Veganism – Going plant powered for the planet

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I want to share something that has recently become of huge importance to me, triggering an entire regime overhaul and transforming my outlook on life in a very significant way. Since the start of October of this year I have transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, and felt that it was about time that I explained my reasons for doing so.

Before October I already ate a largely plant-based diet, opting for meals including hummus or quinoa over meat whenever possible. However, as a student who lives at home during the holidays, I still eat with my family whenever I’m not at university, and mealtimes were already more difficult for my mum who had to cater for my dairy intolerance whilst still pleasing the rest of the family. Whilst I’d become increasingly conscious of the impacts of meat-eating on the environment and health over the past few months, I had therefore relegated this concern to the back of my mind in an attempt to spare my family the inconvenience of dealing with yet more food issues at the dinner table. However, by October I decided it was about time that I acknowledged my unhappy conscience and confronted the issue of veganism that had been on the cards for so long.

My primary reason for wanting to make the transition stems not so much from personal health concerns but more from an environmental perspective. I spend all day at university studying biology and the impacts of climate change that this subject encompasses, so the more that I learnt about the contribution of livestock farming to this problem, the less it seemed acceptable to come home from lectures and dig into a meal of animal protein. Here are some of the key facts that shocked me:

  • The meat industry contributes 40% more to greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport on the planet combined.
  • The diet of a person who eats meat creates around 7 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan’s diet.
  • 80% of tropical forest deforestation is for the creation of farmland, the majority of this being for livestock grazing and feed.
  • You would save more water by not eating one pound of meat than by not showering for between six months to one year.

Evidently, eating meat has repercussions on our planet on a scale that I hadn’t even thought possible. As someone who wants to dedicate their life and future career to the preservation of our vulnerable ecosystems and species, I was shocked that my food choices could have such a huge negative impact in the areas that worry me the most. The more information I learnt about this, the more hypocritical I felt, and in October I made the decision to stop fighting with myself and cut out animal products for good.

What’s more, telling my family was actually a much more positive experience than I had anticipated. They already knew how strongly I felt about conservation and protecting fragile ecosystems from human destruction, so I guess it wasn’t really hard for them to understand my reasons for wanting to become vegan. I shared a few facts with them and reassured them of how a balanced diet and sufficient nutrients are still very much achievable, and we had a good discussion about the topic. Parents’ main concern is of course the health of their family, so if you too are worried about making the change because of your parents’ reaction it is a great idea to acknowledge their concerns and discuss the implications openly and positively in order to reassure them that not only is this lifestyle possible, but it can be in many ways a much more suitable and healthy diet for our digestive systems to deal with.

Overall, my first six weeks or so as a vegan have added so much to my happiness. I no longer feel guilty about living in a way that contradicts my beliefs, and I’ve also felt much more motivated to experiment with plant-based alternatives in the kitchen. Even better, my parents were so supportive of my decision and raised some great points and concerns about the mass production of meat products too, so it was an interesting conversation for all of us. I’ll be posting a lot more about different aspects of veganism in the future, but for now I’d just advise anyone considering making the transition to research their motivations for doing so thoroughly so that you can share this informed choice with your loved ones confidently and passionately. Don’t be afraid of starting the discussion – you might be surprised at how great the reaction is, and you’ll certainly feel better once your personal beliefs and actions are aligned.

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