I became a vegan a few weeks ago, in early May 2022. It’s been a long but inevitable journey driven by concerns over food safety, the environment and animal welfare.
I grew up in the United Kingdom, and my concerns over food safety started with the revelations of what we were feeding to cows and other animals to bolster profits in the meat industry. This included meat-and-bone meal, the remains of other animals, which led to the “Mad Cow” (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, and its human version, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, vCJD) disaster.
Over 4 million head of cattle were slaughtered in an effort to contain the outbreak, and 178 people died after contracting vCJD through eating infected beef. I still cannot give blood in the US as a result of living in the UK during this period.
Over time, I researched more into the meat industry and its impact on the environment. Meat accounts for approximately 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from food production, twice that of the production of plant-based foods. To produce 1kg of wheat, 2.5kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. A single kilo of beef creates 70kg of emissions. But it is not only the greenhouse gases released, the pollution of the land and water around these massive, industrial-scale operations due to the waste slurries has become a major issue. As an avid hiker and runner, I realized as I passed farms that they no longer smelled like animal farms but more like chemical factories.
Twenty years ago, I finally gave up red meat, and five years ago, meat altogether, becoming a pescatarian. However, my environmental concerns once again led me to consider becoming vegetarian. The pollution and disease issues around fish farming and the overfishing of wild species became a major concern. Overlaying this, the persistent reports of microplastics starting to appear in the food chain, especially in fish and other seafood, hastened my decision.
So, what led me to skipping vegetarianism and going directly to a plant-based life? A good friend of mine took me to see the film “Cow.” This film follows the life of a cow, birth to death, at a dairy farm in the UK. This farm is apparently a “good” example of animal husbandry. I cried; I came out of there convinced that we are on the wrong track in the exploitation of animals for food.
So, now I am a dedicated vegan, discovering the enormous variety of food possibilities that don’t involve animals. I am already feeling lighter, both physically and mentally. The health benefits are a wonderful side effect in addition to the alleviation of suffering amongst our fellow animals and the protection of the environment.
Michiana VegFest Board Member