Updated: Jan 12
Part 1 of 3
Jenny and I have been Vegan now since 2021. Although the final decision was made on a Sunday (can't really remember which Sunday), we had been travelling a path towards plant based eating for some time. We had just finished watching an amazing Doccie called "What the Health" - If you have not seen it here is a link, I really recommend it.
I remember Jenny saying, "that's it, I cannot continue to eat meat and dairy for one more day". I knew that my life was about to change. The journey so far has been incredible, certainly not short of challenges, but one I don't regret at all. The impact of my health has been profound but improved health has only been one of the myriad of benefits that I have have enjoyed, and I will be talking about those changes over the coming weeks.
So what is Vegan exactly?
Veganism is often defined by what we don’t eat: meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey,
plus some of the animal ingredients that are hidden away in products, such as
whey, gelatine and cochineal. It is important however to differentiate between Vegan, Vegetarian and Plant Based Whole Food.
You may notice by using the table that Vegan does not automatically mean healthy. In fact Vegan is the least "strict" of the 3 plant based eating methods and potentially the least healthy. Cutting out meat and dairy and replacing them with chips, breads and processed foods could very well be worse.
Vegan is more of a statement than a diet.
Identifying as Vegan then, reflects a rejection of;
1. The insane cruelty we inflict on animals,
2. The catastrophic effect that animal agriculture has on our planet, and
3. The negative impact that consuming meat and dairy has on our health.
So to be more accurate, Jenny and I certainly identify as Vegan but we choose to eat Plant Based (almost/we try) Whole Food. Although we have not yet managed to remove oils and sauces entirely from our diets, I am on a very short rope in this regard and under constant scrutiny from Jenny when preparing food, hence we consume significantly less oils and significantly better quality and our diet is predominantly made up of Fruit, Veggies, Whole Grains, Nuts, Seeds and Legumes.
So why Vegan?
Let's unpack the reasons why most people switch to a plant based diet.
Today's post will focus on the reason that makes many of us the most uncomfortable.
Part 1 - For the animals
Most of us feel uncomfortable about the factory farming and slaughter of animals. We find images and films upsetting and prefer not to think about it, and yet we know deep down that not thinking about it doesn’t change anything at all.
Rather than turning away, we would urge you to have courage and read on.
1.1 The great dairy con.
I was certainly part of the generation who were fed countless adverts showing happy cows in green pastures. Unfortunately the truth is very different. Like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young, and this means they must first be made pregnant.
And to keep the milk flowing, cows are impregnated over and over - but what happens to the babies who the milk was made for?
Well, it’s the milk that is valuable, not the calves, so first they are taken from their mothers to stop them from drinking it, and then their fate will depend on their sex.
Females may be put into solitary hutches, reared on a milk substitute and then follow their mothers fate. If male, they end up as veal, low quality beef or simply shot at birth. Cows are wonderful, loving and protective mothers, and the loss of their young affects them deeply. They may grieve for days and weeks, calling in vain for the return of their calves.
After years of this the cycle of insemination, birth, separation from young and near-constant milking, many female cows cannot even walk any longer. They are referred to as "downers". Their fate is to be picked up by their legs by cranes or earth moving equipment and driven to their final destination, the slaughterhouse.
1.2 Chickens - the most exploited animal on the planet.
Typically, tens of thousands of birds are crammed together in a warehouse, on a farm that may hold millions of birds.
Here, the farmer’s first job each morning is to pick up the bodies of those who did not make it through the night and to wring the necks of the weakest, the smallest and the sick. Individual care is not possible when there are so many birds, and so these victims suffer and die out of sight.
They will never scratch in the earth, sunbathe or do any of the things that make life worthwhile for a bird. Their first breath of fresh air will be on the day they are transported to the slaughterhouse, at the age of just six weeks.
For egg laying hens, life is not much better.
1.3 Life is no better for Pigs
Life is no better for pigs. As smart and charismatic as dogs, mother pigs are treated
as breeding machines, kept alive only so long as they keep churning out litter after litter of
On factory farms, they must give birth inside farrowing crates – metal cages so small that each mother cannot turn around, or even take a step forward or back. She can stand up or lie down, and that is all. In the wild, she would build a nest and her instincts still tell her to try, and so she will work in vain trying to create a nest even though it is impossible inside the crate. If her piglets are sick, she is not able to reach them to nuzzle or care for them but can only watch them suffer. When her own fertility declines, she will find herself on the same truck that took her piglets to slaughter when they were just six months old,headed for the same destination. If that was not bad enough, there is a whole raft of ‘mutilations’ that are legal and commonplace, from tail docking and teeth clipping to dehorning, ear-clipping and tattooing.
Can you believe that is it considered a humane way to kill a pig by smashing its head in with a blunt object?
All that we ask is that you make informed decisions.
These thought provoking documentaries are a must watch for anyone who is asking themselves the question about whether to explore a more plant based diet.
EARTHLINGS is a documentary film about humankind's complete economic dependence on animals raised for pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.
DOMINION uses drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture, questioning the morality and validity of humankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom. While mainly focusing on animals used for food, it also explores other ways animals are exploited and abused by humans, including clothing, entertainment and research.