Why I’m Plant-Based, Not Vegan
I’m not vegan.
Most people use the word vegan to describe individuals who don’t consume animal products. This includes foods such as eggs, milk, meat and honey.
True, people who are vegans do not eat animal products. They also follow a certain ideology and lifestyle. Vegans don’t use animal products of any kind in their lifestyle. That means no condoms with casein in them. No leather jackets and no lip balms with beeswax either.
I agree that we shouldn’t wear leather. However, the reason isn’t just an ethical reason. In the case of condoms and beeswax, I want to make sure the products that I buy are effective. Not necessarily vegan.
Veganism isn’t just food
Veganism is an ideology. Being a vegan is attributed with certain beliefs.
It isn’t beneficial to label myself as a vegan. That places me in a box. It takes away the ability to decide for myself what my ideals and beliefs are.
It’s possible to follow the veganism ideology and mindset without putting much thought into it after initially doing the research and going vegan. It’s very common for a vegan to say they don’t eat animal products simply because they’re vegan.
But this doesn’t do anything to help the vegan cause.
This response gives no real information about what their beliefs are. People tend to assume what somebody’s reason for going vegan is. People like to clump all vegans together with their “crazy ideas”.
Telling somebody you’re vegan as the reason why you don’ t eat meat is like a Christian saying they don’t kill others because they are a Christian. It’s ineffective.
Why don’t Christians kill? Because God tells them not to? Because it’s a sin? Because they respect human life? Because they’re against violence?
When a vague response is given, people make assumptions. This doesn’t educate or convert. No personal beliefs are reevaluated. There has been neither a discussion about the issue of murder nor exchange of information about why they don’t do it.
Assumptions create misinformation and stereotypes. I promote neither of those. Many people do have the same ideologies and ideals as vegans. Yet nobody is exactly the same.
Stereotypes aren’t beneficial to the whole food, plant-based movement I follow. I don’t advocate for the usage of the word “vegan”.
So, what are you?
So, what do I want to advocate for then?
A better word is “plant-based”. Not as catchy, but more inclusive.
Plant-based is great for people who are vegan as well as people who severely limit their consumption of animal products to one or a few servings a week. Plant-based means that the majority of ones diet comes from plants, allowing room for those who don’t have the same ideals as vegans.
In addition, because vegans have a wholly plant-based diet, they too can be included in the people who call themselves plant-based. The following reasons are my reasons for being plant based (and not vegan).
Sustainability and the Environment
Eating animal products is unsustainable for our planet. The major cause of climate change/global warming is actually the production of animal products.
Surprised? Watch the documentary Cowspiracy and you’ll be alarmed at all of the attention given to water conservation, energy conservation and the use of renewable resources when you realize the full impact that animal agriculture has on our ecosystem and overall planet.
A vast amount of land is dedicated to either raising livestock for the consumption of animal products or to grow food for said animals.
One of the main reasons for deforestation of the Amazon is for the creation of animal factory farms and the necessary farmland that is needed to feed those animals. A decrease in the number of trees on our planet means that there is a decrease in the capability of our planet to absorb the carbon dioxide that is being emitted. Huge expanses of forest are being chopped down to not only house animals such as cattle, pigs and chickens but in addition to grow soy and corn to feed those animals.
The world currently produces more than enough food to feed everybody. In fact, if all of the food that was grown was actually fed to humans, we would be able to feed 10 billion people. We currently have only 7 billion people on the planet. Many people die every day not because there is a food shortage but because of poor food distribution and misuse of food that is already being grown. How will we expect to feed a population of 9-10 billion in the future when we cannot do so now with adequate resources available?
Cattle farming is the biggest cause of the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas. While not as much focus has been placed on methane, it is more potent and dangerous than carbon dioxide. The EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) claims that methane is 84 times MORE potent than carbon dioxide! Wowza! So that means for every 84 parts of carbon dioxide that are emitted, the same amount of damage can be created from just one part of methane into the atmosphere. You might want to rethink your next hamburger if you are concerned about the environment.
The demand for fish has caused over fishing of the oceans and many unintended species of ocean life to be threatened by extinction. In addition, ocean ecosystems suffer because of lack of balance between the species.
In the case of water conservation, the best thing a person can do is to switch to a plant-based diet. Plant products use a lot less water to create than animal products do. Naturally, lettuce uses very little water to make 1 pound of food. One pound of lettuce needs only 21 gallons of water to make. In general, the more calorically dense a food is, the more water it takes. Another product is broccoli, which uses 54 gallons of water to make. On the other end of the spectrum, we have foods such as butter and hamburger beef. Butter needs 2,057 gallons of water to make one pound of product; the beef needs 2,463 gallons of water to make one pound of product. Compare those foods to the lettuce and broccoli. Those are huge differences. Even more calorically-dense plant foods like corn only use 119 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn; rice uses 403 gallons. Even with these higher numbers, the water usage doesn’t even come close to comparison to the numbers needed for animal production.
Animal products have a negative impact on the health of our bodies because they cause adverse reactions within the body. Milk protein has been shown to increase rates of cancer. In fact, cancer growth can be turned on or off simply by changing the amount of milk protein that an individual consumes. Meat has also been shown to cause cancer. All animal products raise cholesterol levels, which is a major factor for heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attacks and myocardial infarctions. Animal products raise the acidity of the blood. Constipation. Osteoporosis. Acne. The list of havoc wreaked within the human body because of animal products goes on and on. In Western countries such as the United States most illnesses are actually caused by overconsumption of food. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and so many more diseases are caused by eating too much food. By eating animal products, whose calories are packed more densely than plant foods, overconsumption of energy is a lot easier.
While vegans obviously consume exclusively plant products, this does not mean that they are automatically healthy. Many foods which are already veganized or have been veganized that are just as bad or worse than animal products. Vegan chips, soft drinks, alcohol, cookies and other such products are not inherently healthy simply because they are vegan. Highly processed vegan products are extremely calorically dense and high in added salt, fat and sugar like other processed foods.
Logic and Science
Most people fail to think logically or rationally about their diet. In fact, most people don’t choose their diet at all and put very little thought into what they put into their mouths.
Choosing to eat animal products shows a lack of consistency with personal values and personal choices. Most people would claim that they are against animal cruelty, are for the protection of our environment and want to protect their health. However, when confronted with science, most people don’t change their habits and behaviors. Instead of changing actions, people use pseudoscience, myths, unsupported claims, ignorance and emotions to justify the continued use of not only animal products, but other things that stand in the way of sustainability, environmental health and personal health. Individuals continue to smoke even when they know that smoking has negative health effects. People know that carpooling and public transit are good alternatives to driving their own vehicles, yet they continue to do so. Those against animal cruelty will fight against abuse for domestic animals such as cats and dogs but turn a blind eye to animal abuse that happens on a massive scale to pigs, chickens, turkeys and cattle. In order for my beliefs and values to be consistent with my behavior, I need to be plant-based.
In respect to science, put simply, the leading science today backs up a whole-foods, plant-based diet that provides most of its calories through carbohydrates. In addition, the science and research also back that animal product consumption greatly impacts the planet and the future of our planet as we know it.
Finally, I don’t use the word vegan because it scares people. Too many individuals have preconceptions and stereotypes about vegans; none of which are very positive or correct. In addition, whenever most individuals are approached by a person who is a vegan, they feel as if they and their beliefs are being threatened. While going plant-based is not extreme, vegans are seen as extreme. All of these barriers prevent people from actually considering the idea of going either vegan or plant-based, which is a detriment to any movement for a more sustainable, ethical, healthy, logical or environmentally-friendly world system.
Ideologically, vegans do not concern themselves with sustainability, environmental health, personal health or logic. They are concerned with one thing only: to ensure that all animals are treated with kindness and equality. They believe that the treatment discrepancy between species needs to stop and animals shouldn’t be kept as slaves for our human’s own pleasure. “Free all the animals”, they claim. While ethics is a reasonable justification for not eating animals, to me, this as the only reason to stop eating animal products is not enough. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I agree that physiological and safety needs need to come before love, esteem and self-actualization. Satisfaction of basic needs need to be met before higher needs can even be considered. The environment, our home, is a basic need. It needs to be preserved and taken care of. Love and kindness mean nothing if we don’t have a place to life. And again, health needs to come before love; our body is also our home. We need healthy, clean and productive homes if we are to share our home with other living things.
I do not believe that humans will ever totally eliminate the use of animal products. Consumption of animal products can be done healthfully and sustainably and possibly reasonably if the amount of products people eat is severely reduced and is not done on such a large scale.
I’m not vegan. I follow a sustainable, healthy, logical (and incidentally compassionate) whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle.