Months ago, I went vegan. That's right, along with no longer consuming meat, I decided I would no longer eat dairy or eggs. Yep, no cheese, no milk, no butter, yogurt, honey, no eggs over easy, hard-boiled, scrambled or poached.
Animal products are basically embedded in our modern society.
From the Thanksgiving turkey to the Easter ham to Fourth of July hot dogs, eating animals has become ritualistic and ingrained in most of our upbringings as integral parts of celebrations, festivities and even heartbreak (I'm talking eating your weight in ice cream and pizza bites after a particularly bad day).
Eating animals is such a strong part of our culture that most people could not fathom the concept of my plant-based diet, and basically thought I was insane.
So, why did I choose to seemingly turn my back on my culture for one that from the outside, looks like a life of depravity in our world of excess? I'll tell you why.
For my health
When I started to look into veganism, I poured over articles highlighting the negative effects that animal products have on the human body.
From increased risks of chronic diseases and cancers to skin problems, fatigue and stomachaches, our ritualistic consumption of animal products in this society has resulted in some dire consequences, which, maybe more shockingly, seem normal to us.
Once I switched to a vegan lifestyle, it confirmed everything I read, researched and pored over. I no longer experienced frequent upset stomachs; my digestion improved drastically; my acne, which I developed in college (great timing...), cleared up and my skin glowed.
I not only look and feel fitter than ever, but just feel lighter, too. And, by choosing to get my nutrients from living plants that get their energy directly from the sun, my own energy levels have increased dramatically, and I no longer experience constant fatigue.
Plus, because the foods I consume are beneficial to my health rather than damaging and are typically lower in calories and fat, I eat more than I ever have before and never ever feel deprived. Who doesn't want to eat more?!
As a vegan, I not only survive, I thrive.
For the animals
I've always been an animal lover, but I was also a meat eater. I, of course, knew I was eating animals, and knew they had to be killed in the process, but like most people embedded in a society where meat is king, I just ate my burger without thinking about how it got on my plate.
When I was thinking about going vegan, I decided to watch the documentary, "Earthlings."
"Earthlings" opened my eyes to a side of the meat and dairy industry I never knew before: how these animals were treated not only during their slaughter, but also before their slaughter. We breed farm animals for the sole sake of eating and treat them as commodities for the entire time they're alive.
Animals on factory farms are kept in confinement for the entirety of their short lives, some never even seeing daylight, most of them sick from birth, thanks to genetic mutations, constant antibiotics needed to keep them alive and untreated infections and injuries from their grotesque living quarters.
Up until I watched "Earthlings," I was naïve to just how cruel and unusual the punishment is that innocent animals go through just so we can eat them unnecessarily.
"Earthlings" got me committed. Because why, if I don't need to eat animals to survive, would I want to contribute to cruelty every time I eat a meal?
If eating a burger isn't beneficial to my health, and it harms other living things, is it worth it? To me, it's not.
For the planet
The factory farming institution is one of the world's leading causes of carbon and methane emissions. I just recently discovered this troubling fact and was extremely curious as to why this is true.
Think about it, though: A large portion of the rainforests we destroy are used for growing feed for farm animals, and also for pastures for these animals.
Where there was once plant life and animal life in abundance, there are now overused fields of grain and millions of cows producing massive amounts of waste.
Back here in America, factory farms use an insane amount of energy and produce their own catastrophic amounts of waste. We grow the feed for the animals that we then use energy to raise, slaughter and ship. How is this at all an efficient system?
Answer: It's not.
Where does the animal waste go? On most factory farms, animal waste is collected into literal lakes of sh*t. Yep, sh*t lakes.
Not only are these lakes toxic to the factory farm workers and the surrounding inhabitants, they also frequently leak and have caused damage to the ocean and surrounding land, as well.
With so many hungry people in the world, doesn't it feel backwards to grow tons and tons of feed for animals within an industry that does unthinkable harm to our planet, when, instead, we could use this grain to feed the billions of hungry people in the world without contributing to a system based on unnecessary cruelty?
It sure does make you think.
With every meal I eat, I am benefitting my body, taking a stand against cruelty and trying my best to not contribute to the degradation of the planet.
If humans became more mindful of what they eat, where their food comes from and the consequences of their meals, I truly believe the world would be a better place.