Have you ever wondered why veganism is so popular? Here are the ABCs to give you a basic understanding!
A: Antibiotic resistance You know how you have to be super careful with antibiotics because if you take them too often, your body will develop a resistance to them and they won’t work anymore? Well, even if you never directly take an antibiotic in your life, you still might develop a resistance. Why? Because the animals you eat as meat take a TON of antibiotics.
According to a summary report released by the FDA, almost 80% of antibiotics sold by the pharmaceutical industry are reserved for livestock and poultry. (Read more about it in the Food Safety News or watch Dr. Michael Greger speak on this subject.) Farmed animals often live in such close quarters that illness would spread ridiculously easy, so it makes sense to pump a ton of antibiotics in them. Unfortunately, this has catastrophic effects for meat-eaters: according to the CDC, 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistance bacteria.
Before becoming vegan, I had to ensure that it was still possible to eat chocolate. Good news: it really, really is. I’m a huge fan of non-dairy chocolate fudge brownie ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Plenty of vegan brownie recipes exist, and the Starbucks hot chocolate mix from Costco is vegan. (You can get vegan mochas or hot chocolate from Starbucks by ordering it with soy, almond, or coconut milk and no whip.) Minimalist Baker is a website with a huge collection of vegan chocolate recipes. Daiya chocolate cheezecake is available at most grocery stores and is so delicious that you’ll crave it the rest of your life. Oreos are vegan, Thin Mints are vegan, Whole Foods vegan chocolate cakes are the best things I’ve ever tried in my life. Plus, if you just want a vegan chocolate bar, look on the back of a bar of dark chocolate at the grocery store—if it doesn’t say “contains milk” on the ingredients label, it’s probably vegan.
Did you know that processed meats (such as bacon and sausage) are labeled by the American Cancer Society as a Class A carcinogen? That is the same class as cigarettes! This fact isn’t heavily publicized (likely due to monetary pressures from the meat industry) but it’s right there on their list of “Known and Probable Carcinogens” (under the “known” section). It’s pretty freaking scary that we know that sausage causes cancer just as well as we know that cigarettes cause cancer, and yet we still feed our kids sausage at school. Read more about it from the World Health Organization or read the study right from an oncology journal.
Are you wondering why doctors don’t recommend a vegan diet? The same reason that, back in the day, doctors used to recommend “giving your mouth a vacation” by smoking cigarettes in moderation. Watch this ten-minute long informative video by Dr. Michael Greger called “Why Doctors Don’t Recommend A Vegan Diet.” It’s super interesting!
E. Environmental destruction
If you want to stop global warming, then becoming vegan is the single most important thing you can do. (If you don’t believe me, read this article in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal entitled “A Leading Cause of Everything.”) Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. There are too many sources for me to cite, but here are a few of them. If you’re really interested in this topic, I highly recommend the documentary Cowspiracy, which is directed by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s on Netflix, and it’s about the effect that the animal food industry has on the environment. It’s really interesting, especially if you enjoyed Before the Flood.
F. Federal funding
The length to which our government goes to support animal agriculture is terrifying, considering all of the negative externalities that the meat and dairy industry produce. Basically, our tax dollars heavily fund the meat industry, which is literally the only reason a McDouble is so cheap. Why do they do that? Well, the meat and dairy industries spend quite a bit of money lobbying congress. Slogans like “Got Milk?” exist thanks to lobbying efforts from the industry. This is due to checkoff programs. Here’s a quick three-minute video that discusses the economics of the meat industry in terms that even a child could understand. If you want something more in-depth, I highly recommend reading the book Meatonomics by David Robinson Simon. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read!
G. Greenhouse gases
This goes back to the environment. Animal agriculture accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which more than the combined exhaust from the entire transportation sector. Still think your electric car means you’re saving the world? Even if we eliminated fossil fuels right now entirely (which we won’t, unfortunately), we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, just by raising livestock. In other words, it’s completely impossible to meet that goal if we keep eating meat at this level. (Again, watch the documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix!)
Eating meat contributes to world hunger. Why? Because we grow so much grain, and then feed it to cows. It takes way more grain to get a certain number of calories from meat than it does if you would just eat the calories directly from the grain. Raising livestock just isn’t an efficient use of land. According to the an ecologist at Cornell, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat.”
I. Intelligent animals
I think we like to pretend that animals are too dumb to know that they’re being slaughtered or taken away from their families. Well, sorry, but I’m going to burst that bubble for you, because it genuinely hurts my heart that we allow ourselves to act so oblivious. According to this study, pigs are smarter than dogs and rival the intelligence of a human toddler. They are fully capable of experiencing fear and sadness, more than even your dog can. (Watch this adorable video of a pig rescued from a factory farm!) Cows also have complex emotional, cognitive, and social lives, according to this study. If you’re going to eat these animals, then at least be honest with yourself about who they were!
J. Junk food
Check out Cheap Lazy Vegan on Instagram and Youtube for super cheap, easy vegan junk food recipes.
K. Korean-style cauliflower wings
Just because I found this recipe on Minimalist Baker and it sounds so delicious.
L. Lactose intolerance
Most people in the world are lactose intolerant! Basically, when you’re a baby, your body produces this enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose. You need this enzyme as a baby because you drink your mom’s breast milk, which is the milk that’s meant for humans. As you get older, your body stops producing lactase because it figures you’re done drinking milk. When your body stops producing lactase, you’re no longer able to break down lactose, and you become lactose intolerant!
However, some people, mostly white people, have developed a mutation in which their body continues producing lactose the rest of their lives. This is why some people will claim that our culture’s obsession with dairy is kind of racist: it’s rare that a person of color is able to stomach dairy.
M. Mama cows
You know how milk works, right? When a mama has a baby, her body starts producing milk to feed her baby. That’s how it works in cows, too. Except we want the mama cow’s milk for ourselves! So when a baby cow is born, he is stripped away from his mama almost immediately so that he doesn’t drink the milk. And you know how I said that cow’s have complex emotional lives? Well, yeah, they do, and when the mama and baby get separated, they get really, really sad, just like people would. This is one of the reasons that the dairy industry isn’t great.
If you’re going to keep drinking milk, at least watch this video of a cow being separated from her baby. It’s not graphic, and you should at least know what you’re participating in!
Have you ever thought that you couldn’t give up cheese because you’re practically addicted? Well, it’s probably because you actually are addicted. Babies need to drink their mom’s milk because it’s super healthy for their bodies. So nature developed a really cool way to keep them doing that: there are proteins in milk that have opiate-like effects, so that the baby stays addicted to his or her mom’s milk. It makes perfect sense, right?
Well, if you keep drinking milk or eating cheese into adulthood, the addiction gets all wonky, especially if you’re addicted to cow’s milk instead of human milk. When you first give up cheese, you’ll probably crave it so badly because your body is actually, legitimately addicted to it. But if you know that it’s an addiction, and treat it as such, you’ll eventually get over it. After a couple months without cheese, the addiction will go away, and it just won’t even sound good to you anymore. It sounds fake, but it’s 100% the truth.
You’re vegan, so WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN? Actually, getting enough protein really isn’t a problem in America. Getting enough protein is more of a cultural obsession than an actually health concern, and in America, we actually get too much of it. According to the World Health Organization, the average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day. If you look on any nutrition label, it’s pretty clear that that’s an easily obtainable number. In fact, protein deficiencies are so rare that they don’t even occur unless you don’t get enough overall calories! If you’re eating enough calories, you’re eating enough protein. Here’s a super informative 4-minute video on protein from Dr. Michael Greger.
Here is a recipe for vegan queso. You’re welcome.
A common misconception is that you have to be rich to afford a vegan diet. Of course, there are some socioeconomic barriers to a vegan diet, but for most Americans, it’s actually pretty accessible. If the bulk of your diet is pasta, potatoes, beans, rice, and oats, then you’re probably cheaper than most meat-eaters. Don’t worry about eating organic or getting the fancy meat and egg replacements all the time. If you can’t afford fresh fruits and veggies, then get frozen vegetables, and eat pasta and rice with them! Obviously not everyone can afford a vegan diet, but it’s a lot cheaper than most people think.
S. Serena Williams Serena Williams is vegan, so don’t act like you can’t be vegan because you’re an athlete! And she’s vegan FOR her strength and her sport, not in spite of it.
T. Tom Brady
Tom Brady is yet another famous vegan. Although he sometimes eats dairy during the off-season, when he’s training he finds that a vegan diet is the best to keep him strong and healthy. His meal plan, TB12, is entirely vegan. (While we’re at it, Mike Tyson, Colin Kaepernick, Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Ariana Grande, and Jennifer Lopez are all vegan.)
Want to know the ugly truth behind where your meat comes from? Read this article from BBC.
Don’t know the history of the word vegan? It comes from Donald Watson, who decided in 1944 that although vegetarianism has a positive impact in the world, it doesn’t do nearly as much as veganism would.
W. Wasting water
Raising livestock for meat uses a lot of water. Why? Well, first of all, huge animals like cows drink a lot of water. Second, they eat a lot of food, like grain and grass, and you have to water all of that. Third, processing the meats uses water in and of itself. In fact, producing meat uses up so much water that National Geographic states that “on average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet.”
Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption, and growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US. It takes approximately 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Some studies state that one burger is equivalent to two months of daily four-minute showers.
X. Xavier Rudd
A singer-songwriter and animal activist. His name also happens to start with X.
Y. Your choice
In the end, whether you choose to continue to consume animal products is your decision, and it has to do with your personal morals and what you believe is most important in your life.
How do you eat pizza on a vegan diet? I typically order pizza with no cheese, and I just get a ton of veggies on the sauce as toppings. I’m talking banana peppers, olives, jalapenos, peppers, artichokes, everything. It’s actually really good! But more and more pizza companies are starting to feature vegan cheese too! Blaze Pizza and Pieology both have vegan cheese. The world is changing, but you definitely don’t have to give up ‘za when you become vegan.
Images courtesy of: popsugar.com and netdoctor.com