When people ask me why I eat a vegan diet, I explain that it’s a very personal decision, but it was informed by 3 factors:
- My health, and my family’s health. I have a pretty dreadful family history: both sides of my family are littered with cases of type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and cancer. I lost my father when I was 29, to a heart attack brought on by type 2 diabetes. He longed for grandchildren but didn’t live long enough to meet my kids, which is one of the great regrets of my life. Dad lost his father to a stroke, exacerbated by type 2 diabetes. My mother’s mother died of a heart attack, brought on by type 2 diabetes. Both her sister and niece are now diabetic. The only one of my grandparents who was healthy was my mother’s father, a Seventh Day Adventist, life-long vegetarian, non-smoker and teetotaller. He died in a car accident, and the pathologist who carried out his autopsy told my mother that he had the arteries of a 20 year old. The tendency to develop type 2 diabetes runs in families, but that tendency has to be activated – by poor lifestyle choices. Having witnessed the terrible damage that diabetes inflicts, I started researching prevention strategies in my 20s. Having children of my own caused me to redouble my efforts to stop the family diabetes hot potato from being passed any further than my own generation. I plan on living a long, healthy life, remaining active and productive into my old age. Eating a high-nutrient, vegetable-and-legume-based vegan diet is, from my reading of the research, the surest way of avoiding the diseases that have dogged my family, and earning that long, healthy lifespan.
- Ethical considerations. Again, this is a deeply personal decision, but I reached the conclusion a long time ago that it is morally indefensible for me to cause unnecesary suffering to other living creatures. I cannot justify turning the life of a feeling, sentient being, which has strong drives to live its life in accordance with its instincts, to nurture its young and socialise with its peers, into a living nightmare, and then causing it to suffer a violent and agonising death, purely so that I can eat it at my convenience. If I were marooned on a desert island and there was nothing to eat but animals, would I eat them to survive? Yes, I probably would (although after 22 years without eating any animal flesh, I’d be absolutely repulsed). But since I live in a part of the world which provides me with an almost limitless range of nutritious plant foods, my survival does not depend on eating animals, and I can’t justify taking their lives.
- Environmental considerations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a report in 2006 called Livestock’s Long Shadow. The report details the devastating impact of animal agriculture on land degradation, climate change, water pollution, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues that are critical to the health of our planet, and therefore to our survival as a species. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago found that providing a diet heavy in meat to one person for a year, caused the emission of about 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent more than providing a vegan diet to one person for a year. Multiply that by 6 billion and you can get a bit of a clue as to what will happen to our planet if everyone tries to adopt the Western diet-style – and the middle classes in India and China are rushing headlong into that craziness right now. For comparison, a 2010 model Hummer has a carbon footprint of 4.3 to 4.7 tons per year, depending on whether it’s an automatic or manual transmission model. A 2010 Prius has a footprint of 1.4 tons. The difference is 2.6 to 3.3 tons per year — not very far from the 2 ton difference between a meat-eater and a vegan.
So there are my reasons. My friend Louise has hers too – when I saw her today, she proudly showed off her flat tummy, shorn of its animal fat-derived spare tyre, and told me how much better she felt in every conceivable way – more energy, clear skin, better sleep, and that indescribable feeling of lightness that just about everyone who goes plant-based experiences. And the best thing? “I eat whatever I want, whenever I feel like it, and I’m losing weight!” she beamed.
Love ya Louise 🙂 It’s been a joy to walk along the road with you.