Life

Why Vegan?

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Those who follow my blog know that I am passionate about veganism.  Wikipedia defines veganism as “both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”

I became vegan 3 years ago, at the end of 2014.  Before then I followed a vegetarian diet (I didn’t eat meat but still consumed dairy & eggs).  You can read a summarised version of my vegan journey here.

Since I’ve become vegan I have discovered so many health benefits that I’d like to share.

Improved Mental Health

I am not claiming that a vegan diet would cure mental illness however, I found that since aligning my actions with my core values of kindness and compassion, I am fundamentally happier.  This is because I see the world through a different lens – a lens without the ‘invisibility cloak’.

Dr. Melanie Joy, the key founder of Beyond Carnism, explains the invisibility cloak as “Carnism”.  Listen to her TEDx talk on Carnism.

Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.

Once I shifted my belief system from Carnism to Veganism, I felt a weight shift off my chest.  I felt at ease with myself in a way that I had never felt before.  I no longer participated in unnecessary violence toward other sentient beings, and that felt better than eating any type of animal product ever did!

Better Food Choices

Once I made the conscious decision to become vegan, I had to shift my mentality about food.  Food I previously consumed became no longer food.  Rather I saw those as body parts of dead sentient beings, and products of cruelty and injustice.

I learnt about alternatives to meat and diary.  I made my diet entirely plant based.  This is also referred to as a vegan diet, or simply ‘vegan’ (although being vegan is more than a diet – see end of the article).  My simple google research revealed how much nutrition can be obtained from a plant based diet.  Vegan Easy is an excellent source for loads of vegan recipes and other resources about plant based eating.

Also check out Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.  This is the national guideline in Australia for a healthy diet!  Look at the five good groups.

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The entirety of the Grains, Vegetables and Fruit categories are already vegan. These 3 groups alone make up more than two thirds of the circle!

Then there is the “Dairy” category for calcium and “Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds” category for protein.  These are the only categories with animal products.  As the name suggests protein can be obtained from tofu, nuts and seeds.  Meat, poultry, fish and eggs can easily be replaced with other plant based sources of protein such as lentils, quinoa, tempeh, beans, grains, and broccoli.

Dairy is the other concern many people have when considering a vegan diet.  Most people believe that dairy is the only source of calcium.  Calcium is important for strong and healthy bones but there are many plant based sources of calcium.  These include leafy greens (e.g. kale), collards, broccoli, okra, figs, oranges, almonds, pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified soy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified orange juice.  Visit Vegan Easy for loads more information about healthy plant based diets.

While I didn’t suddenly become invincible to illnesses, my sinuses became less frequent and my blood results showed that my overall health has improved over the last 3 years.  My vitamins, protein and cholesterol levels are well within the healthy ranges.  Before I became vegan, before I was even vegetarian, I was often anaemic.  Since I changed my diet my iron levels have consistently been in the healthy range.

I am not saying that cutting off meat and dairy will miraculously make you immune to every disease.  There are certainly naughty foods that are still vegan (100+ naughty vegan food) – fried chips or nice cream anybody?  What I am saying is that it is entirely possible to live and thrive on a well balanced plant based diet.  The only supplement that is universally recommended with a plant based diet is vitamin B12.

Still concerned about health impacts of a plant based diet?  Consult a qualified dietitian! For those who live in Brisbane, Australia, ‘Human Herbivore‘ is a good website.

Other Benefits

Apart from mental and physical health benefits at an individual level, there are also wider scale benefits from being vegan:

1) As vegans we would not only stop consuming animal products but we would also stop contributing to the suffering in clothing (e.g fur, leather & wool), entertainment (e.g. circus animals, aquariums & zoos), medicine/laboratory experimentation (e.g. cosmetic testing), and working animals (e.g. horse-drawn carriages).  There are loads of vegan friendly alternatives to choose from.

2) We would significantly reduce the carbon footprint on our planet.  I aim to write a post about the water consumption and land clearance associated with animal agriculture and non-animal agriculture.

3) Generally, we would develop an increased awareness toward other social justice issues in the world such as; poverty, child labor, sexism, LGBT rights, racism and all things in between.  Dr. Melanie Joy explains why eating animals is a social justice issue because commodification of animals is a result of a widespread oppressive system just like racism, sexism, and heterosexism.

Ultimately, cultivating compassion and justice is not simply about changing behaviours; it is about changing consciousness so that no “others,” human or nonhuman, are victims of oppression.  To bring about a more compassionate and just society, then, we must strive to include all forms of oppression in our awareness, including carnism. – Beyond Carnism

So what are you waiting for? Order a FREE vegetarian starter kit today!

Blackfish Dies

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If you haven’t already seen, you must watch Blackfish. It’s a documentary about orcas in captivity – in particular follows the story of one orca, Tilikum –  and exposes the adverse impacts of killer whales (i.e orcas) in captivity. 

The documentary adds an emotional anchor to keep the audience engaged as it tells how Tilikum was captured, torn away from his family at the tender age of 2 years (orcas have a similar life span to us), and ended up in Sea World. It is a heartbreaking story of his life as an unwilling performer at Sea World for over 25 years. Before Sea World, Tilikum spent some years during the 80s & early 90s at ‘Sealand’ which has since been shut down.

It highlights that the orca entertainment industry is destructive, not only to orcas but also to humans, by presenting 3 deaths of trainers, a near death experience and multiple unpublished incidents. 

Following the OH&S legal trial in 2012, Sea World is no longer allowed to undertake interactive shows with orcas. This is good for the safety of the humans, but what about the orcas? 

Orcas are mammals who have great intellectual capabilities. They have the biological capacity to have a sense of self. They are very close knit to their families. What must Tilikum’s life been like? In a concrete tank, completely isolated from his family, no (or minimal) enrichment, and ‘forced’ to turn tricks to survive. Just imagine… 

Without any graphic footage, the movie Blackfish still pulls at your heartstrings. 

On Friday 6th January 2017, at the age of 36 years and after spending 33 years of his life in captivity, Tilikum has died.

Rest in Peace at last.

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#EmptyTheTanks

 

Words from the Heart

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I wonder how my life would be if we had stayed together.

Is it better now that you are gone or am I worse off?

Without even realising, you made me who I am today.

You brought compassion into my life, we call her Winkle 🐱

 

I am grateful for what I learned from you, but boy do I wonder.

Would I have made the connection if you had stuck around?

I wish you hadn’t left, I wish you’d speak to me now.

Baby then you’d see my heart aches for you and maybe you would love me again.

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Tools for Effectively Moving People into Veganism

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I attended an animal rights conference in October 2016 and listened to a speech by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)’s Executive Director Michael Webermann. His speech provided me with the following tools for effectively moving people toward veganism.

  1. Provide Incentives

    That is, give a reason for people to go vegan. The main one of course is the ethical incentive. Another way to give an incentive is the ‘pay per view’ style activism. This is where we can pay $1 or $2 for a person to watch a film clip such as 1000 Eyes. In this instance, money first becomes the first incentive but then hopefully the ethical obligation become the longer term incentive to go vegan.

  2. Follow Up

    Once we’ve spoken to somebody about going vegan and they say that they’ll try, we need to follow up. It could be a phone call, a text or a survey. This will allow us to know if they are sticking to their promise. If they are struggling, we can help them address their struggles. Over time this will give us a sense of what the most ‘common’ struggles people face when they first go vegan. We can use this information for continuous improvement of our activism.

  3. Aim Young 

    Michael Webermann said to aim the vegan message to teenagers and young adults because they are more likely to be open to new ideas. They are also more likely to share the message within their network. As a caveat make sure the people we approach are not too young. i.e. no children.

  4. Captive Audience 

    Find an audience that would be receptive to our message. For example, it is no use doing a speech in a noisy mall. A speech at high school or a university class room would be far more effective.

  5. Focus on the Message

    Be specific about the message. Michael Webermann believes that focusing on the injustice to animals will keep people engaged the longest. However, we can discuss the other benefits of veganism, such as health and environmental benefits, but don’t loose the focus from the main message: The Animals!

  6. Focus on the Most Vulnerable 

    There is no denying that all suffering is bad. The atrocities we inflict on animals is beyond horrid. But in terms of quantity, the largest amounts of animals that suffer for food are chickens and fish. This is because the number of chicken and fish consumed per head is much larger compared to cows and pigs. It is also common when people give up red meat, they end up eating more chicken and fish. This would exponentially increase the number of animals eaten. So if we ask a person to give up chicken instead of cow meat; that would save a larger number of individual animals.

  7. Make the Right Ask 

    If we ask a person to go vegan straight away and if that person is not ready, they could shy away from the idea completely. Therefore, at times it might be beneficial asking for one or two days per week where they follow a vegan diet. Let them do that for a few weeks. Then apply the tool number 2 (following up). If they are doing well eating a vegan diet several days per week, ask them to increase the frequency. Apply this logic until they are fully vegan.

  8. Acknowledge When We Are Wrong 

    So we try to positively influence people but we can still get it wrong. It’s ok. Being wrong and knowing we did something that didn’t work is good, because at least we know next time to try something different or fix our mistake  🙂

References:

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Take a Break 

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We live in a busy world,

Everyday is go, go, go.

But don’t be afraid my friend,

To take a break and spread your wings.

Here are six tips for taking breaks during those busy days at work.

1. Take a Coffee Break

Well, it doesn’t have to be ‘coffee’ but the point is to have a break and a drink. You can have a glass of water, a juice or your beloved coffee. Whatever your choice of beverage is, don’t neglect it when things get busy in the office. It’s ok to leave your desk for five minutes to get a drink. Go outside if possible, if only for five minutes.

2. Turn off your Phone and Emails for a While

You can check them at given intervals, say every two hours, but don’t let the constant ‘dings’ distract and stress you.  You can have a auto-reply that states you aren’t checking your emails and phone at the moment and that you’ll get to them as soon as possible. You could give out your mobile for emergencies, but be sure to define what an “emergency” is depending on your field of work.

3. Stretch

Yep, stretch out your arms and legs. You can do it at your desk (deskercise). Here are some other sites that gives you simple desk exercises:

4. Breath

When things get really busy, that’s when we stress the most. In those times I find it helpful to just close my eyes and count to ten. If you can count 10 slow breaths that is even better.

5. Have a Lunch Break

One thing I am super guilty of is during busy periods at work I eat lunch while working. Or worst still, I don’t eat lunch at all because there is too much work to do. Think about that. I tell myself I have too much work to do that I can’t even give myself 30 minutes to eat lunch! This is not ok. I realise this now. We can’t work at the cost of our health. So my tip number five is to always have a proper lunch break. It can be 60 minutes or 30 minutes. Whatever it is, do take it. Leave the desk, or better yet leave the office to have your lunch. You will come back refreshed and re-energised ready to tackle rest of the working day.

6. Leave Work on Time

Some bosses are very good at guilt-tripping us. So much so that we feel oblige to stay back in the office for unreasonable hours to finish a project. How late have you stayed back? Maybe until 8pm or 9pm when your finishing time is 5pm? Maybe you come on the weekends (I know I have). Do you get rewarded for your extra efforts? Maybe overtime pay or time in lieu? If not, do you at least get recognised and acknowledged for your extra efforts? If the answer is no to these questions, you absolutely do not have to keep working overtime. I guess I should add a disclosure here, this depends on what your job is. If it is a about life and death, it might be more acceptable to do the extra hours (maybe you are a doctor, a nurse, a vet, or a paramedic). For most of us though, work work doesn’t deal with life and death. It’s ok if you can’t get everything done in one day. It’s ok to finish work at the time you are suppose to finish and start again the next day.

Remember, at the end of the day we all can do our best and nothing more.

Do you have your own tips for taking breaks during busy times? Leave a comment and share them with me.

Written for #EverydayInspiration Day Four: A Story in a Single Image