I’m vegan because I don’t think it’s okay for humans to treat other animals as commodities.
And that’s exactly what happens when we use animals for their meat, milk, eggs, and other products.
The novelist Alice Walker put it very elegantly:
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”
In April 2004, after meeting my vegan inspiration Billy, I stopped eating red meat. Within a week I knew I didn't want to eat chicken or fish, either, so I became a vegetarian. A few weeks later, just before my 39th birthday, I also stopped eating all animal products, including dairy and eggs, so I was officially a vegan.
My health has always been pretty good, but I’m definitely healthier on a vegan diet. No surprises there: by cutting out animal products you automatically eat more plant foods, and boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Plant-based diets also tend be lower in fat, and no plant food contains cholesterol. I lost 10kg within my first three months, without even trying.
Eating vegan doesn’t mean no fun! I enjoy vegan cakes, cookies, chocolate and ice creams but most of my diet is whole foods – whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The only supplement I take regularly is one B12 drop each morning.
Everything else I get from real food. For example, I get calcium from leafy greens, cashews, tofu, soya milk and tahini. I get iron from beans (which don’t make you fart if you cook them properly!), dried fruit like apricots and dates, leafy greens and whole grains, and from cooking in a cast iron pan.
Getting enough protein is not a problem. Virtually every plant food contains some protein, and if you eat a variety in the course of the day, your body gets all the amino acids to make complete protein. Most people eating a standard Western diet consume far too much protein, which is very hard on your kidneys and other organs.
THINGS PEOPLE SAY:
“I’m Dutch, I have to eat cheese!”
I’m a mix of English and French, and the fact that I no longer eat Stilton or camembert doesn’t change my heritage. I’m just exercising my personal choice.
“I had a friend who went vegan, and she got sick.”
There are healthy vegans and there are unhealthy vegans. You’ve met unhealthy meat-eaters and unhealthy vegetarians too, right? Whatever dietary parameters you choose, there will be unhealthy and healthy options.
“Don’t you care about hurting plants?”
C’mon, I’ve gotta eat something!
Plants don’t have central nervous systems, so while it’s entirely possible that they feel some kind of pain and fear, I don’t believe it’s on the same level as that endured every day by fish, cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and all the other animals humans currently consider to be food.
Oh, and eating animals destroys a lot more plants because the animals eat plants…
“Cows’ udders will explode if we don’t milk them.”
Like all female mammals, including humans, cows only produce milk when they’ve given birth. Their milk supply increases as the calf grows and suckles more, and decreases as the calf weans itself. Dairy cows produce enormous amounts of milk because the milking machines demand a lot of milk from them.
“I only eat eggs from free-range hens.”
I’ve been into battery hen farms and found them deeply chilling, so I’m heartened by the public outrage at the practice. Unfortunately, commercial free-range systems are just as exploitative of the hens. The chicks come from the same hatcheries as those destined for battery cages, the male chicks are still killed within hours of hatching, the hens have a very limited amount of freedom, and they’re killed once they’re past peak production.