April 27, 2016

How Being Vegan Aids in Health & the Planet

As a young girl, I remember constantly finding myself internally conflicted over our earth and all it’s inhabitants. I remember thinking that there was always such a divide, not just between people themselves, but more or so between different sources of life – animals, nature. Earth marginalized and bridged as a whole. I felt this divide and disconnect, but I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t make sense of these thoughts because I was in no position to. “That’s just the way the world works.” I imagine thinking. 

I remember intently having these thoughts specifically over the animals we generally regard as food.  The first time I ever saw a pig, or some version of it, was on a frigid night before Christmas. My stepfather would begin to delicately unfold the foils of our catered homemade food prepared for Noche Buena; seafood paella, perfectly boiled yucca, tender rice and beans. And what lay under the one propped over a large oven rack was a guttered corpse of what was seemingly a pig, or what was left of it at least; perhaps only the bits favorable enough for consumption (or safe enough that is).

The giveaway was in the face. I couldn’t recognize it’s expression, as it was much more nonchalant and lifeless than those of my pop-up animal books. But I knew with some degree of certainty that its pudgy, distinguishable, now pale-pinkish nose was that of a pig.

About two weeks later, my second grade class was taken to a farm on a school field trip. Next to the chicken coop was a pig, as big as the one I witnessed roasting over the coal, laying on a bed of honey-brown haystack. Pinker in color and grunting loudly this time. 

Through my juvenile eyes, I garnered that the farm animals were breathing specimens, just like me, but were somehow still inferior to my life by virtue of what is taught through every multi-colored food pyramid --and even more understandably, my parents and elders; my homage and culture.

Within my juvenile heart, without any imposition to convince me otherwise, this idea of my life or human life, valuing more than those who were deemed divergent was never digested adequately. In fact, if I may be embarrassingly more explicit, the inner-workings of my digestive system seemed to also *literally* be in disfavor. Without completely expelling my tract (or yours) ~pun-unintended~, I suffered for most of my youth from gastritis to ulcers and whatever stomach-churning side-effects you can imagine that result in between. 

Cue in medication after medication to aid in my discomforts. Only succeeding in relieving my condition, which soon became a lifestyle–ranging from days to months–until it would eventually wear off during my next ~limited to non-acidic~ meal.

I believed I was just fragile and that this would just be the challenge I would grow to feel as my normal. The growling pains and burning debilitations became my normal. 

During my first semester of college, I enrolled in a nutritional course on a whim in hopes to better understand my body and to perhaps discover any nuances to better facilitate its impaired functions. To my surprise, the gawky yet insanely knowledgeable professor was a vegetarian and though a bit bias in her approach, she would begin to uncover unfathomable facts that both enraged and enlightened me. She established her stance with the showing of the documentary Food, Inc.

Gripping the edge of my seat, I thought: "This can't be. These barbarian acts committed by leaders of animal agriculture operations, in which is then rendered as food, our food, cannot be taking place in esteemed America." In what I hoped would be doubtful, I would then relentlessly begin discovering what I feared would be true and it became impossible for me to ignore. 

The charging river of information syncing with vigorous currents of research flooding my mind was impacting me so profoundly that it led me back to my roots. The unsaturated ideals I had rooted as a little girl were increasingly growing into full ~fruit~ion. And my tummy seemed to pleasantly agree.

Though my own validations of plant-based eating were founded on ethics and health, there was another and perhaps more important layer that I hadn’t yet scoped out. When becoming plant-based, it's like your mind renders 20/20 resolution and your perception of the world around you becomes crystalized. It is the strangest and most overwhelming vampire-like effect, which actually takes some time adjusting to because it feels like your sensibilities are on full-throttle all the time.

Now, this may be about the time where some of you pitifully laugh (if you haven’t already) or think how grossly farfetched it may be to believe that a mundane human habit that we've committed for centuries and centuries, such as eating a piece of meat, is in direct correspondence to the environmental catastrophes happening all over the world. If you did, just know I don't blame you. In fact, I got a few chuckles out of it myself -- It sounds otherworldly and just bonkers.

It is fair to say, though, that we as humans have developed pretty nasty habits over time; from littering our garbage all over our beaches and thus endangering ocean life, letting the sink or bath water run while California reaps a drought, and even a habit that has become as necessary as driving which has been proven to continuously pollute our air. Not to mention a great degree of social and political habits we've become desensitized to over time due to their constant reoccurrence.

So, I believe at this point, it’s safe to say that just because something has been committed time after time, doesn’t automatically deem it right or grant it any validity. As time continues to progress and our population grows tenfold, our habits, but particularly our habits of eating – have become so climactically influential that it can no longer be overlooked.

We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people  

2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.

130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US – 1.4 billion tons from the meat industry annually. 5 tons of animal waste is produced per person in the US.

3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.

We could see fishless oceans by 2048.

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
[Sources listed on: Cowspiracy]

I’m not good with numbers, but I don’t believe it takes a mathematician of any sort to understand the heavy burden these facts carry. 

I know it can be difficult to make the correlation between diet and the environment because then it would mean we would have to take a look at our own lives and enlist changes. And changes of embedded habits and ideals are the most daunting kind. It’s a damn scary thing. But, for earth’s sake, if the consequences of lifeless seas, water depletion and animal extinctions don’t frighten you even more, then let me ask you this: What comes next?

The bare resemblances and truth of every story lies in the details. It unfolds between every line, guiding us through pieces of information that are essential before reaching the conclusion.  As we continue to endure these abnormal natural climaxes, our planet is trying to tell us something. Something bigger than each and every one of us.

A revolution. A world where animal-protein is no longer humanity's only method of thriving, thus allowing our egos and archaic beliefs to be set aside. To become wholehearted again, the way we used to feel as kids. For your sake. For your kids and their kids sake. For earth’s sake.

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