My Vegan Diaries: Why I Went Plant-Based

From a young age, I was a meat-eater. I was born and raised in the GTA by my Italian and Trinidadian families, and I never shied away from a meal. My favorite foods were lasagna and chocolate cake. I loved jerk chicken, Oreo ice cream sandwiches and Italian cheese. So when I told my family about a year ago that I had made the decision to go plant-based, they were a little skeptical. Their responses ranged from outright disbelief, to curiosity, to reluctant support. I knew I had a long road ahead of me, but I also knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to at least try.

So try I did. I gave it all up — dairy, meat, eggs, honey, etc. — and I did it all cold tofurkey. I was done making excuses out of fear or stubbornness. I was tired of being juxtaposed in life, of telling people how much I loved animals while making my body a graveyard, of saying I cared about the environment while simultaneously harming it, of being a dance and kinesiology major but not treating my body well.

 

Photo by Jill Wellington

 

Overall, transitioning was far from an easy process but it was so, so rewarding and I realized that I wanted to share that reality with others. I wanted to help others reap the benefits of a plant-based, cruelty-free, guilt-free, healthy and happy lifestyle too.

And that’s how the idea for My Vegan Diaries came about.

 

Photo by @Tama66

 

My hope is that by sharing some of my experiences, thoughts, and feelings about this lifestyle, I might inform those who are uninformed, challenge those who are set in their ways and help those considering this beautiful way of life to take the next step.

In this first “diary”, I am going to explain my reasons for going vegan. I have many and they are all personal, based on the extensive research I have done on different topics. What’s important to note is that not everyone has to have the same reasons, or feel the same way, or care about the things that I do. One of my biggest promises as a new vegan was that I would never shame someone for the way they eat. You won’t convert meat-lovers in one conversation and you can’t change the world with one article, but opening up the dialogue in an honest way and sharing information is, in my opinion, a  good way to start.

So here are the reasons I transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle:

 

Health

Omnivorous diets are higher than plant-based diets in cholesterol, saturated fats and contaminants such as hormones, antibiotics and bacteria. The contaminants contribute to the likelihood of food poisoning and our population’s growing resistance to antibiotics, while meat and dairy products themselves have been proven to contain animal blood, pus and fecal matter. No wonder I was so scared to make a change — you are what you eat, and I had been eating chicken sh*t for over 20 years. Most significantly? Scientists have linked animal food products to various life-threatening health issues such as weight gain/obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Essentially, the most prevalent killers in our society today.

Beyond all the grossness and death, I also believe it’s completely unnecessary and downright strange to eat animal products. Biologically, we’re engineered to be frugivores, meaning that our bodies are optimally made to consume and digest raw fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts and seeds. Meat literally putrefies in our gut because it takes so long to pass through our intestines. We’re also the only species on the planet that drinks milk beyond the point of child-rearing and it isn’t even our own. We exploit mothering cows and kill their calves for veal, but you never see people lining up, mouths open, to get in on some udder action. We chalk up our dairy consumption to building strong bones and health benefits, but people don’t ring up a friend fresh out of labor to request a few bottles to pour over their morning cereal. People don’t make human cheese and think that’s normal.

Interested in learning more? Watch documentaries like Forks over Knives, What the Health or go here to learn more about the negative health effects of consuming animal products.

 

Photo by Irina Logra

 

Love for Animals

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called an animal whisperer. I’m the girl who befriends the “evil” geese on York University’s campus (crazy, right?), hand-feeds wild animals (only foods I know they can eat), and sobs uncontrollably at the sight of roadkill. I’ve never been a dog or a cat person. I’ve always just been an animal person. For just about forever, I’ve wanted to break chains, build conservation areas and free the Willys of the world. So, naturally, the thought of holding and killing animals for food has always been severely unsettling to me.

Just before deciding to go plant-based, I came to two very significant realizations: one, I was a hypocrite — I could never bring myself to harm or kill an animal myself, but I ate them all the time. And two, an intense animal lover like me probably shouldn’t pump money into an industry that harms and kills them in mass quantities on a daily basis.

 

Photo by Catherine Robinson

 

The Industries

Humans have hunted animals since we were smart enough to fashion spears. I get it. I can comprehend the idea behind the “circle of life” reasoning and the religious idea for some that “God made animals to provide us with sustenance”. I can even respect cultures and traditions where an entire animal is used, no parts left to waste, and the animal is truly appreciated as a sacrifice so that a group of people can live. What I can’t understand or respect is the unnecessary mistreatment, abuse and slaughter of living creatures to fill our endlessly gluttonous bellies. En masse, we do not appreciate, nor do we eat in moderation, nor do we consider our impact. Humans have a nasty habit of exploiting and destroying things for the purposes of money and greed out of a sense of entitlement. We consume more animal products now than ever before and it’s definitely not because our doctors recommended it.

 

Photo by @afnewsagency

 

In the meat industry, they stuff animals into crowded spaces and feed them a mixture of foods and chemicals in order to bulk them up until they reach a profitable slaughter weight. “Okay, I get it,” people always say, “but cows don’t die to produce milk. They produce more than they need anyways. Why not just be vegetarian?” And I understand the misconception, as the common myth is that there is more harm in a steak than in a cup of milk.

 

Photo by @kdsphotos

 

But, consider these facts about dairy cows:

  • Their lifespan is shortened by about 80 percent.

  • They’re pumped with hormones and bred specifically to produce more milk, ergo more profit (produce too much, eh?).

  • They’re forcibly and non-consensually impregnated on an annual basis so their milk won’t dry up.

  • They’re separated from their baby within the first 24 hours (and they do miss them).

  • The calves are either killed for veal or raised to be milk-making machines.

  • Their udders are pumped until they’re raw, infected and bloody (hence some of the blood, pus, etc.).

  • When they can’t take anymore and they collapse, they’re carted away to become hamburgers.

 

The best part of it all? Nearly 100 percent of the population is lactose-intolerant to some degree. Go us, torturing and killing animals so that we can give ourselves a stomach ache.

Want to know more about the industries involved? Watch the documentaries above and others like Food Inc. for more information. You can also go here to gain insight into the dairy industry or here to understand a little more about how honey farming actually is harmful to bees.

 

Environmental Impact

One study shows that in the last two generations, we have killed off more than half of the world’s wildlife population. More than half. I’m not suggesting that we’re eating reptiles left, right and center, or that our eating habits are the sole reason for this horrible fact. What I am suggesting is that the deforestation for the purpose of grazing larger quantities of cattle and the 18 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions being released through livestock farming (more than the sum of the entire transportation industry) is definitely not helping. Pair that with the plastic piling up in the oceans and the way we burn through natural resources like a five-year-old with Halloween candy and we’re going in a very bad direction. An argument could be made that 30 years ago, it wasn’t as bad for the environment or our health for us to be eating animal products, but it’s a new age and we have to treat it that way — just imagine if we updated our eating habits the way we update our phones.

 

Photo by James Wheeler

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the environmental impact of farming animals, health-related issues, and the industries’ lies about the consumption of animal-based products, watch any of the documentaries above and more, like Cowspiracy. You can also go here to read about how meat production and consumption negatively affects the earth and here to learn how cutting fish out of your diet can help the planet.

 

Photo by Brigitte Werner

 

At the end of the day, everyone gets to make their own choices about how they eat and why. The important thing is being aware of the impact those choices have. Going vegan changed my life. I’ve lost almost 25 pounds, I feel 100 times better, I have more energy and better skin, and I get to go to sleep knowing that I’m living my life according to my values. I get to rest easy knowing I do no harm, and that makes me and my tastebuds jump for joy. So what makes you jump for joy?

If you’re hoping to take a step in my direction, then look out for the next entry in My Vegan Diaries for tips on how to make your lifestyle just a little more plant-based. Don’t worry — I know cold tofurkey isn’t everyone’s style.