Dining Out Magazine

My Take on Veganism Part I: Why Do It?

By Joaquin Medina @joaquinigo
Let's take a look at veganism, which I only truly understood a couple of months ago. Admittedly, whenever I heard the term vegan in the past, I just thought it was the fancy new way of saying vegetarian. Boy, was I wrong. As it turns out, veganism is more than just a fad or a trendy new diet. It is a way of life.My Take on Veganism Part I: Why do it?
What is veganism?Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of all animal products, most especially for food. A hell of a lot easier said than done in our society.

...and so I researched on, and lost myself deep in thought on this subject, because I was suddenly faced with a choice of whether or not to consider this for myself, and I know that inaction is a choice and an action in itself.Why go vegan?I tried going vegan from the first day I learned about the philosophy, but continued to research and see if this is something worth doing for good. Many things that I learned shocked me. Some of these things, I have known all along but I was so used to them as part of our society, culture, and upbringing that I never really stepped back to think about them intently. As you go down this list, I ask that you keep an open, objective mind as I have, because there is no point in reading on otherwise. Let's thoroughly analyze this way of life.Reason # 1: Animal Equality

My Take on Veganism Part I: Why do it?

Image from here.

Personally having respect and compassion for all life, this is the most important one for me and on this alone, I am sold on the principle of veganism. While you might think I have gone batshit insane, let me explain.I believe that every person should think about what matters to them and what is right for them individually, and that involves unlearning everything we know now, and then thinking for ourselves. This should apply to culture, habits, and even religion. We cannot simply move forward believing and practicing certain ideals because that is what we grew up with. It has to be our own choice and our own moral responsibility. It is the only way to fully steer and live one's own life.This speech by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida goes through the ideas logically, challenging what we know to be true in our culture, and how different lies have become truths over hundreds of years. The speaker gives a lot of great points, and it is a good perspective to consider around the vegan way of life.

I also recommend watching the documentary Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, which focuses on five ways that we humans utilize other animals, our fellow earthlings. Fair warning though, the video is very graphic and quite depressing, as you will find out the truth behind what you eat and what is going on behind the scenes of the meat industry. The bittersweet happy ending is left out of the video, which is that we can actually do something about this. I found a link to the first 10 minutes of the video, but I hope you can get your hands on the entire documentary.

These videos will do most of the talking for me. Here are a few of my realizations, though.

  • Speciesism may sound weird and not necessarily wrong for us, having grown up in a society where this is as normal as sliced bread. We generally only value human life and disregard the cruelty we cause to the rest. This is compared to racism and slavery in that we think others are lesser than us.
  • Yes, we can scientifically say we are extremely more intelligent than the next creature, but I feel that only gives us the responsibility to care for our more innocent neighbors, rather than an entitlement to own and use other animals as we please.
  • Intellect is the ONLY thing that makes us "better" than our fellow animals. Humans and other animals are all sentient. Sentience is the ability to perceive and to feel. Most importantly, animals have the ability to feel pain and suffering in the exact way that we do. The only difference is in how pain and anguish is expressed. Studies show that there is a high likelihood fish feel pain too.
  • "But only humans have souls" is something I do not necessarily believe in, though that is a whole other topic altogether. Even if we do have souls though, I do not feel it is justification for not having compassion towards those who we think do not.
  • It is all rooted in our culture. Why do we look at a rat or snake and see a pest, look at a pig and see bacon, look at a chicken and see nuggets, but look at dogs and see poor defenseless creatures that we should protect? How come when dogs are eaten in China or dolphins are eaten in Japan, we all get angry and depressed, when that is what every child in that area has grown up with, and they do not know any better? It is so ingrained in what we, and I have grown up with, but should we not start rethinking whether eating a pig and eating a dog isn't equally wrong?

My Take on Veganism Part I: Why do it?

Image from here

  • Lastly, I had no idea how bad the meat, milk, and egg industry was. I had a romanticized notion that these animals get to live out their lives happily before getting sent into slaughter, which is also done humanely. That bubble burst quite abruptly.
Reason # 2: Sustainability and the Environment

This was another shocker for me. It is so well-conveyed in the documentary COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret. I unfortunately do not have a viewing link I can share with you but it is available on Netflix. If you're not a subscriber, you can watch the film through the free one-month trial. Here's a link to the facts presented in the documentary, as well as references.http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/I was expecting another full documentary on torture and slaughter of cows and other farm animals, but surprisingly, this one is all about the impact of animal agriculture on our environment. A couple of revelations for me here are:

  • Global warming is something threatening the existence of the world as we know it. The usual suspects are the transportation industry and coal energy. The big surprise here is that animal agriculture, which we sustain by living on animal-based diets, is the absolute biggest cause for global warming on our planet.

My Take on Veganism Part I: Why do it?

This isn't even the biggest enemy.

Image from here.

  • You might be thinking "How in the blue hell?" because if that were true, shouldn't that fact have been published and shared with the entire world by now, especially with all the active environmental organizations operating globally? Well, the sad fact is that most organizations do not want to identify meat, dairy, and egg consumption as the top cause of global warming (even if facts support it) because it is an unpopular concept, and they will risk losing support from society. It is the inconvenient truth within the inconvenient truth.
  • In some cases, it has been discovered that some organizations have been accepting large donations from the meat industry itself. Talk about a conflict of interest.
  • The harm comes from methane, which is a byproduct of digestion in cows and other farm animals. This is released into the environment through their farts (okay, you can giggle a bit) and the gas is much more harmful than Carbon Dioxide.

My Take on Veganism Part I: Why do it?

Image from here.

  • The meat industry unnaturally breeds an extremely excessive number of cows (and the like) to meet the demand throughout the earth. The farm animals' population then needs an exorbitant amount of grain and water, which takes its toll on the planet. Forests and many animal species' homes are torn down to meet the constantly increasing demand. This is the leading cause of animal species extinction.
  • We are taught to save the earth's water by taking quick showers and closing the faucet while we brush our teeth. The water needed to manufacture the meat in a quarter-pounder burger is, on average, 660 gallons.
  • 3/4of the world's fisheries are now exploited or depleted.
  • At least half of all the grain grown in the world is used to feed livestock. This means that if the world decided to shift into a plant-based diet, we would easily have enough food to end world hunger
  • Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal's life. Considering our Filipino cuisine of dilis and bagoong, I'd guess our vegans save significantly more than one animal's life per day. Haha.
We humans have overcrowded the earth, and our actions are quickly destroying the planet we live in and those who live here with us. A plant-based diet is the only way our species can sustain ourselves and the world we live in.

Reason # 3: Personal HealthWe are always learning that the science of health is not nearly developed enough for us to know the answers to all questions. Our best recourse in this regard is to analyze our biology and what our bodies scientifically need. Here is a video I found with a good, clear analysis of whether humans are carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores. We know we are behaviorally omnivores, but is that what our bodies need to function effectively?

SPOILER ALERT: the assessment is that we are herbivores. It is established as well, that the best diet for any given species, is the diet that the body is naturally designed to receive. Without delving into the science of it, you can have a quick summary of health benefits here:http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/19/57-health-benefits-of-going-vegan/True biological omnivores and carnivores do not suffer the same ill effects we have from consuming meat. Through our advanced intellect, we learned to go against our biological nature by using tools to hunt animals we wouldn't otherwise be able to catch, and fire to cook animals we wouldn't otherwise be able to safely eat. Now, thousands of years into the future, our scientific knowledge has leaped yet again and we are discovering not how to best eat animals but rather whether we should.We have a good documentary for this, too. Forks Over Knives takes us through the benefits of a plant-based diet and shares some great stories and a lot of good facts.

That's every main reason there is to switch to veganism. In the next part, I'll talk about the reasons not to go vegan and the different challenges there are against veganism, and there's a lot of them!

I'll leave you with one more great speech which helps explain the perspective of veganism.

PART II - coming soon!

PART III - coming soon!

Anything you want to talk about? Comment below, e-mail me at [email protected] or tweet me!

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