Everyone’s “Aha!” moment is different.
I had been vegetarian for eleven years because I believe that animals are sentient beings. According to Merriam-Webster this means that animals are “aware, responsive,” and “finely sensitive in perception or feeling.” I decided to take that information and translate it into action by not eating animals, while simultaneously shifting my perspective of them as property to animals as individuals. Which brings us to the conclusion: There is no “humane” way to kill someone who does not want to die. Period.
I occupied this moral space through the latter part of high school, through college, and into my mid-twenties. I had become so comfortable not eating animals that college friends would tell me they had no idea I was vegetarian. I never talked about it, and always ate at restaurants and participated in activities like everyone else. I only brought it up if someone else did – it was just part of me. If my parents would’ve presented me with the option to choose what I ate, I’m sure I would’ve never eaten animals to begin with. It was my normal.
At that time there wasn’t much accessible research or information about vegetarianism and health or vegetarianism and it’s impacts on the environment. All I knew was that I was saving animals, and after years of living this lifestyle, I was surprisingly still alive! I hadn’t developed any of those terrible ailments everyone warned me about, like protein and B12 deficiency, weak bones due to lack of calcium, extreme fatigue, muscle loss, etcetera. I was eating a college kid diet of cheese pizza, cereal, and Rice-A-Roni while taking fifteen units a semester, working two jobs, and partying. I felt fine.
Most of the time I’d even recycle my latte to-go cup. I turned the lights off at night, and the water off while brushing my teeth. I walked to class. Of course I cared about the environment – I moved to Humboldt County for a reason. I took a Water Politics class as a junior, but it would be years before I would make the connection between animal agriculture and it’s devastating impact on our planet.
What I ate remained similar after college when work became my number one priority. The details of this time will be outlined in my fitness journey, but essentially I knew I was unhealthy mentally and physically. Not because I was dwindling away, but because I was more out of shape than I prefer to be, I was eating things that made me feel physically terrible that I knew were unhealthy, and mentally I was struggling with depression and anxiety. It was all so overwhelming I had no idea which problem to fix first.
So I just started something. An at-home workout program. Through this same program I could do a 28-day Vegan challenge. At that time my main goal was weight loss, but I thought it would also be a great way to try being Vegan – a lifestyle that had always intimidated me.
Veganism seemed so different than being vegetarian. It seemed daunting. Restrictive. Inconvenient. Hard. Expensive. I had educated myself enough on the finer details of how dairy foods are produced to know that I was choosing to support an industry that I adamantly chose not to support. Food politics are complicated. Change is hard. Attachment and addiction to food is real.
I’m not sure if I watched the documentaries Cowspiracy and What the Health before I started the Vegan challenge or during my first few days in. But those few hours changed my life. I’ve been formally trained to acquire reliable information, to triple check every detail, to make sure sources are credible. And to be critical of every statement or claim. My “Aha!” moments were those I spent in the hours after watching those documentaries, verifying many of the claims they had made. It was like being sixteen years old again and realizing slaughterhouse torture is real. Only now I’m 27 realizing that much of what I had been taught about eating animal products for my health was a complete lie. And everything I had been doing to try to help the environment was less effective at saving the planet than just not eating dairy for a day. From that moment on, I knew I would never go back to a lifestyle that knowingly supports animal agriculture of any kind.
Finding Veganism saved me. I had a moral framework to structure my life around – I could live my belief system, and make my biggest-possible impact on the planet and on my own body and mind by doing something I was already doing at least three times a day: Eating.
Physically I felt better within days. I didn’t crave dairy after a week. I wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner. Mentally, my entire perspective on the world and food shifted. My inner conversations around my daily food consumption changed from guilt, calories, and animal suffering to happiness, abundance, and motivation to share this new way of living with others.
So, here we go.
Writing from a more journalistic background and style, this blog was particularly difficult to construct. All I instinctively want to do is give you facts, cite my sources, and call it a day. Simple. You decide your fate.
But that’s only half of the story. No facts can explain to you how joy feels. How depression and sadness feel. Facts can’t convince you to believe that what you choose to put into your body all day every day has the biggest impact on your physical and mental health than anything else. And the biggest impact you can make on your planet. It’s something so obvious, yet so hard for us to accept. We have put our food production, and therefore, our health in the hands of huge corporations. And it turns out they don’t care much about quality.
I do not believe we can knowingly consume suffering and fear and expect to be mentally healthy. I do not believe we can have meaningful conversations about healthy eating without addressing how physically unhealthy animal products are making us. And I do not believe that we can save our earth from complete devastation while ignoring the most destructive industry facing the planet today: Animal Agriculture.
What I decided to do is leave you with a few basic pieces of information and a (hopefully) not overwhelming list of resources that shifted my perspective and pushed me to change. This is literally life-altering, consciousness-shifting information. Use it as your springboard forward, because it only scratches the surface.
Using 1.5 acres of land you can produce 37,000 lbs of plant-based food or 375 lbs of meat.
The average Californian uses about 1,500 gallons of water per day. About 1/2 is related to the consumption of meat and dairy products.
It takes approximately 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 lb of beef.
The average American’s shower water usage is about 17 gallons per shower.
In the US only about 5% of total water use is domestic, while 55% is attributed to animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture consumes about 1/3 of the world’s fresh water, and livestock covers about 45% of the earth’s total land.
Animal agriculture is the #1 contributor of human-caused climate change.
Forests are being cut down at the rate of 1 acre per second to graze animals and to grow food crops to feed to factory-farmed animals. NOT to people.
Animal agriculture is a leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, habitat destruction, and world hunger.
Adopting a plant-based diet cuts your carbon footprint by about 50%.
All protein is initially made by plants. Plants are loaded with protein.
The largest, strongest terrestrial animals on the planet are all herbivores. There is nothing in an animal-based diet that you can’t get in a healthier form somewhere else.
Over 17 million people die every year from cardiovascular disease. In America, it is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths and is the leading cause of death. You can stop and reverse heart disease with plant-based diets.
Dietary cholesterol only comes from animal products. When people adopt a fully plant-based diet their cholesterol levels plummet within days.
In the US, treating chronic disease is a $1.5 trillion industry. The pharmaceutical industry spends more money on lobbying than any other single industry.
The dairy industry spends at least 50 million dollars annually promoting its products in public schools.
The American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association accept millions of dollars in “support” from pharmaceutical companies every year.
Commercial animals are largely fed genetically modified corn and soy.
The pharmaceutical industry sells 80% of antibiotics made in the US to animal agriculture.
Liquid pig manure from factory farming operations is pumped into waste pits that leach into rivers and streams and are then sprayed unfiltered onto nearby fields. These farms are often times strategically placed near communities of color and low income communities.
Documentaries (Specifically Non-Graphic):
What The Health
Forks Over Knives
How Not To Die, Michael Greger
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
Finding Ultra, Rich Roll