Just a few thoughts about being vegan here. When people find out I’m vegan, they either go “Dear god, why?” or… no, that’s pretty much the response I get. So here’s why (without sounding too rant-y, I hope).
1. Modern industrial agriculture and its impact on the environment. This is the big one. Factory (animal) farms, the kind with way to many corn-fed cows in far too small an area, as well as massive industrial crop farms, are terrible for the environment. With animal factory farms, you get large amounts of concentrated animal waste that is often improperly or not treated and contaminates surrounding water supplies. Improper disposal is a big problem. Today, with animals, you also often have antibiotics-related issues. Crop farms are kind of similar in that there is a massive amount of pollution (water and soil) in the surrounding areas, as well as nutrient imbalances (overabundances and deficiencies are both problems). Huge crop farms like these also take up a ton of land and require the stripping of natural fauna. They lead to soil nutrient depletion and increased wind erosion, especially with global warming. They are rapidly depleting huge groundwater reservoirs because they are in places like eastern Colorado and Nebraska and the like where there’s just not that much water (as well as California). Pesticides and fertilizers. Etc. We’ve also moved so far away from what the food system should look like – local and organic. Sorry if that sounds too hippie-ish for you, but it doesn’t make sense to be buying apples trucked all the way across the country when you can buy apples picked twenty minutes outside of town. (Obviously this does not apply to things that can’t grow in your area. But buying local and in-season goes a long way.)
2. Somewhat related is the issue of what we’re feeding the factory farm animals – corn. It takes up so much space that could be used for other crops, or not for farming at all. And most of it goes towards feeding cows, not people. We should feed animals naturally and focus on trying to get enough food to the people who need it. There’s enough food in the world, but it’s very poorly distributed.
3. And here comes the bit that most people associate with veganism. Treatment of animals. If you like meat, that’s fine. That’s your choice. But eat smart. Buy beef from open ranch, grass-fed sort of cows. Buy eggs and chicken from the same sort of situation. there are plenty of graphic images and documentaries that go into factory farm treatment of animals (beef cows, dairy cows, chickens, pigs) that I won’t spew a bunch here, but I highly recommend looking up some information so you can be informed and know what you’re paying for – what you’re supporting.
4. Meat grosses me out. It’s eating another living thing’s muscles. There are veins and bones. That’s obviously a very individual reason; some people don’t care. And that’s fine. Eggs weird me out too.
5. I’m lactose intolerant – as are many adults, since we’re the only animal that continues consuming milk after they’re young (and not even human milk – it’s other animals’). So ice cream and milk-based things are just a bad farty time.
6. Kind of related to farming concerns, the leather industry has all kinds of environmental and health impacts, especially in third-world countries where most of it is mass-produced. We had a guest speaker in my environmental communication class, Bejing-based photographer Sean Gallagher. Among other things, he does photojournalism related to the environment. This photo essay and this short film made me think about leather and decide that I wanted to stop using it. (I have a leather belt, but I don’t want to just get rid of it because it’s leather and buy a new one, because it still works and consumerism/consumption blah blah blah. That’s a different post.)
7. It’s easy and healthy. Simple as that.
That’s about all I can think of. Basically it comes down to being a conscientious consumer and putting your money where your morals and values are. “Eat no harm” – harm to the environment, to people, to life. I’m a student and I manage to eat vegan and healthy, often local, organic when I can afford it/when it makes sense, so you can too, if you want to. Please don’t take this as me pushing anyone to do anything other than be informed about your food. 🙂
And yes, I can get enough protein even though I’m vegan. Beans, tofu, and soy protein powder for the win!
Peace and love,
PS. Sorry for the lack of sources/references here, it’s all kind of accumulated knowledge. If you want more specific facts/information, feel free to ask.