Yes, I eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, but I am also a vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle choice to not eat or use animal products based upon ethical considerations. Before you stop reading because you think I am just another “preachy vegan,” please let me explain. I think everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, but I think that it is important that we make informed decisions. My aim with this post is to share my journey of becoming vegan and some of the information that I have learned regarding the animal agriculture industry with the aim to simply share and to educate, so that you can make whatever decision feels right for you knowing the impact of your choices.
I first went vegan and stopped eating and using animal products, coincidentally, on Earth Day in 2016, after learning about the environmental implications of the animal agriculture industry from watching Cowspiracy, and the ways in which animals are treated within the industry from watching Earthlings.
Cowspiracy is an excellent documentary on Netflix that I highly recommend. It provides many facts and figures about the ways in which animal agriculture is affecting our globe. You can check out their website here.
Earthings is a very raw, real, and graphic documentary highlighting the horrors animals face within our society. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, but for the person who really wants to see what the animals experience. I had heard about it, but did not know much about it. One night in undergrad when I could not sleep, I ended up watching it at 2am. I had never thought much about what the animals go through before they ended up on my plate, but after watching this film, I knew I could never eat or use animal products again. It can be found here.
A question that I often get asked now that I am vegan is why not be vegetarian? What is so wrong about dairy and eggs since they do not involve killing an animal to make it to my plate? Speaking from a strictly animal ethics perspective, animals are harmed in the processes that produce both of those products.
In the case of dairy, cows are forcibly, artificially inseminated because cows, like all mammals, only produce milk after giving birth to their offspring. After a cow gives birth, her calf is often taken from her almost immediately, and sometimes before she even has a chance to feed her new born baby. This sends the cows into a state of severe emotional turmoil and leads them to grieve for the loss of their calves. The cows will then be used for milk, and eventually impregnated again once their bodies are capable of supporting the development of a new calf. Under normal conditions, cows can live for about 20 years, but within the animal agriculture industry, dairy cows only live for about 5-6 years before they are sent to be slaughtered for their meat. The female calves of dairy cows will likely become part of the dairy cow system to replace “older” cows, while the males will be kept in tight quarters to stunt muscle growth and be killed for veal at about 5-7 months. This information and more regarding the life of cows within the animal agriculture industry can be found here.
The life of chickens within the egg industry is just as bleak. Male chicks have no use to the egg industry and thus about 260 million newly hatched male chicks are killed by horrific means each year. Female chicks will often have parts of their beaks and even their toes clipped, without the use of anesthetics, in order to prevent them from violently fighting their neighbors within the tight quarters of their cages. (Read more on this here)
Do not let the labels cage-free, organic, or free-range fool you. Cage-free eggs may come from chickens that were not kept in cages; however, it does not mean that the chickens ever had access to sunlight or the outdoors. These chickens often live in cramped coops that are so small that they can barely turn around. According to the USDA, for hens to be considered free-range, “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” There is no specification about the size of the space; therefore, many factory farms will have a small sized door leading to a very small pen that is attached to their coops to technically meet the USDA labeling standard. After living the first couple of weeks of their lives indoors under artificial light, the hens are often too frightened to even consider going outside. I do not believe there is an ethical and humane way to produce eggs on a mass scale.
Learning all of this information, and more, compelled me to go vegan and stay vegan. It was only after I had been vegan for a few months that I began learning about all of the marvelous and powerful health benefits associated with a whole-foods, plant-based diet. I have never felt deprived while following this lifestyle, and if anything it has only helped me thrive! Not only has it helped to resolve my health issues, but has also made me a more vital person overall. From talking to other vegans and people I have helped transition to a plant-based diet, it seems to hold true for them, too. It seems that when we start nourishing our bodies with bright, colorful plants instead of the meat of scared animals likely raised and killed under traumatic circumstances, that we ourselves start to feel more vibrant and alive.
Since moving to the pacific northwest, I have since had the opportunity to visit Pasado’s Safe Haven, a GFAS accredited farm animal sanctuary that rescues and houses animals from the animal agriculture industry. It was such a wonderful and amazing experiencing connecting with these animals. If you have never visited a farm sanctuary before, I cannot recommend it enough! Check out this website to find one closest to you!
Does learning any of this information surprise you? Have you ever thought about going vegan? Have any challenges come up? What other information would you like to know about veganism or transitioning to a plant-based diet? Please feel free to comment your thoughts, opinions, questions, and your own journey below.
Disclaimer: I am a naturopathic medical student, not a licensed physician. The opinions expressed are my own, and do not reflect the opinions of the entire naturopathic doctor community. Nothing on my blog is intended to be taken as medical advice. Always consult a licensed physician before making any lifestyle or dietary changes.