Hindsight may be 20-20, but my foresight is foggy at best. Should I have voted for that guy? Was that shirt worth 40 bucks? Maybe I should have made that dentist appointment a month ago. When it comes to my dinner plate though, whether it’s filled with kale salad or a seitan-chicken shwarma, my decision to indulge in a plant-based diet comes only with conviction. With each health study, news report, opinion poll, and lunch break, my vegan certitude strengthens. Here are my top five reasons why I’m glad to be cruelty-free today.
1. Fecal-Free Food
When Irish officials discovered horsemeat in the European beef supply, there were continent-wide consequences. Burger King and Taco Bell were forced to apologize for their equine-infused fare, grocery stores pulled food from their shelves, and the general public was decidedly freaked out. The scandal spread when South African scientists detected donkey and water buffalo in their burgers, and Icelandic officials ironically couldn’t find any animal DNA in one brand of beef pies. The crown jewel of the ingredient mix-up? Ikea’s chocolate almond cake, found to contain bacteria that may have come from mammalian fecal matter. As a vegan, I take comfort in knowing that everything I ingest is pure-plant and feces-free.
2. Don’t Fear the Reaper
At the top of my list of fears is death. Besides wearing a helmet when I ride a bike and looking both ways before I cross the street, I keep the reaper at bay via veganism. Medical studies released this year show that the road to the morgue is paved with bacon and bologna—a study of more than 450,000 people from 10 countries found that eating 5.5 ounces of processed meat a day increases the chance of premature death by nearly 44 percent—and recent research by University of Alabama discovered a correlation between southern staples—including fried chicken and ham, and stroke incidence. Meat-free diets, on the other hand, may be the key to keeping out of the coffin. Findings from an Oxford study published this year reveal that vegetarians are 32 percent less likely to die or be hospitalized due to a heart disease, and Harvard Medical School notes that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a reduced chance of contracting chronic diseases. Do you have a fever? I don’t.
3. Count Vegetables, Not Calories
From Atkins to Paleo, diets come and go as Americans attempt to keep their waistlines in check. Instead of following ill-fated fads, I indulge in a diet that’s proven to work. Whether it’s Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine or University of Oxford scientists, research from around the world—including a study conducted on 55,000 Swedish women by Tufts University—shows that a plant-based diet is the best way to unpack the pounds. Stop counting those calories and start counting your veggies.
4. Consider the Lobster
“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore,” said the vegetarian author Franz Kafka as he stared at fish through the thick glass of an aquarium. Since my vegan metamorphosis, I experience a similar guilt-free sentiment every time I see an animal that could have ended up on the business side of my fork. Pigs have the cognitive ability of a three-year-old, mother cows get sad when their babies are taken from them, and recently scientists affirmed that lobsters feel pain, but we can avoid this suffering altogether. According to countinganimals.com, every year one vegetarian saves more than 30 land animals, 225 fish, and 151 shellfish. If eating nutritious and feeling great is the price to pay for an ethical existence, then I’ll gladly take one for the team.
5. Preservation of Future Generations
Another reason why I’m vegan—your kids. And your kids’ kids. And your kids’ kids’ kids. With the impending climate crises, the time to think about the world we’ll leave future generations is now. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the animal industry causes more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry. Agribusiness is responsible for the decimation of the Amazon rainforest, acid rain, polluted drinking water, and super strands of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While we can’t all go out and buy hybrid cars and solar panels, we can stop supporting the industry that refuses to support life on earth. Fun fact: according to a recent study, vegans and vegetarians combined have 30 percent less of a carbon footprint than omnivores, and vegans produce nearly 41.7 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than those who dig meat.
As a vegan I not only know what’s in my food, but I know that every forkful is an exercise in an improved existence and a way to save myself, save the animals, and save the world—all while I’m on my lunch break. That’s why I’m glad to be a vegan today.
Tommy Dean is a former editorial assistant at VegNews Magazine who grew up in New England. His mantra is “Kale Rules Everything Around Me.”