Pictures with rescued farm animals, from Farm Sanctuary, Chico, CA

Reasons To Eat A Vegan or Vegetarian Diet

In my experience, people tend to consider a vegan diet for three main reasons: Ethical concerns, Health Concerns, or Environmental concerns.

Ethical Concerns:
For years, I chose not to eat meat, but still enjoyed eggs and dairy products. I thought that abstaining from meat meant that I was doing my part to prevent cruelty against animals. When I learned about the horrible and cruel treatment that dairy cows and egg-laying hens endure, I realized that the animals that get slaughtered are probably the lucky ones. In factory farms and family farms alike, animals (or their by-products) are treated as commercial products to be capitalized for maximum profit, rather than as living creatures with needs and emotions. This leads to horrific and saddening treatment that most of us would prefer not to acknowledge, but that is sadly real and pervasive. Today, millions of animals are enduring disgusting conditions, and are suffering greatly.

Yoga philosophy teaches that the entire foundation of the practice begins with ahimsa (non-harming). This world is full of suffering, and most of the time thereís not much we can do about it. But eating a vegan diet is something tangible that can really make a big difference in the lives of the animals. Not only that, being vegan makes a big difference in our own lives, by teaching us that we can live in a way that does not promote needless violence or suffering.

Health Concerns:
It is definitely possible to be an unhealthy vegan, but when done correctly, most research agrees that a plant-based diet is the healthiest option out there. By definition, plant foods are 100% cholesterol-free. Plus, when eating a whole foods diet, you are likely to be getting more nutrients, fiber, and variety than most folks eating a Standard American Diet. People often wonder what vegans eat, and yet, in my experience most vegans I know eat a much wider variety of foods (grains, vegetables, fruits) than non-vegans.

Environmental Concerns:
Itís great to recycle and drive a Prius, but eating a vegan diet is one of the most highly effective steps you can take to reduce your impact on the world. The meat and dairy industries soak up vast amounts of resources and fuel: growing feed, transporting feed, caring for livestock, transporting livestock, dealing with livestock waste, packaging, transporting packaged meat & dairy products. It takes a phenomenally disporportionate amount of water, grain, energy, fuel, and resources to create 1 cow worth of meat (or pork, or chicken, etc). If reallocated, these resources could reach and nourish many human lives. Another aspect is that the meat and dairy industries create a stunning amount of damaging waste every day: tons of pig manure, off-flow full of hormones that alters the biology of fish for miles downstream, deforestation to create land for grazing... and so on.

Although I personally went vegan for ethical reasons, it has been a source of great joy to slowly discover the health and environmental reasons for eating a vegan diet. Increasingly, all three aspects motivate my choices, and help me to reinforce my decision.

Please visit the Vegan Outreach website for lots more specific and factual information.

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Updated January 6, 2013