I once thought I could never give up animal products. I was raised to hunt and fish and I enjoyed yogurt and cheese as much as the person next to me. Then, my second year of college, my dermatologist recommended I give up dairy for my acne problems so I did. Now, more than two years later, I’ve become aware of many more reasons to give up animal products. Since all that was left to give up was meat, I decided I wanted to give a plant-based diet a try. I’m not perfect but I’m still learning and here are some things I’ve learned about why a plant-based lifestyle is healthier all around.
Animal agriculture is single greatest human cause of greenhouse gases, land use and land degradation. Not to mention it’s the No. 1 factor in freshwater pollution and rainforest destruction. Animal agriculture is also a major cause of air pollution, species extinction and is an incredibly inefficient use of limited natural resources. A cow does on overage release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2). But the negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. One of the most effective ways to combat climate change and the destruction of the environment is to adopt a plant-based diet. Ninety-two percent of Iowa’s land is farmland. If Iowa alone gave up meat, we’d make a monumental impact on the environment.
- World Hunger
There are around 7 billion people on the planet and roughly 1 billion are malnourished, with 6 million children starving to death each year. Thirty-three percent of the planet’s cropland is used for livestock feed, rather than human food. This isn’t just a global problem, though. One in eight Iowans are food insecure, and one in every five children in Iowa do not have enough to eat. Iowa produces more corn than the entire country of Mexico, growing around 2.7 billion bushels (150 billion pounds) of corn every year. Most of this corn is then used for livestock feed and the production of ethanol.
- Nutrition (simple healthy kitchen)
A lot of people think if you give up meat and dairy you’ll be deficient in crucial elements of your diet, like protein, iron and calcium. Truth is, you don’t need animal products to maintain sufficient amounts of protein, iron and calcium. These prints from Simple Happy Kitchen detail plant sources for each of these nutrients. Eating a plant-based diet will facilitate your ability to lose fat while giving you energy. If you’re someone who has battled skin problems in your life (I’ll write more on my journey with skin later), giving up animal products will significantly improve your skin.
- Disease Prevention
Claiming one in every four deaths, coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. While there are other factors that affect cholesterol levels (smoking, exercise, blood pressure and body weight), plant-based diets contain no cholesterol. Our bodies produce all the cholesterol we need so consuming animal products can contribute to excessive levels. For most people, prevention of CHD is as simple as eliminating animal products from your diet, exercising as recommended and avoiding cigarette smoking. Avoiding animal products can prevent other chronic diseases as well, such as diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. For a bonus reason why you shouldn’t drink cow’s milk, check out this article I wrote for Eurofins about NPE contamination in dairy.
- No such thing as “humane” farming
Animals, like humans, are complex and communicative creatures. They also feel pain and fear of death. While there are animal products in grocery stores that claim to be “humane” conditions, those labels are deceiving in many ways. Animals are still violated and exploited, mothers are taken away from their offspring, anesthetics are rarely used in animal operations and the practice of “humane” farming is still environmentally unfriendly. A claim can also be made that the practice of supporting small, local and sustainable farms supports factory farms.
“The decision to eat animal products sourced from small, local, and sustainable farms might seem like a fundamental rejection of big business as usual. It is, however, an implicit but powerful confirmation of the single most critical behavior necessary to the perpetuation of factory farming: eating animals.” – James McWilliams, Atlantic Monthly
Some are vegan or vegetarian because avoiding animal products alleviates their conscience. The satisfaction of knowing your lifestyle saves lives and water, affects the environment in a positive way and improves physical health and wellness are powerful enough effects to motivate some to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Not having these things weigh you down, mentally and physically, allows you to live a more positive life. Interestingly enough, vegetarianism is an integral part of most schools of Hinduism and Buddhism, on the foundation of nonviolence.
A 2016 study shows 22.8 million Americans follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, 7.3 million Americans are vegetarian, and 1 million Americans are vegan. The plant-based lifestyle is widely popular- and it’s only getting bigger. For more information and personal testimonies on being vegan/vegetarian, or for help taking the first steps toward plant-based lifestyle, visit any or all of the following: