes unrecognised. How is it worse to kill and eat a dog than it is to kill and eat a pig? The only difference is perception.

Remember how angry you were when you heard about the Yulin festival and how upset you were at seeing those images. That’s how vegans feel too, but what’s worse for us, is that we don’t just see this surface on social media once a year, we see it every day, everywhere we look; in the supermarket, in a cafe, in people’s houses, at parties. We cannot get away from it.

Imagine that you’re at a restaurant with a friend and they’ve just ordered a Spaniel sandwich. Would you look away while they were eating? Would you be able to put it out of your mind? Would you lose your appetite? Welcome to my world. I sit and eat with meat-eaters because I still have to live my life and get along with everyone, but it can put me off my own food. I have to use cognitive dissonance myself just to get through the meal. Some vegans can’t. They refuse to eat at the same table as someone who’s eating meat. I can understand that.

Another time when out to dinner, soon after I’d announced that I’d turned vegan, the person I was sat directly opposite ordered a sizzling steak platter. Maybe they were trying to make a point. Their meal arrived and meat juices were spitting everywhere, all over the table, inching increasingly closer to my plate.

The reason I’m recounting this story is to demonstrate what vegans go through on the regular. Non-vegans don’t have to deal with things like this. The situation simply isn’t the same when the roles are reversed. A non-vegan wouldn’t be sickened by vegan food in the same way that a vegan is sickened by someone eating the chopped up dead body of an animal.

I hope this helps to explain why sometimes vegans come across as being angry. I can’t speak for all vegans, but I personally sometimes struggle to cope with the injustice. It pains me that I live in a world where I’m the one constantly having to defend my decision not to cause harm to animals, surely it should be the other way around?

People would want to know… Wouldn’t they?

It’s actually incredibly difficult to tell someone that you’re vegan. You feel apprehension, mentally gritting your teeth, wondering which way the conversation is going to go this time. You quickly learn to gauge people’s reactions. Some people are really receptive and genuinely interested and you know you can talk about it. Others, however, get angry very quickly and you know to let the subject drop. I’ve found that this can be the same whether talking to a stranger or to someone you’ve known all your life. In some ways, it’s more difficult to tell someone you’ve known all your life that you’re vegan. It can, I guess, seem a little hypocritical. “You’ve always eaten meat and dairy, so don’t start preaching to me now.” But the thing is, it’s the very opposite of hypocritical. You see, the day I learnt of the horrors of the meat and dairy industry was the day that I stopped funding them.

The horrors I refer to are threefold. Firstly, are the animals, that’s a given. Secondly is the environment (for more information on how the meat and dairy industry is bad for the environment, see my previous post HERE). Thirdly are the dangers to human health. As soon as I learnt that processed meats are classified by the World Health Organisation as being as carcinogenic as cigarettes, I stopped feeding them to my children. I learnt that eating meat is linked with Type II diabetes in later life as well as heart disease and strokes. These are all preventable illnesses that can be avoided by eschewing meat. I also learnt that casein, an animal protein found in milk and cheese is the most relevant carcinogen ever identified and that your chances of developing certain cancers can be reduced by a third on a plant-based diet.

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Photo credit: @veganforeva10 Instagram

If you want to know more information on the health impacts of eating meat and dairy, watch Forks Over Knives and What The Health? both available on Netflix.

When I learnt these things, I wondered why it wasn’t more widely known and I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it. Surely everyone would want to know? Turns out people don’t want to know. They really strongly don’t want to know. There are some that do. So I tell them. I chip away at my family and feed them small bits of information about how eating meat and dairy affects health and slowly but surely it starts to make an impact.

Because I care about you

I won’t be a quiet vegan because I care about people. I don’t want to watch them suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and any other preventable diseases. I don’t want to see my mum and dad succumb to illness and suffering when I could have opened my mouth to warn them and stopped it from happening. So the next time I attempt to “ram my vegan agenda down your throat”, take it as a compliment, it means I care about you.

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Because I care about our world

I won’t go into detail about this one as I covered it quite extensively in my last post (read about it HERE). We need to do everything we can to prevent global warming to continue on its current path. We’ve literally been told to reduce our meat consumption or the world as we know it will end by mid-century, so yeah, for the sake of my children, I want the world to at least reduce meat consumption, and I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to. So many people have thanked me for alerting them to how their food choices are impacting the environment and they’ve made a few changes to their diet. The more the movement spreads, the more chance we have of saving the planet.

Because people don’t want to be in the dark

Until last year, I was blissfully unaware of exactly what went on in the meat and dairy industries. I was shocked to find out for example that the dairy industry was worse than the meat industry in terms of cruelty to animals. I naively thought that milk was fine “because nothing dies”. But then I found out that the cow is still slaughtered for meat at the end but endures a lifetime of torture before then; being forcibly impregnated every year to maintain high milk yields and having her babies stolen from her; being hooked up to machines that milk the life from her until she collapses aged around 6 years when she will be killed for hamburger meat rather than living until her natural lifespan of around 20 years. The boy babies from the milk industry are a ‘waste product’ and so become veal, whereas the girl babies will endure the same terrible fate as their mothers. We don’t know this stuff because it’s hidden from us.

I was also really upset that my friend who has been vegan for 10 years hadn’t told me any of this. I, without doubt, would’ve become vegan sooner, had I known. So I go on about it to anyone who’ll listen because I don’t want people approaching me in years to come asking “why didn’t you tell me?”

Because I care about Them

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Photo credit: @vegancommunity Instagram

Whilst there are literally hundreds of reasons to go vegan, the most obvious one is to save the lives of these sentient beings who have been bred into a miserable existence; where they’ll live in nasty conditions, worse than a prison, with health issues, until one day they are sent off to slaughter, where they’ll cry, experience fear as they smell the blood on the kill floor and watch their brothers and sisters being strung up by their ankles and having their throats slit to become someone’s lunch… When that person could’ve just eaten something else.

According to PETA, by being vegan, I’m saving 198 animals per year. Or rather, 198 animals per year are not bred into existence. By talking about it and giving information and educating, the movement is spreading. Because of my inability to stay quiet about these issues, my husband is now vegan, as is my brother, my Mum is pescatarian, my sister and my Dad have reduced their red meat consumption, my friend has become flexitarian and some of my work colleagues have stopped eating certain types of meat too. If I had kept quiet, I would have been limited to saving just 198 animals per year. By being a vocal vegan, I’ve saved countless more. And it has a knock-on effect. My husband has been talking to people and raising awareness with his work colleagues, some of which are researching veganism themselves and have already started to make some changes.

Try to stop me

I’m going to continue to spread the vegan message for the sake of people’s health, the planet’s health and the animals’ lives. If you want to shut me up… go vegan!

 

Please leave any comments below. Comments containing abuse or profanities will be removed.

 

 

Is The End Nigh Though?

THE BIGGEST SCOOP

How is it that, what should be the greatest news story in the history of mankind, only made it into SOME of the headlines and has already been rapidly forgotten about?

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I feel like one of those mad women you used to see in city centres walking around with a sandwich board, ringing a bell, looking skyward while shouting “the end is nigh”. But if we don’t start making changes, we are quite literally speeding towards Armageddon.

In case you hadn’t heard (most people that I speak to haven’t), there was a report released on 8th October that spells out disastrous consequences for humanity if average global temperatures surpass 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels.

The Paris Agreement was formed by 195 nations in 2015, whose goal was to keep the temperature rise to below 2°c. We’ve already reached 1°c. This new apocalyptic report, released at the beginning of the month, suggests a new target of 1.5°c; just half a degree higher and the repercussions would be catastrophic. But even keeping below 2°c was ambitious. Moreover, if we continue on our current path, we’re more likely to hit 3°c instead. They suggest that to remain in the (relatively) safe zone of 1.5°c, the changes that are needed are radical and they’ve given us just 12 years to achieve this objective.

WHO ARE THEY?

The report has been compiled over the last 2 and a half years by the most brilliant minds in climate science from across the world who were formed into the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations. The report is written by several lead authors and contributing guest authors. It goes to an independent review panel, to government advisors and has to be approved line by line by all involved nations. So in a nutshell, it’s a pretty robust piece of literature involving thousands of climate experts.

TRUMP CARD

The last major report by the IPCC that came out in 2013 was the AR5. It’s the most comprehensive report ever written on the subject where 830 experts from over 100 different countries reviewed more than 30,000 studies. It was found, with 97% confidence that climate change is real and that it is most definitely caused by human activity. Despite the scientific opinion of thousands of experts, US president, Donald Trump denied these claims and America pulled out of the Paris Accord last year. Rather than joining forces to combat this global threat, he’s caused divisions and there is now concern that other leaders may follow suit.

The Brazilian presidential election takes place at the end of the month and the result could have significant consequences for the rest of the world. Favourite to win is Jair Bolsonaro. If he is elected, it spells disaster for the Amazon rainforest, lungs of our planet. He has promised to open up more of the Amazon to agribusiness for ever increasing world demands for beef and soy (around 70% of the world’s soy is fed to livestock). He is dedicated to scrapping the Environment Ministry and will instead replace it with the Agricultural Ministry, in favour of converting forests to farmland. He has also made it clear that he will not set aside any reserves for natives of the Amazon who have lived there for thousands of years; quote: “there won’t be a square centimetre demarcated as an indigenous reserve”. The Amazon acts as a Carbon sink. Whereas we inhale Oxygen and breathe out CO2 (Carbon dioxide), trees do the opposite during photosynthesis. When a tree is cut down, not only does it cease to sequester carbon, but it emits all that it contains. Destroying the Amazon would accelerate climate change and we may reach 1.5°c way before the 12 year deadline. This hasn’t even been taken into consideration by the IPCC report.

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And before you say we don’t get beef from Brazil, yes we do. A quarter of beef sold in the UK is imported and that figure is about to rapidly increase. Under EU law, hormone-induced beef is not allowed to be sold. However, once Britain leaves the EU and is no longer governed by that law, it means that trade agreements with non-EU countries such as the US will be opened up. And once hormone-boosted meat enters the UK food supply chain, UK farmers will fight their case to adopt US farming practices too, in order to compete. The beef will be full of hormones, steroids and antibiotics. This in turn will cause greater stress on the already oversubscribed health services due to higher rates of diseases that are associated with a meat-heavy diet. You might be able to avoid such meat in the supermarkets, where you can read the labels, but it won’t be so easy at public eateries, where half of the UK’s food bill is spent.

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IS IT REALLY AS BAD AS THEY’RE MAKING OUT?

Experts from across the world have claimed that the damning report is actually too conservative. It seems that they’ve down-played it for the governmental policymakers, who have down-played it even further to make it more palatable for the general public.

There are several things that the report hasn’t taken into consideration. One of which is the dangerous tipping points that may occur, after which, no amount of human intervention can bring climate change back under control.

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In a scenario that has been dubbed ‘Hothouse Earth’, temperatures will reach a threshold beyond which, Earth will be put on to an irreversible pathway. This is when the carbon sinks become carbon sources. It is predicted to happen once we reach 2°c. There will come a point where Earth becomes too hot to sustain life. Plants, trees and other flora will die. If nothing is photosynthesising, there’s nothing to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and instead, it is released. CO2 traps heat, making temperatures soar even further.

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The permafrost in Arctic regions will thaw out and bacteria will begin to decompose the shrubbery, releasing an immeasurable amount of methane. Methane is up to 100 times more dangerous than CO2 with regards to its heat-trapping capacity. This “methane time-bomb” would not only spell the end of civilisation, but could cause extinction of humanity as well as most animals within a decade of the methane release.  They’re not certain at what temperature this methane time-bomb would detonate, but estimate that it could occur anywhere between a rise of 1.5°c and 10°c.

If the methane clathrates for the time being remain intact, still the only positive is that the worst of the effects of climate change won’t be felt until about a hundred years away, when experts predict that temperatures will stabilise at around 4-5°c above pre-industrial levels, after the ice caps have completely melted. By that point, however, much of Earth will be uninhabitable and if we have survived, civilisation will be unrecognisable from today. Alarmingly, there are some climate scientists that believe Earth is more sensitive than the IPCC report supposes and that we could hand over control to her at just 1°c rise.

The other thing that the report fails to touch on is the potential for nuclear war. With widespread drought, fires and crop failures, it will be a case of move or starve. And rising sea levels and the disappearance of many coastal towns will mean that millions of people will be left without homes (half the world’s current population lives in coastal areas). Whitmee et al (2015) predicts that between 50 and 350 million refugees will be displaced due to climatic factors.

Even if you don’t care about these 350 million people, you’ll care about their next move; looking for somewhere to live, somewhere that has food, somewhere temperate, somewhere like the UK maybe?

And the mass migration will inevitably lead to war as tensions rise, with conflicts over fresh water sources, food sources and land. Climate change is a risk already recognised by most governments as a threat to national security. If nuclear war breaks out, the black carbon released in smoke clouds from explosions could also cause mass crop failure and global famine.

SyriaAnd if you need proof of this, just look at the situation in Syria. Regional drought beginning in 2007 caused rural families to migrate to towns. Tensions began to rise between different social groups which led to the eventual outbreak of civil war.

 

WHAT WILL WE SEE DURING OUR LIFETIME?

If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll have seen that I got myself into a couple of debates around the topic recently. I learnt a few things from this. Firstly that people don’t understand the impact of global warming fully and secondly, that they don’t understand what needs to be done to prevent it. Underneath my comprehensive explanation of how animal agriculture was in the very least, equally to blame as transport for global warming, there was the following comment:

“Well if global warming means tropical weather in the UK, then get me down to Burger King”.

sunbathing-826918_1920Although, meant as a joke (I hope), it did get me thinking. What if this is what people genuinely believe? Is that why people aren’t concerned with increasing global temperatures, because they’re looking forward to some long, hot summers?

 

 

Let’s use Australia as an example, the effects of climate change there have already begun to reveal themselves. Widespread droughts in New South Wales have meant that crops that are usually grown to feed cattle have withered and died and there’s no feed, so the cattle are starving and farmers are having to either send trucks far across land for feed (increasing the carbon footprint of animal agriculture further) or send cattle to slaughter early with not as much meat on their bones. Farmers in this area are being heavily subsidised by the government resulting in animosity amongst city dwellers.

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This is just a sign of things to come. This won’t be something limited to Australia if global temperatures continue to rise. There will be crop failures all over the world due to different weather disasters in different areas; droughts and flooding in some and fires in others, contributing to rising food prices, starvation, riots and civil wars. This is what we can realistically expect to see during our life time. This is something that I’m particularly concerned about, living in what is officially the most deprived town in England, where people are already struggling to afford to eat.

IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS?

There is! The good news is that it is preventable, but it’s going to take something completely radical to achieve it. Science is one thing, eliciting behavioural change is another.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

The trouble with imposing a 12 year deadline is that with climate change, there are no hard and fast timescales. We’ve heard it all before, “we’ve got 10 years to tackle climate change”, “we’ve got 6 years before the climate change budget runs out”. It’s like the boy who cried wolf and maybe that’s why people aren’t taking it seriously this time. The truth is, we’ve always had this problem, we’ve always known that climate change is something that we need to bring under control. It’s just that the longer we leave it, the worse it gets and the more drastic the measures have to be to bring it back within our grasp. It is best explained using this credit card analogy: “It’s like putting off paying your credit card bill. The interest just keeps mounting and the total bill gets ever worse. There is no cutoff point, except bankruptcy – which is best avoided. Climate change is our bill coming due, and we would do better to pay up now before the interest starts spiking.”

We were warned years ago to “act now” because if we waited, it would get worse. Well we waited and now it’s worse. So we still need to act, but now we have to do it faster.

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Plans were unveiled this week in the UK to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars by the year 2032 which is exactly the type of bold move that our governments should be making. This comes after similar plans have been put in place by several other countries with Norway and South Korea leading the way by banning sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles by 2020.

We know some of the things that we need to take personal responsibility for in order to help save the environment; drive smarter and slow down; use the train instead of flying domestically; Skype for business rather than visiting; don’t leave things on standby; use energy bulbs; reduce waste, including food; use less water; leave the car at home; recycle; wash at 30; carpool; compost, and so on and so forth.

These are things that we should all have been doing for years already, but now is more important than ever. The trouble with all of the above is that it still releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, just at a slower rate, meanwhile temperatures are still rising.

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HOW DOES EATING MEAT CONTRIBUTE TO CLIMATE CHANGE?

One thing that most people aren’t aware of is that eating meat has its own carbon footprint… and it’s a giant one. According to the IPCC (2014), agriculture is responsible for 24% of all emissions, that’s more than the entire transport sector put together which emits comparably fewer emissions at 14%. Not only does agriculture cause more emissions than the transport sector, but almost half of those emissions are methane which as I discussed earlier, is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

The reasons that eating meat is so costly to the planet are numerous. First is the water use. Animal agriculture uses a third of all of the world’s fresh water. The reason animal agriculture is such a thirsty business, is largely due to irrigating the crops that are used as feed for the livestock, as well as the water that is consumed by the cattle themselves. A typical dairy cow consumes between 60 and 100 litres per day, which can double in periods of heat stress. It has been estimated that eschewing one beef burger would save the same amount of water as not showering for 2 months.

deforestation-405749_1920Then there’s land use. Currently, 45% of all of Earth’s land is occupied by livestock systems. The deforestation rate for animal agriculture is a football field per second, which equates to a loss of area the size of New York every day. It has been calculated that 91% of deforestation that occurs in the Amazon is for livestock.

Globally, we produce enough food to feed the world’s population. So why are there people dying of starvation? The answer is because the world’s cattle consumes a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. So while the West are dying from diseases of affluence such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, many in the East are dying from starvation.

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By reducing our meat consumption, demand for meat decreases, which means fewer cows/pigs/sheep/chickens will be bred into existence, less land is needed for agriculture, and the land can thus be replanted. The crops grown for livestock feed could instead be directed to famine-stricken areas and this would put an end to world hunger too.

The land that was grazed for cattle wouldn’t need to be replaced with land for growing crops because it takes a third the amount of land to produce equivalent calories required on a plant-based diet compared to an omnivorous one.

The more trees that are planted, the more CO2 can be taken out of the atmosphere and the greater the cooling effect.

Afforestation is currently the only way that we know how to REVERSE global warming on a grand enough scale.

There are other detrimental effects on the environment that come with animal agriculture that I haven’t even touched upon, like run off from farms entering waterways and causing ocean dead zones, destroying marine life. And if the oceans die, we die.

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BUT SURELY “THEY” WILL COME UP WITH SOMETHING?

Negative emissions technologies (NETs) do exist that essentially “suck” greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and the IPCC have featured these prominently in their report and stated that we will have to rely heavily on them if we’re to meet our target, the only problem is, they don’t yet exist on the scale that they’re needed. They range in their effectiveness, expense and impacts on the environment. So far, upscaling of the most efficient methods, such as direct air capture, has been halted by expense, it would take billions upon billions to fund, and no-one wants to pay up.

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One study that evaluated different NETs stated unequivocally that there are none that will meet the 2°c target (which is now an even more ambitious 1.5°c) that could be implemented without significant impact on land, water, energy, nutrient, cost or albedo (the amount of sun’s rays that are reflected back off Earth’s surface). So ‘Plan A’ has to be to reduce emissions.

Another study concluded that NETs are not an insurance policy but rather an extremely high stakes gamble with a very real risk that they’ll be unable to deliver.

Senior Research Engineer, Howard J. Herzog (MIT) points out that if today we are unwilling to use mitigation technologies due to their expense (things like improved efficiency, switching from coal to gas and using renewable energy), then why should we think that future generations will use NETs when they’re considerably more expensive? Why should we be so selfish and let future generations pick up the tab? Barriers to these technologies are very real and we cannot rely on the use of them in the future to compensate for our breaking the carbon budget and failing to do enough today.

The bottom line is that thus far, none of these technologies has been shown to work on the scale that is needed, being both at a reasonable cost and without detrimental impacts on the environment.

So rather than our plan being to continue on the path to self-destruction and just hope that something comes along, why don’t we just sacrifice our tastebuds and save humanity by leaving meat off the menu?

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From conversations that I’ve had, I’ve found that people either don’t believe that it will happen, or they think “They” will come up with something before then. And apparently everybody is doing their bit already to save the environment. Which begs the question; if you’re already doing you’re bit, but we’re still on this collision course then what does that mean?

It means we need to try harder. So what then? Get an electric car? Eventually, yes but it’s not something that everyone can start immediately. Cut out flights completely? Not likely. So what else could you be doing? Something really easy?

Reduce your meat, dairy and eggs consumption. Nobody has an excuse not to do this. It’s not more expensive to go meat free. Potatoes, beans, bread, pasta and vegetables are not more expensive than meat. So if it’s healthier, better for the environment and saves you money, why would you argue against it?

If it didn’t upset me so much, I’d find it funny. Plastic is bad, “I agree, I’ll use less plastic”; cars are bad, “I agree, I’ll walk more”; wasting electricity is bad, “I agree, I’ll use energy-saving lightbulbs”, meat is bad… “Whoa, leave my dietary choices out of this”. Why do people have such a hard time with that last one?

If people continue to eat meat at the current rate and the population continues to increase exponentially, there literally will not be enough land available to feed everyone. At which point, meat reduction will be forced upon us. So why wait until then when all the damage has been done, when we can make the decision today, ourselves and save the planet in the process? The point is, we should be trying our best to save the environment in ALL areas and whether you like it or not, your diet can have the greatest positive effect.

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The whole world going vegan overnight is not the solution, this would bring many problems in itself. But certainly reducing meat and dairy consumption (and hopefully, gradually becoming vegan) is the way to go. Over the course of a year, if all Americans agreed to go meat and dairy free for just one day per week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road. You don’t have to commit to vegetarianism, or veganism, but could you replace a meat-centric meal with a jacket potato and beans, and a bean chilli and rice, a couple of nights per week, and in exchange, secure the future of our beautiful Mother Earth for your children and grandchildren?

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Enrico Fermi posed a question that’s had experts baffled for years. On discussing the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, he asked “where are they?”. Given that our star and Earth are part of a young system compared with the rest of the universe, and that interstellar travel is extremely likely, probability dictates that we should have been contacted by now; why haven’t we? One theory is that intelligent beings greedily pursuing growth and expansion ultimately cause their own demise. Please don’t let that explanation be the right one.

RESOURCES

If you’ve heard enough and want to take the plunge into vegan waters but don’t know where to start, here are some great references to help you transition.

22 Day Vegan Challenge

How to go Vegan, Veganuary

How to go Vegan, The Vegan Society

Transitioning to a Vegan Lifestyle

How to Go Vegan, Kinder World

Going Vegan, Viva Health

examples of vegan food

Some delicious, but not always healthy, vegan food featured on my Instagram @theverdantvegan

Please feel free to leave a comment below, but remember, don’t shoot the messenger! Comments containing abuse or profanities will be removed.

Vegan Me

I figured it was about time that I got around to starting that blog that I always intended to. The aim is to share information and experiences. If I can make one person think and make a change, then it’ll have been worth it.

So this first post is to introduce myself and to explain a little about why I feel that transitioning to veganism is one of the best lifestyle choices I’ve made.

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I think my story is probably similar to many other vegans’ in that I initially stopped consuming animals and animal products, selfishly, for my own health. I have a very dear friend who was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. He went to visit a cancer nutritionist who told him that in order to minimise the chances of developing cancer to begin with, people should really turn to a plant-based diet.

This was news to me. What was so wrong with meat and dairy? My interest was piqued and I set about doing my own research.

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I found transitioning to veganism fairly easy. While studying for my undergrad, I lived with a vegetarian who I regarded as being quite strict. She always checked ingredients, even on sweets and checked the filtration processes of wines; she’d sometimes refuse medication because the capsule contained gelatine; she wouldn’t share the dishwasher, preferring to wash by hand; she was quite choosy when eating out at restaurants because she was concerned of cross-contamination if her chosen dish had been cooked in the same pan as meats; and she would only buy cosmetics from places like The Body Shop and Lush. I’d come across vegetarians before, but had never really thought about the Ins and Outs. I could completely understand her strictness and was always sort of in awe of her self-discipline. I thought it must be incredibly hard to live the way that she did. She was also studying veterinary science and kept guinea pigs in her bedroom. The very definition of a true animal-lover. She has since turned vegan.

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She made me think twice about eating animals. Prior to this, I’d chewed on dead carcasses quite happily without it entering my consciousness. As a family, we always had some form of meat with every dinner. Mum used to cook a lot of white meat, but I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten a steak in my whole life. I’ve only ever had gammon twice and I can clearly remember both occasions. The first time, I couldn’t get past the second mouthful it was just so salty and chewy and I vowed that there would never be a second time. Then, I went to the home of my university boyfriend where I was to meet his parents for the first time. About an hour before sitting down to dinner, he’d asked me if there were anything that I wouldn’t/couldn’t eat. I said I wasn’t fussy, the only thing I would NOT be able to eat was gammon and obviously, that is precisely what was placed in front of me. I had to politely chew and swallow every morsel, and it took me around a million excruciatingly painful minutes (I’m only slightly exaggerating). Embarrassingly, I think his parents actually left the table before I’d finished. So although red meat was not something that was regularly on the menu, aside from gammon, I would eat pretty much any dead animal… within (what I thought was) reason. I now realise it’s a ridiculous society-ingrained notion to think that it’s OK to eat some animals but not others.

But after meeting my veggie housemate, something changed. I felt sickened by the thought of eating a cow or a pig or a lamb. I obviously had always known where meat came from, but I’d never really thought about it. How had I not considered it before now? An animal had given the ultimate sacrifice (against its will). I no longer wanted something sitting in my stomach when I knew that it was a dismembered body part of our mammalian cousins. I felt like I could actually feel the remains laying heavy in my belly. A highly uncomfortable feeling. So I decided that I’d eliminate from my diet… cute animals. I just cringed writing that, but that’s basically what it boiled down to. I would not eat anything fluffy or hairy again.

But I decided that, because we surely needed meat in our diet to remain healthy (because weren’t all vegetarians pale and anaemic?), that I would continue to eat poultry and fish. And I did so for the next 15 years.

So when I discovered that, actually, ALL animal products have negative health consequences, I experienced something of an epiphany and decided quite easily that I had to eliminate chicken and fish, as well as dairy and eggs too.

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Just as I’d made the decision to become plant-based, I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t done enough research around the topic and didn’t want to risk the health of my baby by not “doing it right”. I just didn’t feel confident enough that I was able to get all the required nutrients to sustain a healthy pregnancy. So while I stopped eating meat, I continued to eat dairy for a while because, y’know, milk builds strong bones and all that. Pfft.

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I did loads of research and found out that you can indeed sustain a healthy pregnancy without torturing, abusing and slaughtering animals. Who knew?

So, I committed to veganism. It really felt like the next logical step and at the time I felt like the metaphorical weight had been lifted. I was just “giving up” one extra thing. But, I wasn’t giving up anything. I was simply ceasing to take something that wasn’t mine in the first place. What a weird concept, I realised, drinking the breast milk of a completely different species. If I passed you a glass of dog’s milk that had been through the same pasteurising process, you’d say “yuk”. But breastmilk from a cow is completely different and completely fine? And fancy feeding it to our infant children when it’s intended to turn a 65 pound baby cow into an animal that weighs 700 pounds as quickly as possible. How have we been feeding this to our children without thinking that there could be negative consequences? But that’s for a different blog post.

Just for those eagle-eyed of you who are wondering where my what-should-be-an-8-month-bump is, I sadly found out at my 12-week scan that I had lost the baby. It had been my third miscarriage in 6 months. We’ve since decided that, actually, we’re quite happy as a foursome.

Back to the story.

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I started to do a lot more independent research. I watched health-related documentaries that focused on diet, such as What The Health? and Forks Over Knives. I learnt that by eliminating animal protein from your diet, you can increase your life expectancy and can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke, because when you follow a plant-based diet, you literally consume zero cholesterol. Cholesterol is only present in foods derived from animals. I also learnt that you can obtain all you need from plants, including protein, iron, and calcium. Furthermore, the quality of these vitamins and minerals is actually better, because you’re not recycling it through an animal who obtained all of those things itself from a plant-based diet. Learning what I did simply cemented my decision.

Digesting the persuasive arguments in those documentaries (‘scuse the pun) further fuelled my interest, not just in health, but in other areas such as the environmental impact of eating meat, I hadn’t even known that there was one up until that point.

I watched Cowspiracy next. It was a name banded about quite a lot in the vegan community and I felt it my duty as a new vegan to partake in viewing this influential film. Frankly, after watching this, I was scared. Scared for the planet and for my babies. What a world I have brought them into. I had no idea that the meat and dairy industry was having such a massive, destructive effect on our beloved Mother Earth. I didn’t know that we were clearing such massive areas of rainforest to make way for agricultural farming. An acre per second! If it continues at this rate, in 15 year’s time, the Amazonian Rainforest will no longer exist. We’re destroying the lungs of our planet. Without all of those trees photosynthesising and cleaning the air, we are contributing to global warming more than burning fossil fuels, driving cars and flying planes put together. By continuing this practice, we’re likely going to end up in a climate war with mass migration occurring as people flee from droughts, famine and sinking landscapes.

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The main takeaway message from this film was that we could literally halt global warming if we all agreed to stop eating meat, to stop breeding cattle, to stop clearing forests. Not only that, but if we took all of the grain that we use to fatten up cattle for the West, and instead gave it to people, there would be enough food for everyone and we could actually end world hunger too.

Now, I’m not an animal-lover per se. I’m not one to watch cute cat videos shared on Facebook, or even pet a puppy that comes over in a park. I mean, there are times when I really don’t see eye-to-eye with my own dog. But I challenge anyone to watch Earthlings without crying your heart out and without you taking away with you an image that you will never forget. I was only describing one scene from it to my husband and we both ended up in tears.

As I say, I’m no animal-lover, but I do respect another being’s right to live free from slavery, torture, abuse, fear and murder. I became vegan for my health, but veganism is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Anyone can fall off the wagon on a diet. So I’ll remain vegan for the animals. I can no longer say that I don’t know. And I won’t go back.

So here’s a brief summary: eating animals and animal products is actually really bad for our health. Eating animals and animal products is actually really bad for the planet. So even if you don’t care about the animals, there are two massive reasons right there to refrain from farming, killing and eating them.

“If we don’t need to kill and eat animals to be healthy, what are we doing this for?” – James Aspey, animal activist.

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Me and my boy, Oscar