First of all I am not a vegan; I do not wish to be defined by a word. I choose to eat a vegan or plant-based diet on most occasions, and I am having a rollicking time discovering new culinary delights. I still stock a good cave-aged gruyere for my friends, my shoes remain leather bound and my animals dine on organic chicken dinners. Why then would I make such a drastic switch after years of juicy pot roasts and succulent duck flambés? There are four good reasons that I discovered, after reading, watching a few videos and taking a check on my inner feelings. I discovered that how I ate had a profound effect on myself, the planet, its people and its creatures. Four good reasons to make a switch!
After years and years embracing a low-carb, high-protein diet that relied heavily on animal products, I was feeling a little off. I will spare you the ghastly details but let’s say my system wasn’t functioning as it should. My doctor took routine blood tests and confirmed that yes, my cholesterol and blood sugar were both way too high and in fact were precursors of some frightening wellknown (and unmentioned) diseases. So I traded in my three egg omelet pan for a crock of organic steel cut oats simmering with walnuts and berries. I steamed and sautéed plenty of organic bok choy with shitake and miso. The chicken flew from my dinners, as did the beef trot on by. Instead, I discovered wonderful soba noodles, marinated tofu cutlets and hearty chana dhal stew. My meals became adventures in new culinary traditions from far flung places where the native cuisine was plant based. My next round of blood tests was astounding! My numbers had dropped and I was out of the danger zone. I began feeling spry and frisky again and my joints felt less swollen. It seems there can be immediate results from eating plants instead of animal!
The Health of the Planet:
Climate change is clearly something we can no longer dispute, as we paddle through the downpours and alternately suffer 100-year droughts. Did you know that agriculture accounts for most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide? Livestock production accounts for over 51 percent of that according to The Worldwatch Institute. To make matters worse, large food companies are clearing the rainforests in the equatorial regions to bring us $.99 “happy meals”. We are simultaneously cutting down the very lungs of the planet that would offset these emissions! Now that’s just a lot of bull!
In our own country, confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) produce large concentrations of animal feces that often leak into rivers streams and ponds. The EPA reports that over 80% of all ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from these animal wastes. They are floating down the tributaries, into the mighty Mississippi, contributing to the dead zone that has grown to the size of Connecticut this summer.
Meat and dairy production uses more water, fuel and land according to most findings. In a world looking to feed 9 billion, can we really afford this resource drain and degradation?
Feeding the World:
How do we feed the future souls that will inhabit this globe in a few short years? It’s a fact that most of the agricultural acreage in the world is planted with commodity crops such as corn and soy. Yes, Corn is King and Soy is Sovereign in the heartland. According to the USDA, around 80 million acres of land are planted in corn and most of it is used as the main energy ingredient in livestock feed. That is 80 million acres dedicated to feed animals and not people directly! Imagine if we took all the land dedicated to feeding and planted it with food people could eat! Now there’s a thought! National Geographic said it in their Feeding the World Feature: “Finding more efficient ways to grow meat and shifting to less meat-intensive diets…” is a key strategy.
I refuse to elaborate on the grisly details in this writing because they are readily available on many a website, YouTube and media outlet. We don’t raise our chickens in the backyard anymore and our pigs don’t wallow in mud havens while the cattle come home. Instead, we confine them so they cannot move; we de-beak, de-horn, and force feed. The animals do not live lives that are natural to their species and instead experience a brief existence of suffering before they arrive vacuum sealed, de-boned, de-skinned, chopped and marinated. I have no qualms about death but feel strongly that life must be lived fully and that right belongs to animals as well. If you want to learn more about the specifics, become acquainted with and a supporter of People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA)
Change the World One Dish at a Time
I don’t feel deprived or distressed with my new culinary dance. I love the flavors of organic quinoa soup and creamy Mayan potatoes. I love organic kabocha squash stuffed with aduki beans and wild rice baked tenderly and served with kale salad. I spice up Thai curry tofu over soft rice noodles with toasted sesame and broccoli. These days grains are my friends and beans are my buddies, and I eat as much and as often as I want. I am choosing new flavors, new sources of protein and I love the exploration into new galaxies of taste and texture. I also feel better about my health, our planet, the people and the beasts who share it.
Give it a whirl by joining PETA for meatless Mondays. You CAN change the world by choosing what’s on your plate!
And of course, always choose organic!