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HOW TO BECOME A VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN (Part 1)

There is a growing trend in the West toward vegetarianism and veganism.

Just what is a vegetarian?

A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat of any kind. That includes white meat from chickens (although interestingly, some people don’t seem to think that this falls into the “meat” category).

Some vegetarians still consume:

  • Fish and sea food
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Eggs
  • Honey
  • Other animal products

Vegans, on the other hand don’t eat any of the above.

If you are thinking of becoming a vegetarian or vegan, the first step is to ask yourself “why?”

Basically, there are three main reasons for adopting such a diet:

  • Consideration for animal welfare/rights
  • Concern for the environment
  • Desire for better health

There is a fourth reason, namely to have the status of referring to yourself as a vegetarian or vegan, as these labels (particularly the latter, which has more cache) have recently come into vogue with the celebrity crowd who are looking to improve their public personas.

In my view, status seeking is not a legitimate reason to become vegetarian or vegan.  Often a celebrity who has adopted a vegan or vegetarian diet promptly abandons it when the accolades and positive PR fades into the background.

Bill Clinton, Carrie Underwood, Ann Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and Natalie Portman are but a few high profile personalities who abandoned vegan diets for one reason or another.

Let’s take a look at the three main reasons in reverse order.

BETTER HEALTH

There are many studies that suggest that a vegetarian or vegan diet is good for your health.

“Will going vegan make you healthier?

A recent analysis, which pulled together the results of 10 previous studies comparing the health of vegetarian and vegans against that of omnivores, suggests it will.

The researchers found being a vegetarian or vegan was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease and cancer, though there was no difference in all-cause mortality.

In other words, being a vegetarian or vegan was associated with being healthier but not necessarily with living longer.”

ENVIRONMENTALISM

With the world’s population now exceeding 7,600,000,000, most people (at least in the West) are concerned with the environment (particularly since we only have one planet to live on).

Studies have pegged animal agriculture as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (somewhere between 14-18%).

Indeed, avoiding meat and dairy may be the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the Earth! The article goes on to state that animal livestock take up 83% of the farmland, but provide just 18% of calories!

And it’s not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication (excessive concentration of nutrients), land use and water use….It’s far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car”, said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who lead the research referred to in the previously noted link.

The take away is that if you are concerned about the environment, ditching meat and dairy (or at least reducing your consumption) is a MUST.

ANIMAL RIGHTS/WELFARE

Nine out of ten people will tell you when asked, that they love animals.

However, in North America alone, human beings kill approximately 30,000,000 animals a day, seven days a week.  Worldwide, that number could be 5 to 7 times higher.

Most of the cattle, pigs, chickens that show up in the fast food chains, restaurants and super markets were raised on “factory farms,” the brainchild of the agri-business industry.

These mega-farms reduce animals to mere commodities which are to be produced as cheaply and efficiently as possible, so as to maximize profits.

Unfortunately, the result is the infliction of extreme cruelty on the captive animals.

Often when consumers become aware of the plight of these many millions of animals, their innate “moral compass” literally compels them to stop supporting the industries that perpetrate such cruelty.  The result is that they may adopt a vegetarian diet (and some eventually go entirely vegan).  In addition, they may become animal rights activists, join organizations like PETA or Mercy for Animals or the Sea Shepherd Society.

That’s what happened to me many years back and as a result I ended up writing about the war on animals in a novel called “The Invisible Reich” (www.kennethpazder.com). 

MAKING IT STICK

Keep in mind that the above-noted reasons to switch your dietary preferences are not mutually exclusive.  You may think that all are equally important.

Thus, it’s important to understand why you want to change your dietary preferences, if you want to make the change permanent –and thus accomplish your goal in the long term.

Becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is a win-win-win situation –for you, the environment and the animals, and that is a rare combination in today’s world. It’s also good karma for you in the next.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to go about making these changes, if you are so inclined.