Defining Veganism

potatoes-personified To be honest the main reason I felt like writing today is because I found this photo of a potato realizing its fate, laughed way too much, and couldn’t save it because my phone is past full of other similarly ridiculous things.

Trying to think of how I could tie this image to VegaNomz was a no-brainer at first. Obviously I could write about how potatoes are a really awesome, versatile food to have in your diet. But as I began writing, my thoughts took a quick turn once I started explaining how the photographer is personifying the potato by giving it feelings about becoming french fries. Then, this happened:

To a lot of people I’ve talked to since starting to eat Vegan, being vegan means “not eating living things.” In conversation about my lifestyle change I often hear this obnoxious statement: “Plants are living!!” as if that’s a valid counterpoint I should refute. How could we survive without feeding our bodies life? Life gives life; it’s an endless cycle in countless systems. So, I just want to take a moment and define what Vegan means to me.

Veganism, as defined by The Vegan Society, is

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

I love it! This is such a fabulous, informative explanation; but how I apply this to my life will be different from how you apply it to yours – and that’s okay! Because choosing what’s important to you is the first step in any lifestyle change, and all change happens respective to each person.

Initially I started my transition for personal health benefits. Through word-of-mouth I’d always heard of advantages to being Vegan, and when I started cooking with Thug Kitchen (I know, I know… I always mention this book, but it’s really a fantastic cookbook), I realized that I can actually feel good after eating (not bloated, greasy, or sick). So I researched more about the perks of a Vegan lifestyle, and I found that maintaining a balanced diet of plant-based foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and soy):

  • Decreases your chances of cardiovascular disease and stroke as cholesterol levels are produced naturally from your body, rather than from unnecessary dietary intake.
  • Puts you at lower risk for cancers (specifically prostate, colon, and breast), and/or significantly slows the progress of developing illnesses.
  • Rejuvenates skin health due to consuming extra amounts of Vitamins A and E found in vegetables as compared to meat and dairy products.
  • Provides you with more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are vital to the function of your body than a carnivorous diet. Some of these nutrients can’t be found in meat or dairy products, such as phytochemicals – which block carcinogens, boost enzyme activity, and help break down large nutrients quicker.

Why would you not want to look out for your self, your body, your host? In my opinion a Vegan lifestyle is nearly essential to preserving the utmost condition of your body. Being a Vegan means feeling and looking great both inside and out.

Still, almost a year into this lifestyle, the meaning of Veganism is evolving for me. I’ve learned so many more benefits of it than just my health. I’ve discovered its impact on our environment and started developing a stronger sensitivity towards the lives of feeling animals. Whether you believe animals feel emotion or not, it’s undeniable that they can feel pain. It’s also undeniable that the meat industry is killing our planet.

Let’s review some statistics on animal agriculture briefly (thanks to Cowspiracy):

  • Livestock and their by-products are responsible for 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions; transportation exhaust is responsible for 13%.
  • Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.

  • On average, 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of beef; 1,000 gallons of water will produce 1 gallon of milk. Animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of U.S. water consumption.
  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.

  • Nearly half of the contiguous US is devoted to animal agriculture. 1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.

  • For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.

The list goes on. Aside from the detrimental environmental harm the production of meat and dairy causes, animals are beyond mistreated. Tortured. Cows, pigs, chickens, and the like are crammed into tiny spaces where they can’t move, injected with growth hormones, prodded and pried for their milk, eggs, and babies. Eventually they’re slaughtered for their muscle and organs to end up on our plates. PETA shines light on this disgusting industry by sharing graphic videos and investigations.

THESE. THINGS. ARE. IMPORTANT. But they weren’t why I decided to start living a Vegan life – they are facts I started learning about because of the change. Just because the well-being of our environment and animal cruelty is something I’m growing passionate about, doesn’t mean that you have to define Veganism as related to such (Hey, I didn’t at first either).

All of this is what defines Veganism to me. There is so much more to it than the literal definition or “not eating living things.” And it means something different to every person. But regardless of your interpretation, Veganism is individualistically and globally beneficial (fact).

With that being said, I’d still like to write about potatoes because I love them. So I did… only here, not here.

Much Love & Many Nomz!

– J

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