So called 'Veganuary' is the best challenge ever. Here's why (and some vegan myths busted too!)
Despite being vegetarian since my early teens, the idea of giving up the mouth-watering delights of chocolate, cheese and ice cream always seemed rather extreme to me, even though I was vaguely aware of how the dairy industry works (clue: not nice). But fast forward twenty years, and being vegan doesn’t seem quite as traumatic as it did back then. We now have the joys of Quorn bacon, mince, chicken and even steak, and we even have cheese that passes the taste test admirably (see video below).
In fact, it’s becoming so common to ditch all animal products that we now have an entire month of January (or February, if you need a few weeks to build up the willpower) dedicated to trying out veganism. It’s called Veganuary, and although the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, it’s a great idea. Hallelujah: pale, pasty-faced vegan stereotypes are thankfully a thing of the past. In fact, not only are vegans generally stronger and healthier than meat-eaters, you can even be a bodybuilder, wrestler, or athlete on a vegan diet. The Veganuary website gives tons of examples of famous vegan sportspeople, but for now here’s one piece of photographic evidence:
Basically, This is 2015: not only is veganism mainstream, but we’d like to think the age of lazy stereotyping is over and done with. So no, you don’t have to have dredlocks or smoke weed constantly to give up animal products (although if you fit that bill, good for you) and no, being vegan doesn’t make you smug, arrogant, or judgmental – not unless you decide to be that person! I took the (initially scary) step of going vegan almost a week ago now, and I’ve barely thought about cheese once. I’ve found that if I plan ahead a little with my meal ideas and shopping, I don’t miss anything at all and am really enjoying the new flavors, not to mention the new year’s challenge!
So without further ado, here are ten excellent reasons to try veganism out…
1. You will save the planet billions of gallons of water
We waste an enormous amount of water on rearing animals for food. They need water for drinking, washing, cooling down, to clean their living spaces, to produce the grain needed to feed them, and during the slaughter process. This shocking chart shows the true cost of each steak you eat in terms of water consumption needed. Going vegan is one of the best things you can do if you are serious about saving water, especially when you consider that 70 billion animals are being farmed worldwide. That’s ten times more animals for meat than human beings on the planet…
2. You will save the rainforests and the endangered species living in them
Every second, any area of rainforest equivalent to a football field is cleared to provide space to grow animal feed and for pasture grazing. The charity Rainforest Concern estimate that for every 1lb of beef, 200sqm of rainforest is destroyed. And despite the persistent myth that vegans contribute to the problem because rainforests are often cleared for soya bean production, let’s scrap this once and for all: soya bean production is primarily for animal feed, not bean burgers.
The fact is, eating meat requires four and a half times more land than is necessary for a vegan diet. 30% of the Earth’s entire surface is used to rear animals for meat. By going vegan, we could use this land to provide food for the planet’s growing population and to help feed the 870 million people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the world today. We have the answer to world hunger right in front of us…
3. You will save the world’s fish, sea life and coral reefs
And it’s not just forests. 96% of all wild fish species are exploited too. Overfishing is destroying food chains, killing other animals such as dolphins, turtles and rays, and the increased C02 emissions in our oceans are killing coral reefs at an alarming rate. Here’s an eye-opening quote from the documentary Cowspiracy: ‘10,000 years ago, free living animals made up 99% of the biomass and human beings made up only 1%. Today, humans and the animals that we own make up 98% of the biomass. We’ve basically stolen the world, the earth, from free-living animals to use for ourselves’.
4. You will live longer, be healthier and feel amazing
Going vegan will radically lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, not to mention the fact vegans have much lower rates of cancer and live on average three to six years longer than meat-eaters. More and more people are ditching animal products in order to combat specific health problems. Others report general improvements in energy and vitality, and exclaim that they’ve ‘never felt better’. One example is Samuel L Jackson, who was quoted as saying: “I feel great. I have a lot more energy than I used to have. I sleep better. I like the way I look in my clothes better. I don’t cramp as much. I exercise better. I think my circulation has gotten better.
5. Saving animals…and possibly finding romance?
It’s nice to save lives. An ex-boyfriend (who loved burgers and steaks, as it happens) asked me why I was vegetarian shortly after we met. I had to think about it for a while: as a child I simply hadn’t liked the taste or texture of meat, but as I grew older it became about so much more than that. I replied that I would eat animals if I needed their meat to survive, but until that day I could live healthily and happily without it. Simple. He later told me that my response had really hooked his interest in me. So go on, do your love life a favor by saving some lives!
6. You will help stop the poop problem
The single biggest cause of water pollution is animal waste. The use and storage of such large concentrations of muck is becoming a problem. Leakages from cesspools and manure spray fields are contaminating our waterways. This waste is not only dangerous for animals, it’s dangerous for humans too: see the links below this article.
7. You’ll eat delicious, wholesome recipes that will blow your socks off (who knew it was so yummy?)
Being vegan forces you to get creative in the kitchen, discover food you would never usually try, and it’s much easier to get your 5-a-day.
8. If all else fails, veganism helps your vanity
Your skin, hair and nails will be glowing, stronger and healthier. Cutting out meat is thought to help with body odor and bad breath problems, and your poos will even smell nicer, take my word for it!
9. You’ll be bursting with energy and feel like a new person!
Forget fad diets; going vegan is one of the best ways possible to lose weight and get in shape. And once you’re eating a vegan diet and feeling amazing, you’re much more likely to start a new exercise routine and make small lifestyle changes in other areas of your life.
10. You will reduce your carbon footprint more than you would by walking to work
Going vegan makes more of a positive impact on the environment than giving up your car, and can half your greenhouse gas emissions. Being vegan is more energy efficient in terms of grain production, transportation, freezing meat for storage, etc. Scientists at Cornell University found that to produce one calorie of food energy from beef requires 40 calories of fossil fuel energy. In comparison, one calorie of human-edible grain takes 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy.
Still not convinced? The Veganuary website is crammed full of recipes from all over the world, and also busts 48 common myths about veganism. These range from ‘Aren’t we supposed to eat meat?’ and ‘Isn’t vegan food boring?’ to ‘How can I get any protein/vitamin B12 from a meat-free diet?’. I rely on Marmite for a quick and easy source of B12 (two slices of Marmite on toast provide the RDA) and nuts, pulses and leafy greens provide everything else necessary for a healthy balanced diet. As for the idea that vegan food is boring and bland…just look at these pictures and tell me your mouth isn’t watering…
And if you can’t bear the idea of going fully vegan, at least consider going vegetarian for a month. You could also make a huge difference by keeping your own chickens to boycott the egg trade, or start shopping at organic farmers’ markets where you know the animal on your plate has had a happy life grazing in the sunshine. Every little helps!Finally, here is the vegan cheese taste test video mentioned earlier (some of these cheeses even melt, meaning now there’s no excuse at all!)
Sign up for recipes, information and inspiration at http://www.veganuary.com
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