Becoming (mostly) vegan was not an overnight thing for me. In fact, I’ve only been dedicated to it for the last year. And even then, I have eaten fish that my friends have caught or honey from local producers I work with. People choose a plant based life style for various reasons. For some, it was an obvious decision, for others, it’s a combination of reasons.
I studied environmental science and I work with Aboriginal agricultural businesses. Most of these businesses are pastoral – that’s cattle. I’ll be the only vegan walking around in a cattle company shirt (a gift from one of my clients). I know this doesn’t make sense. Personally, I am not of the belief that everyone is going to turn vegan overnight and our problems will be fixed. I love my job because I get to help make the industry more sustainable. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be an industry at all, but we’ve got to start somewhere!
I was not one of those people who hated the taste of meat and found being a vegetarian easy. I certainly don’t like it anymore but in the beginning it was tough not eating it. Animal welfare was important to me but I thought eating meat was a natural part of life. I learnt about the environmental impacts of the meat industry through my formal studies and personal research. I watched a butt load of documentaries and realised that no, industrialised meat production is not a part of life.
I continued to eat only ‘organic’ and ‘grass-fed’ or ‘free-range’ meat, under the impression that this was better. I now know that whilst these are ‘better’, they still have an incredibly large environmental impact. The amount of land, water and energy used to produce these products is extremely disproportional to the production of plant-based foods (I will go into further detail on this topic in future articles). There are also various animal husbandry practices I do not agree with that are standard and accepted on all farms (organic included).
Thus, I decided I would no longer buy any type of meat. However, I still believed meat was healthy for you (in some places around the world, meat is still an important part of peoples diet and their only option. This is not the case for most Australians). I didn’t want to contribute in creating demand for meat products though I didn’t see the problem with eating them if they had already been purchased. I continued to eat meals with meat my family would cook so it wouldn’t go to waste.
I also LOVED milk. That seems ridiculous to me now, especially because I am somewhat lactose intolerant. Nevertheless there was no way I was giving up cereal and milo. I had tried every other milk alternative under the sun and I was not convinced.
At this stage, I watched Vegucated and learnt some things I didn’t want too. I previously believed that animals weren’t harmed in the production of dairy and eggs. I was extremely wrong; I now believe these industries are as bad, if not worse than meat production. I learnt that male cattle and chickens are in most cases (even on organic farms) all ‘destroyed’ within days/weeks of being born. As with meat, I wouldn’t buy milk and eggs but continued to drink and eat them if they were in my house (which was all the time). I felt bas but as time went on it got easier to forget about what I’d seen in documentaries.
A year and a half passed before I watched ‘Forks Over Knives’. This documentary wasn’t like the rest and if you haven’t seen it, you should. It clearly shows the science behind a plant based diet and provides evidence that animal products can severely harm your health. The fact that I thought animal products were still healthy for you was the last reason I had that justified eating them. I’m disappointed with myself that the risk to my health was what finally convinced me to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, but it was.
It is important to know the reasons why you are doing something. Though I may not always feel like I’m making a difference, I now live a lifestyle that I am proud of. I can stand by my values and I feel better (mentally and physically) by doing that. I encourage you to know to do some research and reflect on your values (it makes it easier when people question them!). Why do you choose the lifestyle you lead?
Want to reduce your shopping baskets environmental impact?
- Eat less meat and find out why here
- Eat more organic food and find out why here
- Reduce your water footprint
- Eat in season – spring, winter
- Reduce your food miles