Veganism: the elimination of the use of animal products–meat, flesh, fur, and even honey–used in daily life, clothing, and meals.
Before becoming a vegetarian, and before I had the slightest bit of knowledge on the topic, the word “vegan” was intimidating.
It sounded extreme. Even the word, with it’s shorter and harder sound scared me.
It was intimidating because it was different from anything I had been taught. American children, in general, are taught to eat meat as a main course in every meal. They are taught to support farms and bodies by eating animal meat and by consuming calcium-rich cow milk and other dairy products.
So, naturally, veganism is almost a different world from small town America, but Google it, and anyone on the Internet will see an abundance of images of yummy and healthy fresh foods including starchy fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Veganism’s appeals are vast, but only to whom those appeals are appealing to. In other words, those who don’t know much on the subject probably have avoided the information by choice. With a name coined in 1944, the ideas on veganism can be found in any book about ancient India and the eastern Mediterranean according to Claire Suddath of Time Magazine (A Brief History of Veganism).
While vegetarianism, the elimination of only animal meat in one’s diet, has been promoted by mathematicians like Pythagoras to followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, but like mentioned earlier, it didn’t catch on too well in the ever-expanding, ever-populating, ever-producing, consuming, eating, buying, building, manipulating, exploiting west side of the world.
Aside from the annoyances of hipsters, yoga enthusiasts, and basically people that think they’re cooler than you preaching the practice, veganism deserves a second look by everyone. Although controversial and often overlooked and ignored, it is worth understanding the causes and effects of the application of a vegan diet.
Starting a vegan diet usually sprouts from an ethical appeal. From Peta information booths at music festivals to videos of animal mistreatment among America’s factory farms along with movements endorsed by some of your favorite celebrities, word gets out. Watching a video will strike an emotional chord inside of almost any viewer. While many ignore it, call it propaganda, and claim that this particular farm is the only unethical one out there, the fact is factory farms treat their animals unethically. What is up for debate is whether animals deserve to be treated ethically or not.
Another ethics-based reason to be vegan is for environmental reasons. The civically responsible action is in response to the damage that factories, breeding, and waste have done already. In 2004, World Watch Magazine stated, “the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.”
Although social statements are made as soon as a person turns their diet dial to “vegan,” many go vegan purely for health reasons. For readers not touched by animal rights or environmentalism, this is the information to know. In Lee Fulkerson’s documentary, “Forks Over Knives,” patients of American physician Caldwell Esselstyn taking medicine for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are asked to start a plant-based diet for eight weeks and wean themselves off of their medicine completely. More and more older people are switching to plant-based diets for their health, and more and more nutritional doctors are recommending it.
When a carnivore discovers someone is vegan, the typical reaction is immediate. “What!?”
“So you only eat vegetables and fruit?” “No, I eat everything except for animal products.” “But how do you get your protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins? How are you not withering away right now?”
Said reaction is understandable.
What are the effects of veganism? In “Forks Over Knives,” the crew asked people in the city passing by why they thought eggs, milk, and meat were vital to the American diet. Every single interviewee replied, “milk with its calcium, and meat and eggs for their protein. While this is true: each food supplies us with some sort of that nutrition, some of it can actually have negative health effects. According to Incredible Egg, the egg is full of protein and potassium, but is also riddled with sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol, which is only found in animal products and animal byproducts. In a study in the documentary on milk-consuming countries and the rate of osteoporosis, America, the most avid dairy-drinking country also has the most bone-breaking osteoporosis victims. But that’s just it. We’re not victims. Because America was basically founded on milk, eggs, and meat, most people don’t consider it to contribute to the cause of their health problems. Could this trio of patriotic goodness really be the negative effect, and could a future of vegan diets be the most positive health effect on Americans?
According to the 20-year-long China-Cornell-Oxford Project, later explained in professor of nutritional biochemistry T. Colin Campbell’s 2006 book, The China Study, the diets of over 16,000 Chinese people and their families were observed. The more high quality, plant-based foods consumed, the lower the risk was for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The documentary also shows studies that intestinal cancer mortality rates have an almost direct correlation with increased meat intake. Patients of American physician Caldwell Esselstyn’s health improved drastically during their weeks of plant-based eating. A woman reversed her diabetes and completely disengaged in taking her daily pills. Another woman reversed her breast cancer, and a man with his heart disease.
Surviving means being proactive. In a country riddled with health problems, open-mindedness and individual responsibility is key. Do we really want to be dependent on medical procedures?
Deemed as “hippy shit,” veganism doesn’t have to be some elite hipster club. It can be America’s prevention. Often teased for it’s “tree-hugging” following, I must pose the questions: what’s so wrong with tree-hugging, and what do you have to lose?
Veganism is making a huge turnover, and we can look toward it as the prehistoric medicine of the future.