#1 Animal cruelty
It’s no secret that the cows, pigs, and chickens that Americans eat are brought up in harsh conditions. Pregnant sows are often confined in gestation crates where they cannot even turn around. For veal to be made tender for human consumption, young calves are kept in small crates where they are forced to lie down in their own feces. Dairy cows often spend their entire lives within concrete walls. Manure management is poor, so animals often live in their own excrements. These are just a few of the inhumane practices common at factory farms. According to ASPCA, 99% of meat bought in the U.S. comes from factory farms.
But how does this affect humans?
Animals kept in such unsanitary and stressful conditions are prone to contracting viruses such as H1N1 (swine flu) and are linked to bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Eating meat that comes from factory farms comes with risks of contracting diseases.
It has long been a generally accepted belief that vegetarianism/veganism is better for the environment. This reasoning is a little more debatable. Articles by CNN (2017) and the Washington Post (2015) cite studies claiming that less meat in the American diet is not guaranteed to provide environmental benefits, since production of vegan items such as rice also has high greenhouse gas emission.
However, a report released in March of 2014 by United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that 39% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, especially beef cattle.
Also according to FAO, there will be 9 billion people on earth by 2050 — and if the 40% of cropland used for animal feed is converted to food for direct human consumption, there would be enough food for all 9 billion of us.
It takes about 2400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. A pound of wheat, however, only takes 25 gallons. An infographic by CulinarySchools.org clearly illustrates this problem:
My parents became vegetarians a long time ago, when I was a baby. They were introduced to the idea by Dr. Douglas Graham, a professional athlete advisor and raw foodist, while my dad was still playing in the NBA. After doing their research on the health benefits of vegetarianism, they slowly and progressively made the switch to a vegetarian diet. Yes — that means I have never been a meat-eater. About 6 or 7 years ago, our whole family became fully vegan.
Here’s a list of just a few of the health benefits of the vegan diet:
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower cholesterol
- Helps fight Type 2 diabetes
- Improves arthritis
- Weight loss
- More energy
- Relief for those who suffer from frequent migraines
- Fewer allergy symptoms
You can read more about this list here, and I would encourage you to look deeper into these issues and research for yourself. There is so much information out there. But on this blog, I want to share with you more than that.
I have grown up vegetarian/vegan my whole life and I have never had any significant health issues. I have never been low on protein or calcium, or really anything other than vitamin B12. My visits to the doctor are simple and easy because my body works well.
As a college-level athlete, I can tell you this: I am not the fastest runner, but my stamina has always been at a high level, giving me the ability to be in great condition for basketball. On days where I don’t follow my typical diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, I can immediately notice the difference in my workouts — I get tired so much faster. If you are an athlete, you might think that fruits and vegetables do not fill you up or give you enough calories, but you will soon realize that with the right plan, your body will be able to adjust and I promise you won’t be hungry. Even though I personally never had to make the switch from meat-eater to vegan, my parents most certainly did . . . and they are both in great shape in their 50s.
Lastly, I want to encourage you. People always say to me, “I could never go vegan.” Yes, you CAN! My parents are living proof of successful conversion to the vegan diet. Treat it as a process and take it step by step rather than jumping in all at once. It will not be easy — but I promise you the rewards will be great.
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