Veganism is one of the most effective ways in which you can support animal rights, protect the planet, improve your health, and live without moral compromises. More and more people are going vegan every day, and if you do commit to this lifestyle, you probably won’t find it as difficult to follow as you think.
While some people believe that veganism is unhealthy, unnatural, or impossible, these ideas are simply false. In fact, going vegan can actually make you healthier and improve your relationship with the natural world and your body’s needs. Plus, if you think it’s impossible, maybe you should give yourself more credit.
Today I’m sharing 20 powerful reasons why people choose veganism over any other diet. I’ll explain why going vegan is important, and how to make the switch.
What is Veganism?
Veganism is an ideology that is against the cruelty, exploitation, and suffering of animals. As a lifestyle it is excludes the use of animals, whether in food, clothing, entertainment, or products tested on animals.
Why Is Veganism Important?
You might have noticed that we’re in a crisis. Humanity is depleting the planet’s finite resources at a rapid rate, the environment is undergoing drastic, unnecessary and unpredictable changes, and people suffer from myriad diseases linked to their diets. You can’t fix all that by embracing veganism, but you can be one part of the solution.
People tend to follow those they admire. If you decide that veganism is for you, your friends, family members, and colleagues might follow suit thanks to your example. Plus, when you stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs you are using your wallet to wage war. Companies that sell meat and animal by-products only do so because it makes them money. When their profits start to dry up, they will consider other ways of doing business.
20 Reasons to Go Vegan
You know veganism is important, and you’ve probably heard friends and celebrities discussing it, but why should you take the plunge? Below are 20 compelling reasons to give up using animals and animal by-products. Let’s address them one by one.
1. Express Compassion for Every Sentient Being
When we lose compassion and empathy, we can’t relate as well to other people and other thinking, feeling creatures. We turn animals into objects rather than understanding them as the sentient beings they are.
Cows, pigs, sharks, fish, chickens, and other animals that wind up on plates have emotions, just like you and me. They experience love, grief, and fear. They may not be able to verbalize their emotions — but then again not all humans can either.
Imagining growing up in a steel cage with hundreds of other people. You’re crammed so tightly you can’t even turn around. You’re denied sunlight, affection, a kind word. Your plight only ends when you and everyone around you are slaughtered for someone else to eat. None of us would consider that a humane existence for a thinking being, yet animals experience it every day, and their numbers total in the billions.
There are some beautiful stories out there about why people become vegans. Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, became a vegan and joined the ranks of vocal animal activists. In his talk below, Greenwald describes what it was (beyond a love for animals) that triggered the decision to become vegan.
2. Put Your Health First
It’s easy to grab a meal at a fast-food restaurant — a burger and fries or a beef taco — or to throw a few chicken breasts in the oven when you get home from work. But what are those habits doing to your health?
It’s true that animal flesh and by-products nourish our bodies, but they can also contribute to disease and other problems, which are discussed below. If you ask any nutritionist what people should focus on in their diets, he or she will say “fruits and vegetables.” That’s always uppermost in the mind of any professional who makes dietary recommendations. No nutritionist would say “steak and fried chicken,” for a good reason — those are much more likely to form part of an unhealthy diet. If you’re fighting to lose weight or prolong your lifespan, veganism may be the best first step on your path.
3. Save the Environment
Factory farming contributes heavily to environmental problems all over the world. Think about the number of animals that are slaughtered every day to fill supermarkets with stock. All of those animals have to be fed, watered, and housed before they are destroyed. Deforestation across the world is driven by the gluttony for more pastureland and animal feed, whereas feeding the world with plant-based foods would require only a fraction of that land.
Animals in the agriculture industry contribute to the contamination of the water table through fecal runoff. They consume tons of water and grain, which must be farmed using yet more water. Pesticides are added to animal feed crops, and the animals themselves are injected with unhealthy hormones. It’s a vicious circle that degrades our environment.
4. Conserve Natural Resources
We also have to think about the natural resources that factory farming and crop raising deplete. Factory farms have to be powered, so they consume fossil fuels, and in general the more finite resources we use, the less will be left over for our children.
The crucial point here is the long production chain of factory farming — you need to put resources into growing the food for the animals, then growing the animals themselves, and then “processing” (just a pretty word for slaughtering) the animals. By contrast, the plant-based food chain is much shorter and requires less natural resources.
5. There’s No Reason to Consume Meat
Veganism involves eliminating meat and animal by-products from your diet. But that doesn’t mean you’ll go undernourished. In fact, we don’t need meat to survive.
A report in Medical News Today states:
From a medical point of view, we should only eat meat if it is healthful to do so. Over recent years, there has been a growing mountain of evidence in support of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and the health risks of pounding too many burgers into our bodies.
We need neither meat nor animal by-products to survive. Quite the opposite, we can improve our health by abstaining from those types of foods and turning to a plant-based diet instead.
6. Animals Die in Efforts to Prevent Predation
What many people don’t realize is that veganism contributes to saving lives other than those of cows or chickens. These animals have natural predators, and farmers use cruel methods to trap and kill those predators. As ever, it’s about preserving the source of their income. Coyotes, wolves, and other predators get stuck in traps all the time. So do creatures who don’t prey on farmed animals, such as birds who unwittingly fly into these traps.
7. Animal Consumption Contributes to Worldwide Malnourishment
Imagine if everyone embraced veganism at once. Nobody would need to breed cows and other animals for food because there would be no market for it (of course, we’d take good care of the farm animals currently alive, don’t worry).
The effects ripple far beyond that, though. Instead of shoveling grain and other crops into animals’ mouths, we could feed the hungry populations of the world. Those populations could use the grains and other foods that factory farmers feed their animals. We could systematically provide relief to those in need. Perhaps we could also bring water to those who don’t have it readily available since we’d eliminate farm animals’ water consumption.
8. Our Anatomy Doesn’t Make Us Predators
Some refer to humans as the ultimate apex predator. However, our anatomy doesn’t bear that out. We don’t have the long, sharp teeth required to tear into flesh, and our intestines often struggle to digest meat. Calling those little, pointed teeth at the corners of your mouth “canines” is quite the overstatement.
The same thing goes for dairy. Cow’s milk contains so much protein and fat because it’s meant for calves, who grow rapidly from birth — and who wind up weighing 1,000 pounds or more. If you are reading this and you are a baby cow, go ahead and continue drinking milk. Otherwise, it’s not really for you.
9. Maintain Your Weight Without Effort
It’s a lot easier to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight when you’re not consuming fatty foods like meat and cheese. Veganism can provide a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You’re likely to consume fewer calories on a plant-based diet, as long as you stick to whole, natural foods. Don’t shop the frozen aisle at the supermarket for vegan TV dinners. Fill your plate with nutritious fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
10. Reduce the Risk of Foodborne Illness
We’re not just talking about salmonella and E. coli here, though those are certainly problematic. Foodborne illness can also result from the contamination of meat: feces, insect eggs, and other things you probably don’t want in your mouth — let alone your gut.
Related to this are illnesses that are not technically foodborne, but result from the intensive factory farming practices that are needed to turn animals into human food. You may have heard of bird flu and swine flu — they are called that because they most likely originated in chicken factories and hog farms. Pathogens circulating in factory farming are one of the greatest and most pressing threats that humanity faces.
11. Diversify Your Palate
Meat eaters often restrict their diets to the same meals over and over again. Not only can the monotony get boring, it also reduces your exposure to foods that could improve your immune system, reduce digestive problems, and reverse vitamin deficiencies.
When you decide to turn to veganism, you’ll automatically get more creative with your meals. Adding color and texture to your plate can make it even more delicious, and you’ll have fun experimenting with new flavors that might go with favorite standbys.
12. Improve Digestion and Build More Lean Muscle
Digestion is a complicated topic. It’s also problematic for many people. More and more consumers are speaking out about ulcerative colitis and IBS, two digestive disorders that have their roots in inflammation of the digestive tract.
Plant-based diets are rich in fiber, which aids digestion. Additionally, all that rich nutrition will help you build lean muscle and dissolve fat. Many people assume that they’ll struggle to gain muscle after turning to veganism, but the opposite is often true. As long as you continue to work out and consume sufficient calories, you can train as well as — or even better than — you could before veganism.
13. Lift Your Mood
Did you know that veganism can help to reverse chronic psychological and emotional problems like anxiety and depression? A recent study suggests that a plant-based diet can improve not only our physical health but also our mental health.
Millions of people struggle with mental health issues, ranging from the minor to the acute. By changing your diet and eliminating animal products, you may help yourself psychologically.
14. Improve Your Concentration
Similarly, you might discover that you can concentrate for longer periods of time after you take up veganism. You might also find that you get better performance reviews from your boss as a result. It’s amazing what eliminating meat and animal by-products from your diet can do for you.
15. Age Less Visibly
Skin health is a common topic of discussion in dermatologists’ offices and at beauty stores. Men and women alike want to know how they can prevent evidence of aging. The answer: veganism.
Meat and animal by-products often lead to acne, facial swelling, and the development of wrinkles. They contain harmful chemicals, such as the pesticides mentioned above, and hormones that our bodies can’t easily process. Your skin suffers as a result.
16. You Might Live Longer
Experts haven’t yet agreed about whether veganism leads to longevity, but there are a few new sources of information to suggest that vegans live longer. One study suggests that, regardless of carbohydrate intake, people who eat plant-based diets have reduced mortality rates. Interestingly, the study also suggests that plant-based food becomes even more important when reducing consumption of carbs — so if you are doing keto or paleo diets and eating animals, you may be more significantly shortening your life expectancy.
17. Reduce Pain Associated With Arthritis
Animal by-product consumption contributes to inflammation, which makes inflammatory diseases worse. If you suffer from arthritis or any other condition that impacts your joints, you might get some relief from veganism.
18. Get Over Illnesses Faster
When you have the right combination of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) in your body, your immune system is better equipped to fight disease. You might discover that colds and other minor illnesses last for a shorter time.
The anti-inflammatory properties of many plant-based foods help, too. Inflammation can be harmful to the body, whether it impacts the skin, organs, cartilage, or other body parts. That inflammation gets even worse when you’re sick.
19. Align Your Diet With Your Beliefs
Maybe you have an “I *heart* Dogs” bumper sticker, or perhaps you volunteer every weekend at the local animal shelter. You love animals, dislike hunting, despise the cruel conditions in which factory farmers keep their animals, but you still eat meat, dairy, eggs, and honey.
That means you’re not living your life in line with your beliefs. By embracing veganism, you live out your beliefs instead of just espousing them. Getting rid of hypocrisy will feel good, and others might follow in your footsteps.
20. Inspire Others
Share vegan meals on Instagram, talk about your favorite recipe over dinner with your family, give veganism credit when a colleague asks how you lost the weight. When other people can see the positive changes veganism has created in your life, they’ll want to know more.
You don’t have to push your veganism on everyone you meet, but if the opportunity arises, take advantage of it.
How to Become a Vegan
You’re convinced, right? You want all the benefits described above. So, how do you become a vegan?
It’s not that hard, really. Focus on filling your shopping cart with items that contain no animal flesh or by-products. Look for vegan and cruelty-free labeling on consumer goods, and make sure you read labels when choosing processed foods.
That’s it. Eliminate the problem from your diet and become vegan.
Join a Vegan Community
Start by getting in touch with like-minded people. When you surround yourself with other people who have chosen veganism, you have a ready-made support system. Plus you won’t have to fear listening to diatribes about how meat eating is good for you.
You might have friends and family members who disagree with your dietary choices, but try to tune them out. You know what’s best for you, so stick to your guns.
Make Adjustments to Your Life at Your Own Pace
You might not switch to veganism all at once. Maybe you’ll cut out red meat and pork first, then poultry. Move on to removing fish and shellfish. Some vegans remove dairy and eggs at the very end of the transition, but it all depends on your lifestyle and preferences.
There’s no rule that says you have to sign a blood oath to never consume X, Y, and Z products again. Just let your comfort zone guide you toward veganism. Eventually it’ wil feel as natural as eating a burger used to.
Study and Learn
Make sure you’re fully informed about your dietary choices. Veganism is about your health as well as the health of other sentient creatures. Reading articles by Sentient Media and other organizations can help you better understand your food choices.
Veganism Doesn’t Mean Deprivation
Your mindset has to shift if you’re contemplating veganism. Don’t think about what you’re “giving up.” Think about what you’re giving to others.
You don’t have to deprive yourself. In fact, you might find that veganism introduces more flavor and satiety into your life. You might crave a hamburger once in a while. Buy a vegan tofu patty. If you’re dying for ice cream, choose a vegan alternative.
But don’t rely too much on those processed options. Focus on creating delicious meals that include whole ingredients.
Veganism is a great way to not only save sentient creatures from harm but also to improve your life. Don’t waste time. Start to make the transition now.
Sure, you might struggle to find good restaurants at first, and find some challenges in your grocery shopping, but you’ll get better at it the longer you’re vegan. It’s like any lifestyle change. It may not feel like it fits at first, but you gradually warm to it. Or maybe like many, you quickly realize that you’ve finally made the best choice and it feels entirely right and natural from the beginning.
Are you thinking about going vegan? Have you tried veganism?
Grant is the co-founder of Sentient Media. He currently lives in Brazil and has traveled across dozens of countries on assignment.