A 2015 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that the average American eats 198.5 pounds of meat each year. We take the number two slot just behind Australians, who eat on average 198.9 pounds of meat annually. If you’ve been thinking about cutting back on meat, you may be doing so because of the environmental toll it takes to raise and harvest livestock. Or maybe you’re doing it because you personally don’t want to partake in eating animals (for ethical reasons). Maybe you simply want to incorporate more veggies and less animal products in your diet for health reasons. All are great reasons to explore a vegan (or part-time vegan) diet.
Here are four reasons to go vegan — or at least give it a go one or two days a week.
1. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change
We’ve heard about how much water we use on a daily basis (80-100 gallons on average), what mode of transportation we use to get to work, and how these things affect the environment. But when was the last time we heard about the impact of animal agriculture on the planet?
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all the transportation in the world combined. Animals and their byproducts emit 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane every day, which is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 in a twenty-year span.
Animal agriculture is also depleting a third of Earth’s freshwater resources and it’s responsible for up to 90 percent of all the water consumed in America. 91 percent of the Amazon rainforest that has been decimated is due to animal agriculture. We’re disposing of so much unintended marine life with every pound of consumed seafood that experts predict we’ll have fishless oceans by 2048. Yikes.
2. Studies show that an excess of meat and dairy isn’t good for you
Maybe you’ve been told by a lot of people that meat is your only shot at fulfilling your protein quota of the day, and that dairy is the best source of calcium. That’s not entirely true. All the industries profiting from animal agriculture want you to believe that meat and dairy will keep you healthy and strong, but the truth is there are way more plant-based sources of nutrition.
There are a lot of studies out there that prove how harmful meat is to the body. A team of researchers at Harvard found that eating meat increased a woman’s risk for premenopausal breast cancer by 22 percent. Many other studies showed that eating cow, chicken, or any other kind of meat puts you at a much higher risk for any cancer, particularly colon. Eating meat can also increases your risk for heart disease, obesity, and foodborne illnesses.
Furthermore, many of us are allergic to dairy. 75 percent of the human population lacks the enzyme needed to properly process milk. Studies show that dairy actually causes osteoporosis, increases our risk for certain cancers, and puts an unnecessary amount of hormones into our body.
There are all kinds of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy that won’t threaten your health in serious ways. Familiarize yourself with your options, like legumes or beans instead of chicken, and almond instead of cow milk, and see how much better you feel after you adopt a plant-based diet.
3. On many farms, animals are not treated well
It’s hard to be an animal lover and watch videos of how animals are treated during their journey to the slaughterhouse. It’s not as simple as killing a cow anymore to get a steak on your dinner table. These days, animals are forced into terrible conditions before they’re brutally killed. Cows and pigs are ripped away from their mother within hours of birth, kept perpetually pregnant throughout their life, placed into confined spaces to never see the daylight, and pumped with drugs and hormones.
If you watch documentaries such as Earthling or Food, Inc., you’ll see snippets of just how cruelly factory farms are willing to abuse animals. There are certainly smaller-scale farms that don’t partake in the mass industry of animal agriculture, and thus treat their animals with respect and give them a good life, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of the meat we eat in America is made from animals that have known nothing but pain and fear.
4. It’s not as hard as you might think, don’t give up!
The vegan lifestyle may sound challenging at first. No burgers? No pizza?! No thanks. Having to give up cheese may be challenging at first, but you’ll find that those cravings go away pretty quickly, and there are all kinds of worthy substitutes that will make you forget about what you used to eat.
Besides, we live in a world where more people are vegan than ever before. It’s become such a popular lifestyle that you probably won’t have trouble finding a vegan dish at your favorite restaurants. The first few days may not be easy, especially if meat and dairy make up most of your plate, but little by little you’ll find that you don’t need animal products in your diet like you once thought you did. And the whole world would be better off if we just ate less animals, and more plants.
If you’re not sure how to cook up yummy vegan food, there are plenty of free blogs that will be your greatest guides. Take some hints from Jessica In the Kitchen, Hot For Food Blog, and Love and Lemons. You can learn how to make Creamy Mushroom Soup, Fettucine Alfredo, and Raspberry Lemon Chia Cheesecake.