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Eleven Great Reasons to go Plant-Based

December 6, 2019

Following my interview with @Plantpowerdoctor on my podcast recently I’ve had quite a few messages about changing to a plant based diet. Food is such a personal choice and I believe it’s so important not to judge anyone for the food choices they make. There might be very good cultural, familial or health reasons why someone […]

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Following my interview with @Plantpowerdoctor on my podcast recently I’ve had quite a few messages about changing to a plant based diet. Food is such a personal choice and I believe it’s so important not to judge anyone for the food choices they make. There might be very good cultural, familial or health reasons why someone chooses to eat meat which I respect.

I’m not suggesting that the whole world should go vegan. But the simple truth remains; our planet can’t support 8 billion (and counting) people consuming the amounts of animal products that we currently do. I also acknowledge that when it comes to being sustainable, I myself am far from perfect. I’ve eaten a fair few avocados in my time and taken some flights this year. No one is doing this perfectly, but that’s not a reason to not try. 

If you are curious about trying a more plant based diet, here are some great reasons to give it a go.

Note: if this post triggers, angers or upsets you – ask yourself ‘why?’. Get curious. What are your feelings trying to tell you, about you. 

Animal welfare

54 billion animals are killed every year for our food. In order to fulfil this massive demand most of the animals are intensively farmed, kept in very cramped conditions. Electric shocks and stun guns meant to make animals unconscious before they are killed at times don’t work and the animals die in pain and great distress. It’s impossible to kill animals at this scale in a humane way. I watched the documentary ‘Earthlings’ (much of it through my fingers) and it opened my eyes as to how the animals are treated. Watch Earthlings here

Slaughterhouse workers welfare

Meatpacking is by far the most dangerous job there is, with injury rates of 20/100 workers, according to the Yale Global Health Review. Having a slaughterhouse in the community dramatically increases that communities rate of crime; it’s thought due to the violent nature of the work having a spillover effect into everyday life. Slaughter house work has been linked to PTSD and the lesser-known PITS (perpetration-induced traumatic stress). It’s a job often done by unskilled workers who have little choice about the job they do.


Health

While there is much debate about what constitutes a healthy diet, there’s one thing most people can agree on; lots of veggies is a good idea. David Katz, of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told the Guardian “all {optimal diets for human health} are made up mostly of whole, wholesome plant foods”.

Planetary health

Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Beef requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases than staples such as rice and potatoes. The amount of waste and sediment (poo, wee and degraded soil) that animals produce has a damaging effect on the environment; according to WWF Australia and has damaged the Great Barrier Reef and it has created the worlds biggest ocean dead zone (8,200 square miles) in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Water

The meat and dairy industry use 1/3 of the planet’s water. This isn’t sustainable, especially in a world which is getting warmer. According to PETA, you save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would by not showing for 6 months. Switching to a plant based diet reduces your water footprint by 27% (study published in Animal Frontiers). 

Dairy

There’s no denying it; dairy is delish. I’ve dreamed of dulche de leche, fantasised about feta and craved Camembert. But when I learned more about how it’s produced, it became decidedly less tasty.  Dairy, it turns out, is scary. Female cows are forcibly impregnated over and over again and after she gives birth, her calf is taken away within 36 hours. The mother moos and bellows in anguish for 3 days, looking for her baby. If the calf is male, it’s shot or sent to be turned into veal. Girls go on to live the hard life of a dairy cow. For at least 6 months of the year, dairy cows are confined to indoor sheds with little room for movement and they are killed after 3-5 years (when the natural lifespan of a cow is 25). There image of dairy cows grazing in buttercup fields sadly isn’t the reality for most. Pass me the Oatly Barista!

Farts and burps

Methane is a gas that has a big impact on climate change, having an 86x great warming effect than CO2 (IPCC). Cows, sheep and goats pump out loads as a byproduct of their digestion.

Calorie inefficiency

It’s a matter of thermodynamics – we lose energy when we use animals as the middle man to meet our calorie needs. Energy goes into the animal but is lost through heat, their movement and excretion and so you end up putting many more calories into the animal than you get out. In beef production, we get only 2% of the calories out that we put in, pork 8.6% and whole milk 25% (Our World in Data). It wastes our planets finite resources. 

Land use

Almost 80% of all agricultural land is for grazing animals or growing crops to feed those animals (source FAO), while we only get 18% of our calories from animal products. This is a hugely inefficient use of land and resources.

Deforestation

Agriculture is responsible for 80% (Department of Energy and Climate Change) of all tropical deforestation (remember the fires in the Amazon this summer?). And as I mentioned above, 80% of that is to graze animals or grow food for the animals. Trees are our number one ally in the fight against climate change, with tropical forests being amongst the best carbon sequesters. If you eat beef or dairy (or soya and palm oil) – this has a direct impact on deforestation.

Fishing

Fishing nets are the single biggest source of ocean plastic. Due to ‘bycatch’, thousands of dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and other animals also die. According to WWF, 300,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales are killed in this way every year (other estimates put this as high as 650,000).

And just a final thought

from George Monbiot who wrote in the Guardian: ‘While we call ourselves animal lovers, and lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals that are just as capable of suffering.’. 

What are your thoughts on this? Have you changed to a plant based diet? Are you tempted? Or should the hippies just shut up and eat a burger?!

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