The evolution of modern day humans, Homo sapiens, began about 200,000 years ago in Eastern Africa. These first humans were hunter-gatherers, foraging berries, nuts, and plants and slaying large mammals for their meat. Eating meat provided high-quality protein into the diet and hunting required group collaboration and communication. Thinking strategically and working for the benefit of the group ultimately lead to the development of language, communities, and growth of the human brain. Not only this, but this flesh-filled diet impacted the evolution of our ancestors and has ultimately resulted in the anatomy and physiology of humans we see today. So, if humans have been consuming meat for thousands of years, why would anyone choose to stop eating meat? As someone who has researched and followed the vegan lifestyle for more than 12 months, I hope to help you answer this question and help you gain an understanding about what it means to be vegan in today’s society.
What is veganism? Veganism is a lifestyle that abstains from the consumption of animal products including meat, fish, honey, gelatin, eggs, and dairy. Some individuals go as far as avoiding any animal products, including non-consumable items such as leather, fur, silk, and suede.
Why go vegan? Some individuals go vegan to improve their health. Some individuals go vegan to lose weight. Some individuals go vegan due to ethical reasons. Some individuals, including myself, choose to eat vegan to help the planet. How does being vegan help the planet? Well, very simply, by reducing the amount of resources needed to provide food for the human population. It requires 10x as many resources to feed someone who eats meat and dairy products compared to someone who practices veganism. This is because the animals that we eat require large portions of land to feed, roam, and be contained. Unfortunately, this land is often created by converting undisturbed habitat such as forest or prairie into animal agricultural lands. Not only this, but the animals need to eat and “beef up” before consumption, which requires even more land just to grow the crops used for livestock feed. As much as 33% of crop lands in the U.S. and around the world are used to feed cattle rather than human stomachs. In Brazil, 5.6 million acres of land are used to grow cattle feed for livestock…for Europe. Imagine if we stopped (or extremely lowered to be optimistic) our consumption of animal products, allowing access to more lands and crops to feed our growing populations? Animal husbandry also contributes to increased greenhouse emissions. Livestock, specifically cows, create massive amounts of polluting gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and ammonia through belching and flatulence. As much as 18% of global emissions are produced by livestock. In fact, some studies have shown that the average dairy cow can produce anywhere from 53-132 gallons of methane per day! Luckily, this problem may be solved in the future. Several studies have found that feeding seaweed to cattle can reduce the amount of flatulence and overall “gassiness” produced, therefore reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. Here is the study for those of you who are interested: Can Seaweed Farming Play a Role In Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation?
Tips for going vegan! Now that I have told you about the environmental benefits of the vegan lifestyle, I am going to share a few tips about how to become a successful vegan!
- Have a positive attitude – While it may seem difficult at first, be open to trying new things and remind yourself why you are doing it.
- Cook from scratch – Most processed foods contain some traces of dairy including eggs and milk. To avoid an accidental intake of dairy products, make your food from scratch with fresh produce, herbs, and spices. That way you know everything that is going into your food!
- Learn to read labels – As I said before, it can become extremely difficult to determine what products are found in your food. Take some time to research various ingredients or additives to determine those that should be avoided.
- Legumes are your best friend – Meat is traditionally the main source of protein in the diet with fruits and vegetables containing virtually no protein. Legumes such as green beans, black beans, peas, and chickpeas contain high amounts of protein, iron, and calcium, making them a great substitute for meat.
- Remember your vitamins – Because the vegan lifestyle is very limited, make sure to take vitamins to fulfill your body’s needs and avoid any deficiencies.
For my next blog post on Stay Sustainable, I will be discussing the pros and cons of various renewable energy technologies. Until then, here are some great vegan recipes!
- Easy vegan black bean burgers
- Creamy vegan potato soup
- Vegan brownies
- Vegan pancakes
- Vegan garlic pasta