Going vegan isn’t as hard as you might think. Sejal Parikh tells you why she made the decision to go vegan.
I have now been vegan for nearly 3 years, during which I delivered a baby through an all-vegan pregnancy, and saw increasingly many around me adopt the lifestyle! Yes, veganism is not just a diet; it’s a lifestyle based on a few indisputable principles. I have been asked numerous times about what prompted me to go vegan, so on the occasion of the world vegan month, here’s an attempt to pen down all my reasons.
I’m vegan because:
Avoiding animal food means avoiding diseases and enhancing fitness.
When I turned vegan for ethical reasons, I had no idea about the massive health benefits it offers. Within a couple of months, I experienced some of those benefits myself for my fibromyalgia pains. By now, I have met loads of people who have reversed their diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, etc. through a healthy vegan diet! Even luminaries like Bill Clinton have gone vegan for health, as shown in the CNN documentary “The last heart attack”.
Plant based food is fiber-rich, low on saturated fat, and contains no cholesterol. Contrastingly, all animal foods are very high on saturated fat and cholesterol, containing zero fiber (essential for good digestion and nutrient absorption). They are also alarmingly high in antibiotics, pus & pesticide concentration. And, there’s absolutely no nutrient that vegan food cannot provide [B12 deficiencies are equally likely in non-vegans]. As substantiated by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, milk protein actually leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in bone weakness!
And, if you consume enough calories, you are bound to get enough protein! In fact, excess protein leads to kidney issues and osteoporosis. There are, also, plenty of protein-rich plant foods: all pulses (dal), soy products, all legumes [peas like chana, beans such as rajma, etc.], almonds & other nuts and seeds to name a few.
Being vegan is natural!
Is there any species in nature drinking another species’ milk, or any milk at all post infancy? Every animal’s milk is tailor-made for her species. The hormonal structure and biology of a cow are drastically different from those of a human. Meat too is unnatural. Our so-called canine teeth do not make us omnivorous, as canines are also found in several herbivores (e.g., gorillas, horses, hippos). From laterally moving jaws to long intestines, humans possess a dozen physiological traits that make us plant-eaters, not omnivores.
It’s vital for conserving the environment and lessening word hunger
Humongous amounts of food, land, water, energy and other resources are wasted in raising animals for meat, eggs and dairy. For instance, it takes up to 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef! Now, factor in that nearly 69 billion land animals are slaughtered each year for food, and imagine the tremendous volume of water that we can salvage. A UN study deems animal-based food culpable for a whopping 70% of the world’s agricultural land, 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions, and considerable deforestation.
Eating animal products means eating higher on the food chain, and therefore, eating much more. Growing loads of crops for animals and then feeding on them is so grossly inefficient, that it takes up to 10 kg of grains to produce 1 kg of animal food! More than 40% of all the grain grown worldwide is fed to animals. Being vegan enables you to save all this grain, for the benefit of the starving humans.
Leading the least-cruelty life is a fundamental responsibility
Most people are disconnected from how their food lands up on their plates. Chickens grown for eggs & meat are stuffed in awfully tiny cages, within a stinking compound containing hundreds of other birds. To reduce the ‘disturbance’ caused by the stressed birds, they are de-beaked with a hot blade at a very tender age! The egg hatcheries (even the ‘free-range’ ones) brutally kill all male baby chicks, since they can’t lay eggs, and don’t grow fast enough to be sold for meat.The tale of misery is no different for pigs, goats, fishes and other animals reared for meat.
I don’t want to contribute to the torture of any female – human or animal!
We are all outraged – and justifiably so – about the high incidence of rape in the country. However, when scores of voiceless cows and buffaloes are subjected to the same horror so that we can consume dairy products, we hardly blink!
Contrary to the assumption of many, the cow is no ATM machine for drawing milk. She, a fellow mammal, produces milk only for a limited time after delivering a baby. But, for any tabela/dairy to be financially viable, every cow in it needs to produce milk continuously. Hence, she has to be forced into a constant, body-breaking cycle of pregnancy, birthing and lactation! The repeated impregnation is done either through a rape by a common bull, or an equally torturous process called artificial insemination, exposing her to diseases. Cows are injected with growth hormones that give them painful stomach cramps. Once spent, cows are either thrown out on the streets to die (mostly from eating plastic waste) or mercilessly stuffed in the trucks and transported to slaughterhouses. The conditions of hens or female pigs too are similarly torturous.
Even the males are not spared misery. Like male chicks, male calves are also a liability (as they can’t produce milk), and they too pay the ultimate price for it. They are either starved or killed for leather/veal.
I am also a mother!
As I have been vegan for over 2.5 years, my entire pregnancy was vegan too. My calcium level was above average all throughout (that too without taking any supplements except for 15 days). Despite consuming no dairy, egg or meat, my son was born with 3.75 kg of weight (considered extremely healthy), and I needed no stiches at all in my natural delivery, indicating very strong protein levels in my body!
When someone asks me if my son will ever drink cow’s milk, I often begin with “I hope not, since he’s not a calf!” We are fully committed to raising him vegan – for his sake as much as the animals’.
A vegan does the least damage to plants too!
I am often asked, “what if plants feel pain?” Well, if they do, it’s all the more vital for us to go vegan. That’s because a meat/dairy/egg eater consumes many times more plants than a vegan does. A non-vegan sits higher on the food chain, consuming not just meat, eggs & milk, but also the plants fed daily to the farm animals for their entire lifetimes! Thus, consuming every kg of animal food also involves the consumption up to 10 kg of grains. Therefore, eating plants directly i.e. being vegan does the least damage to plants too (not just animals).
I do not want to be a species-ist.
“Animals exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans,
just like black people were not made for whites, and women not for men.” – Alice Walker
Anyone who refuses inequitable practices such as casteism, racism or sexism should do the same with species-ism – the exploitation of one species by another. Why should justice and kindness be confined to humans when animals too can feel pain equally vividly? What we are doing to animals is much worse than the human slavery that was prevalent not so long ago. It’s high time we take the next leap in our ethical evolution by overcoming the apathy conditioned into us, and eradicating animal slavery & oppression.
I hope many of the above reasons have resonated with you. If they have and you want to explore veganism further, please visit here, and stay tuned for the next few posts, wherein I will elaborate on how easy it is to vegan in this day and age, with all the vegan products and recipes out there.
Resources for further reading/viewing
– CNN documentary – The last heart attack (featuring Bill Clinton who is vegan for health)
– A Delicate Balance – a movie delving into the issues with the current food system
– Earthlings – a documentary that touches your soul
– Gary Yoursofsky’s inspirational, viral speech on veganism in Georgia Tech University
This article is a part of our November theme, Nature On My Plate, to celebrate all things organic at BioFach India 2013.