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’.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Rabbit farming is often a topic that is overlooked by everybody, including the vegans. They are often regarded as promiscuous animals and a pest. But the truth is they aren’t. They often pair up for life. Rabbits are very affectionate and social creatures.
In early 2016 Animal Liberation NSW printed an investigative expose on the rabbit meat industry in Australia.
Rabbits are extremely disadvantaged. They suffer not only in the food industry, but also in vivisections, and in the fur industry. They suffer in mass numbers.
They are kept isolated in tiny battery cages, similarly to the hens. Like with hens, many battery cages are stacked on top of each other so all the waste from the top just falls through the other cages. The cages are of course wire cages which cause significant foot injuries to the rabbits.
Please watch this video and bear witness to the suffering of these innocent creatures (graphic WARNING)
Meet Holly, a six-and-a-half year lady hen. This is her story.
Holly’s first 18 months of life was less than ideal. Born to the intensive egg industry she was doomed to a life in a cage that was barely bigger than a sheet of A4 paper. She could hardly move, let alone spread her wings. At the tender age of 18 months she was facing an untimely death because the egg industry considers that the ladies are ‘spent’ by the mere age of 18 months. This is like 12 human years!
While most hens are killed so young, some are lucky enough to find kindness and ‘forever homes’. Holly is one of those lucky ones because she found her way to some kind humans and found a new forever home.
Holly’s new humans didn’t think she’d live past 3 years of age. Against all odds Holly is still kicking and thriving at the age of over 6 years.
You see, hens like Holly can actually live up to 10 years, but the egg industry overloads their little bodies so much that most don’t live past half their natural life span. Not Holly though. Holly doesn’t lay eggs and hasn’t for years. Her body is just not equipped for that anymore. This is a blessing in disguise because we think this has actually helped saved her life by retaining the much needed calcium and other nutrients within her fragile body. You can see that Holly has now grown into a beautiful lady.
It is quite easy to see that Holly is not any different to your average companion animals like kitties and doggies. She is very social and quite intelligent. Holly, like all hens, displays a range of emotions just like humans. Holly was best friends with Frannie, another rescued hen. The two were inseparable. When Frannie passed away, oh boy did Holly mourn! Holly refused to be part of the flock for quite some time. Eventually she accepted the loss and befriended some of the others.
Holly loves food. Well actually, one particular food: grapes. Holly’s humans say “red grapes are her favourite, though she will do white if she must”. Below is a photo of Holly eating a grape.
Once you meet hens like Holly you will wonder how you ever ate chicken or supported the egg industry. But don’t worry, you can still have chicken for dinner; just not in the way everybody else thinks 😉
Visit the Animal Liberation Queensland website or Animals Australia to learn more about factory farming and the battery hens and find out how you can help girls like Holly.