Time to go vegan?

I know what you’re thinking “Oh god, not another person trying to convert me to veganism!” But a post about vegans was inevitable on my blog as it is such a big environmental topic. Also with the Coronavirus pandemic supposedly starting with someone eating a bat and the fact that the Bubonic plague has recently killed someone after they ate a marmot, is this Mother Nature telling us to stop eating animals?

Although i’m not vegan, i’ve been a vegetarian for almost 2 years now. One day I realised I ate lot of meat and I started to think more about the ethics of this. So I did more research and decided to make a change to my diet. Initially I wanted to reduce my meat intake and only eat free range/organic meats where possible. Then I thought why not give it up altogether, so I did. And honestly, I love it.

Now i’ll hold my hands up and say that I haven’t been the the most committed veggie. Occasionally i’d give in to cravings or eat meat to avoid being labelled as fussy or an inconvenience. However, I am now being much more strict on myself. If it’s an inconvenience to people, then so what, deal with it! If anything, eating meat those few times proved how much I don’t miss it.

I do live as vegan friendly as possible though (might go full vegan at some point!). I made the switch to non dairy milks and have cut down on my dairy intake and will choose vegan alternative whenever I can. But I wouldn’t say no to a cheese board! Personally I enjoy my coffee with oat milk way more than I did with cows milk. Trust me, oat milk is incredible.

Like me, many other people around the world are starting to make the switch to a more plant based diet. But where did it all come from? How much of an impact does veganism really make?

Let’s start off around two million years ago. Early humans, like chimps today, were omnivorous. Eating fruit, flowers and seeds. We would very rarely consume meat. But then in a drastic change of events, we went from eating meat when times were tough to eating it more regularly. No one is really sure why this happened though.

Example of early humans hunting for food.

Our bodies weren’t adapted to eat meat. Our organs had evolved for a predominantly plant based diet. We didn’t have the teeth to tear off meat and break through bones. But humans were smart. Tools began to evolve; Weapons that helped us catch prey and sharp stones to slice of flesh and crack bones to reach the marrow.

Meat is also much more nutrient dense than plants. It let us get bigger without effecting our agility, allowing us to catch even bigger prey. Some scientists have suggested that without this increased consumption of meat, we wouldn’t be what we’re like today.

With the advancement in tools to cut up our meat, our facial structure could change. We didn’t need to evolve sharp teeth or more forceful bites, so we evolved smaller teeth and not as distinctive jaw muscles. This in turn made huge changes to our skull and neck morphology. Meaning our brains could get bigger and our speech organs could become more advanced.

This new meat diet has also been credited to mothers producing better quality milk, therefore reducing the babies suckling time (which meant we could reproduce more often), so human communities could grow faster.

Now that we understood how good meat was, we started to make it easier to get hold of. Instead of chasing after it, we rared animals along side our grains. And so animal farming had begun.

The crowed and inhumane conditions many animals are rared in for factory farming.

As the years went on, we started selectively breeding farm animals to optimise our requirements. Factory farming has solved many of these problems today. High demand means farmers need to keep up with the supply.

It’s no question that animals have a sense of pain. Therefore must be able to feel suffering. To most sane people, animal cruelty is frowned upon. Why then is it okay to eat them? Animals farmed for meat and dairy are often killed in horrific ways and rared in horrid conditions. We don’t seem to care about that when we go to the shops to buy some bacon. Although meat eaters aren’t the ones directly doing the killing, by simply purchasing meat, you’ve killed an animal. We as a species are selfish, but we are learning.

The eating of Cuy (Guinea Pigs) has been part of the Peruvian diet for more than 5,000 years

There is another issue of where do we stop? Where do we draw the line of what animals we can and can’t eat? And how can someone say they love animals if they eat meat? The answer simply being that they only love pets.

Some “traditional” foods around the world include shark fin soup, snakes and guinea pigs (Don’t judge me but I did try this in Peru before I went veggie and was curious to try it). Tradition usually means people refuse or just can’t be asked to change. But as the world moves forward, more people are realising that animal deserve more rights and are trying to make a change.

Bring on the vegans! Around the mid 1900’s, Donald Watson came up with the phrase “vegan”. He grew up on a farm and witnessed a pig being slaughtered and vowed to never eat meat again. He later founded the Vegan Society.

Now in the UK, 7% (3.5million) of the population call themselves vegetarian (as of 2020). A 73% increase from last year. There is also set to be a 98% increase in the number of vegans by the end of 2020. Millennials seem to be the ones causing this change to a more plant-based diet. It appears that more youngsters are starting to care about the environment.

This is where I get a bit preachy, but the benefits veganism has on the environment is incredible. Tonnes of research has suggested that cutting meat and dairy out of your diet is the best thing you can do to save the planet.

Animal farming takes up 83% of agricultural land. To produce food for a vegan diet would use 76% less land than that of a meat eater. Freeing up land for nature to thrive.

Livestock and their by-products account for at least 32,000 million tons of CO2 per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emission. If people chose a meat free life, this ridiculously high amount of pollution would be significantly reduced.

Animal agriculture’s water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. So the amount of water saved by not eating meat or dairy would be astronomical. Some estimates say that 150,000 gallons could be saved per person per year.

But it’s not all good. Your fruit and veg probably would need to be imported from a different country. All those air miles and CO2 flying your out of season strawberries or avocados to supermarkets for you to eat.

Filled with calcium and vitamin D, Soy is a big part of a meat free lifestyle. To grow it, it takes acres of land. Primarily grown in the Amazon. To grow the amount that would be needed to feed all the new vegans, it would require vast amounts of the rain forest to be cut down.

“To get mud off your hands, use soap and water. To get blood off your hands, go vegan.”

-John Sakars

But veganism is more than just changing your diet. It’s about giving animals more respect and the rights they deserve. By using less fur or beauty products tested on animals you are still supporting animal rights.

It’s obviously not up to me what people want to do with their lives. But to make a big enough impact in terms of saving the planet, individuals need to start making small changes in their lifestyle. By simply switching to vegan/veggie diet, companies/supermarkets will need to fit those increase demands (to make more money basically). Which will ultimately better the future of the planet.

This post wasn’t about trying to convert you to veganism or a life without meat. It was just a way to present the facts and get you to see that what you eat does have an effect on the environment.

If you think “well I can’t live my life without my mums Sunday roast?!” by all means, continue to have your roast. Just reduce your meat intake/don’t eat meat during the week, then treat yourself to nice big chicken or whatever at the end of the week.

Or change the Sunday roast to a meat free alternative! Start your own family food tradition with a more veggie or vegan meal! Make a change in the world. Anyone can do it. Have a ploughman in your meal deal instead of a BLT. Ask for a soy milk latte at Starbucks. Make a small change in your lifestyle that will have a huge impact to the environment.

As mentioned earlier, meat does provide us with a lot of nutrients. But there are numerous amounts of dishes and plant based food sources that will give you the same good things meat gives you. Our early ancestors could survive without meat, so why can’t we do the same now?

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