This post is the third of a four part mini-series titled, ‘Why I Quit…’ in which I discuss my reasons for cutting out caffeine, alcohol, meat and dairy.
I have a confession to make.
Just a few short years ago, I was a complete meat junkie. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff! I dined at steak restaurants as often as possible, made more trips to McDonalds than I’d like to admit and would have died rather than become a vegetarian – let alone a vegan.
So, why the change of mind? I’m glad you asked.
Since swapping cheeseburgers for veggie burgers I’ve discovered a surprising number of benefits that can all be attributed to my decision to cut out meat. Read on to discover how a simple diet change could have huge impacts on the environment, animal lives and your own health.
Oh, and that juicy burger up there? Totally, 100% vegan!
For the animals
We’re all seen the documentary footage. Squealing, terrified animals crammed into filthy pens. Mangy-looking chickens pecking and clawing at each other. Wild-eyed cows bellowing frantically. Welcome to the slaughterhouse, the birthplace of your juicy ribeye steak.
For too long, I turned a blind eye. I convinced myself that the makers of these videos were biased and only showing the worst of the worst. The meat that I ate certainly didn’t come from a place like that!
It’s easy to look at the horrific scenes on those documentaries and think, ‘That’s awful, but it doesn’t happen in my country.” Unfortunately, it happens all over the world. According to Viva, “Over a billion animals are killed each year in slaughterhouses right here in the United Kingdom. This includes over 10 million pigs, over 15 million sheep, 16 million turkeys, 14 million ducks and geese, 975 million chickens and over 2.5 million cattle.”
These animals are stunned, electrocuted and stabbed, just so we can eat them. I could understand if we absolutely needed meat to survive, but it’s just so unnecessary! I’m living proof that humans can thrive on a vegan diet – in fact, meat is actually detrimental to our health.
But what about free-range, grass-fed meat? It’s not all bloody slaughterhouses and cramped chicken coops – some animals are lucky enough to live a reasonably nice (although short) life before they are slaughtered. Surely if they are treated well and killed quickly, it’s not so bad?
Here’s how I see it: There is no humane way to kill something that doesn’t want to die.
Imagine if I walked up to you and said, “I’m going to kill you, but I’ll do it quickly and fairly painlessly. It’s okay, you’ve had a great life!” It’s an extreme example, but it really opened my eyes when I was struggling to give up meat.
Most people eat meat primarily for pleasure. I know I did! But it stopped being enjoyable when I realised that for every bite of cheeseburger, an animal had to die. Is it really worth it?
“Animals go into the slaughterhouse alive and come out chopped into pieces, and people like to think something humane happens along the way.” – Larry Fisher.
For the planet
Most people consider themselves to be fairly environmentally-friendly. We recycle as much as possible, bring our own shopping bags to the supermarket and wouldn’t dream of littering. But what if I told you that the biggest threat to our planet today isn’t plastic or exhaust fumes? It’s animal agriculture – in other words, it’s meat.
I watched the documentary Cowspiracy before I switched to a vegan lifestyle, and it was instrumental in helping me make the change. I couldn’t believe how much damage our meat-eating diet is doing to the planet – if I’m honest, I still can’t! The makers of the documentary have produced a fantastic infographic that really highlights how destructive the animal agriculture industry is.
Before I switched to plants, I was feeling smug about taking short showers to conserve water, until I learned that the amount of water it takes to produce one hamburger is the equivalent of showering for two months straight!
Think one person can’t make a difference? If you follow a vegan diet you’ll produce 50% less carbon dioxide and uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water and 1/18th land compared to someone who consumes animals.
If you care about helping the planet, you need to cut out meat. It really is as simple as that!
For my health
Growing up, I was always told that meat was good for me. Chicken would give me protein, beef would give me iron, lamb would give me energy. I didn’t question these statements – if everyone believed it, then it must be true… right?
Unfortunately not. When you eat any form of meat (including ‘healthy’ options like chicken and turkey) you’re playing Russian Roulette with your health.
This is not just vegan propaganda – these claims are actually scientifically based. In 2015, the World Health Organisation declared processed meat such as hot dogs, bacon and sausages as a carcinogen; in other words, cancer-promoting. They can increase your risk of colon or rectum cancer by 18%! That’s pretty terrifying considering how often I consumed those foods growing up. But what’s even more scary? Processed meats are still sold everywhere with no health warning on the label!
It’s not just the carcinogens that you need to worry about – most meat is pumped full of hormones which can seriously unbalance our own natural levels. Even if you opt for hormone-free alternatives, you’re still consuming the animal’s own hormones with every mouthful. This can result in early puberty in children as well as (no surprises here!) an increased risk of cancer. Eating meat also puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease, one of our biggest killers. Chicken wings? Yeah, I think I’ll pass.
Still not convinced? Consider the fact that 70% of food poisoning is caused by animal flesh. Forget vomiting and an upset stomach – contaminated meat can actually kill you.
I’m about to ruin your day: a surprisingly large amount of animal products come into contact with faecal bacteria before they make it to your plate. Slaughtering animals isn’t exactly a clean job, so it’s impossible to ensure a sterile environment. Consuming these bacteria can result in diseases such as E.Coli and Salmonella, which can be fatal. Pass the greens, please!
Cutting meat out of my diet was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my health. My blood results are fantastic, my cancer risk is lower than it’s ever been and most importantly, I wake up feeling amazing every single day. What have you got to lose?
One of the biggest hurdles that many people face when cutting down on their meat consumption is the feeling of not being completely satisfied after a meal. I’ve heard it so many times, and I think I’ve figured out the problem – they aren’t swapping their protein sources. Eliminating meat doesn’t mean that you have to survive on cucumber and lettuce leaves. It’s 2018, people! There are so many amazing meat alternatives out there which are chock-full of protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
You’ve probably heard of Quorn, but did you know that they now have a vegan range? You can find nuggets, ham, burgers… even fish fingers! Honestly, you won’t even notice the difference. My favourite sausages are by Linda McCartney, and the chorizo flavour is to die for. Want to make a lasagna or shepherd’s pie? Try soya mince – Sainsbury’s do a great one.
If you’re looking for a more natural source of protein, try beans and lentils – they provide a plant-powered boost of protein that can match or even exceed the levels found in meat! Give this super easy bean chili a try, or my hearty lentil bolognese. Easy as (vegan) pie!
Cutting out meat in today’s world can be difficult. But it can also be the most rewarding journey you’ll ever take. No matter what your reasons are for going plant-based – the animals, your health, the environment – you’ll come out the other side more compassionate, more conscious and way more connected to our planet. What’s not to love about that?