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The Only Way to Save our Planet…

Vegan – the new diet and lifestyle that is rocking the world. In the past few years, and especially in recent months, the vegan lifestyle has been gaining huge publicity and popularity, with millions of Brits swapping out their steak and chips for a plant-based alternative. Is this just another weight-loss tactic? Or are there real benefits – both to our health and to the planet?

There is a strong stereotype surrounding the word ‘vegan’ that goes beyond the assumption that vegans only consume rabbit food. The stereotype has one thing right though – the majority of vegans are choosing this lifestyle for environmental and ethical reasons. In our current situation, a vegan diet, or at least a more vegetarian diet, is the ONLY thing that is going to save our planet. Before you roll your eyes at another eco-warrior bid to promote veganism, I may add that there are significant health benefits from following a plant based diet.

Plants are little pockets of nutrition, and we in the Western world simply don’t eat enough of them. The recommended daily intake is 10 portions of fruit and vegetables, not 5. How many do you eat? Hand on heart, is it more than 3? By eating more plants we would be getting more of the essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs to be healthy and to prevent illness. There has been significant research into plant-based diets as a way to reduce risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and general ill-health, mainly as a result from not consuming overly processed red meat which is high in saturated fats and a worrying amount of unseen chemicals. Many who change to a more flexatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet notice significant weight loss., and that is not due to a ‘lack of protein’ – fun fact, peas have more protein in them gram for gram than many meat sources. If you need proof of the benefits of the plant-based lifestyle on your physique, just put ‘Vegan athletes’ into Google images!

Ethically, avoiding buying cheap meat and dairy products will demonstrate that we, as consumers, are concerned for the welfare of the animals. As a student, it is likely that the meat, dairy and eggs that you can afford were reared in a dirty, dark, and cramped barn, far too small for the amount of animals kept there, before being slaughtered by suffocation and gassing – a fairly brutal way to kill an animal, even if the industry claims it is painless. Can you really justify eating something that was treated this way? Could you yourself do that to an animal just for sake of your appetite?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the issue of the planet; the amount of land, water, and resources to feed one meat-eater is 18 times more than that of a plant-eater. The meat and dairy industry use 1/3 of the earth’s fresh water, and covers 45% of the earth’s surface. The pollution and waste produced from livestock farming is staggering, and would be more than halved if everyone chose to follow a plant based diet. Our earth has limited resources, and we are using them at a staggering rate. The recent news coverage of the damage we our doing to our planet was no joke, we simply cannot continue at our current rate of consumption. If  deforestation, for the sake of farmland, stays at its current rate, the temperature of the earth will keep on rising and rising, owing to the reduced amount of trees there are to absorb the CO2 produced by our cities. This in turn will cause the ice caps to melt, the sea levels will rise, etc, etc. You’ve all heard the stories – don’t believe Donald Trump; Global Warming is not a joke.

If we don’t act now, we will destroy our planet forever.

Sure, you might miss meat and dairy, but there are now so many alternatives available that you probably won’t even notice that you’re not eating real meat. Are you willing to put your craving for a burger over the welfare and future of our planet – the one your children are going to inherit? It might take a little getting used to, but no one said you have to go vegan overnight. Gradually reduce your intake – meatless Mondays, or having a non-meat dinner a few times a week is a great way to start. Try swapping out your usual dairy milk in your tea or coffee – oat milk is a great alternative. You’ll be amazed how quickly you adjust, and also how great you feel – not just physically, but morally as well. If you need a little inspiration, Instagram is overwhelmed by Vegan food accounts, full of delicious and interesting recipes that are so easy and affordable!

This is the last chance we will have to save our planet. Act now, for the sake of the earth and for your children.

Exeter University Student, studying English Literature and Spanish Athlete and Foodie (see @what.katie.does98 on Instagram) The future Kate Addie...
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