Starting off Vegan Month of Food with some musings around the standard question: so why are you a vegan?
I've been vegan for one year and three months, to date. It started as a one-year pledge, to see if I could do it. Apparently I could! I might have failed on a couple of occasions, by mistake or not, but overall I think I managed really well. It was not so hard as I had imagined it would be, and I have started to learn how to cook properly, too, in the process.
So why keep it up, you ask? Why not put an end to this silliness, and start eating "proper" food again? Well, the only reasonable reasons for not eating vegan that I've encountered are taste, habit, and convenience. Habit, broke that one down with a minimum of confusion and turmoil as a result. Sure it takes some determination to break an addiction (which eating meat and cheese and stuff certainly is), but it can be done for sure.
Convenience, there I had to acquire some knowledge to succeed. Although more and more vegan fast food options pop up every day in the supermarkets, the fact remains that if you want affordable food you'll have to learn how to cook it yourself. As for me, who is widely known as a kitchen-loathing domestic disaster, this was probably the biggest challenge. Luckily, though, I do love learning things, and I was dead set on not just learning how to cook, but also learning to like cooking. And believe it or not, I'm slowly succeeding! Things no longer blow up on a regular basis as soon as I attempt to make something more complicated than pancakes. I also have studied nutritional lore over and over, so don't you worry about me not getting enough proteins or vitamins or whatever.
As for taste, sure I still think that milk and cheese and fish and such things seems bloody delicious. Luckily, though, there exists an amazing variety of plant-foods that taste so good that I hardly miss them at all.
Right. So how about my reasons for actually eating vegan, then?
The limited resources of the Earth. It so happens that meat, milk and eggs use up vastly larger amounts of resources (e.g. water, energy...) in their production than corresponding amounts of plant-based protein. Even plant-based food grown far away and transported across half the world emits less carbon dioxide than meat produced nearby (of course you could find exceptions to this, but generally it holds true). Furthermore, it seems rather idiotic to use 50 percent of the produced food in the world as animal food and then eat the animals, when most of the energy is lost on the way. Ineffective, not to mention unfair, when people starve in other parts of the world. The single most environmentally-friendly thing a person can do is to convert to veganism.
Ethics. I don't want to be held responsible for the horrible treatment of the animals within our "meat factories". It's weird how the general moral can justify treating animals that we eat, like cows, as slaves while it would be totally unacceptable to treat a dog or a horse in the same way. Also, it doesn't feel so great to consent to the destruction of entire ecological systems through my choice of food.
Health benefits. Nope, you don't need meat to survive. Case closed. Furthermore, you don't need animal protein to be healthy and build muscles and all that. Sure, you have to think a little more about what you eat in the beginning, but once you've learned some tricks to obtain all the vitamins you need it really is a piece of cake. Everything is there, if you just have the sense to put something else there instead of the meat, not just eating pasta with ketchup. But the big deal isn't all the fantastic stuff that's in vegetables; you could eat as much vegan food as you want as an omnivore. It's what your body don't have to deal with anymore that is the great thing. For example, saturated fats and cholesterol (the ones that could cause cardiovascular diseases) are found almost exclusively in animal products. Furthermore, when animal protein is being digested, acids are produced. To prevent the blood from becoming acidic, calcium is released from the insides of the bones to neutralise the acids. The protein in milk actually erodes the bones more than its containing calcium supposedly re-builds them. I could go on about this, but to summarise: humans are herbivores by evolution, not omnivores (as is a popular myth among meat-eaters).
There you go. Three reasons against three. After some consideration (this took years, mind you, I didn't go vegan overnight!) I found that the reasons for veganism were overwhelmingly much more important than the reasons against. And now that I've found that those reasons holding me back can be overcome without it needing to mean even a moderately large sacrifice there just isn't any other way. I might appear a self-righteous bastard, but then so be it. I've come to love this way of living, having chosen to believe that it can actually make a difference. Delusional or not, it still feels fantastic.
End of sermon. Love and veganism,