Vegan: For the animals, the environment and my health
I thought for many years that eating vegan is too restrictive and unhealthy. I didn’t think it is possible get enough calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals through a vegan nutrition. I have been vegetarian most of my life because of my love for animals. I am very grateful that my parents respected my decision as a child not to eat meat anymore. After watching the documentary “Cowspiracy” on YouTube beginning of 2016 I realised how bad animal agriculture is for the environment. I am aware that some facts in this documentary are wrong. But the main conclusion stays the same: Our diet is a major contributor to global warming! An elderly gentleman, a former cattle rancher, said: „You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products”. Since being sustainable is very important to me this statement motivated me to change my diet. I joined a 30-Day Vegan Challenge and kept going this path afterwards. In this month and especially the time after I read a lot of scientific studies, books and articles about a balanced diet (see sources). I wanted to know exactly how much of each Macro- and Micronutrient we need and how they support each other. There is so much information available today that it is really difficult sometimes to know which results are true and which aren’t. There are studies for and against almost everything. I am grateful that learning how to read scientific studies was part of my master’s degree. Always check who financed the study. The meat and dairy industry has quite a lot of power.
Everyone has a right to their own opinion and nutrition is no exception to that. I don’t mind if somebody is eating meat in front of me. I can’t change people and being upset about that would not help my wellbeing. Most people don’t like when somebody says what they should eat, because our food choices are usually very personal. But I am happy to share my thoughts and knowledge of why I am eating vegan.
For the animals
It is nice to say that I am against cruelty. Most of us are. But how many of us actually convert these abstract values into concrete action? I know that many do not want to give up eating animal products. But what about eating less but “high-quality” animal products? Animals that were allowed to live outside, treated well and lived longer than just five years or even less. That would already have a big impact! If you want to know more about the cruelty animals have to face every day please watch “Dominion” or “Earthlings” on YouTube.
For the environment
Animal products (meat, dairy products and eggs) account for 48% of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland (Jungbluth, N. 2011). One single cow releases 200 liters of the climate-damaging greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere every day. Thus it damages the climate just as much as a small car covers a distance of 18’000 km. Raising animals for food uses enormous resources (space, water, food, and energy). For every kilo of meat or dairy, many times that amount of plants must be used to feed the animals for those products. About half of the grain produced in Switzerland is fed to the animals. One kilogram of beef consumes 15,500 liters of water. (Water footprint). Not to mention the energy consumption in the preparation, storage, and transport of animal food. They contribute hugely to deforestation (Species extinction) and is the leading cause of all fresh water pollution (ocean dead zones).
From a different point of view: There exists land that can only be used as grassland. No crop would grow on it. Cows living on pasture metabolize grass and their manure is a free ecological resource that amends the soil which gives you better tasting and healthful vegetables. But we do not need that many cows.
For my health
If comparing omnivores with people on a vegan diet it is very important to collect other information as well. Like how much sugar one eats for example, how balanced the nutrition is, placebo effects, the impact of stress, representativity of the sample, the design of the study, how much one sleeps and exercises, and other influencing factors. In summary: It is possible to eat a vegan diet and stay healthy if you eat balanced and supplement vitamin B12 (every other day) and vitamin D when the synthesis is reduced (e.g. weak sunlight, age and darker skin). Through a vegan diet you consume less hormones (e.g. growth hormone, stress hormone), less antibiotic (75% of all antibiotics prescribed in Germany are fed to animals. No wonder more and more people are developing resistance to antibiotics), less carcinogens, less LDL cholesterol and less saturated fats. This lowers the risk and reduces symptoms of heart problems, cancer, type 2 diabetes, overweight, and results in better cholesterol level. Casein, which makes up 87% of the protein contained in cow’s milk, promoted all stages of cancer growth (Campbell & Campbell, 2005).
What we eat is very important to our health (Campbell & Campbell, 2005; Esselstyn, 2008). There exist two great documentaries that show how the change to a vegan diet influenced the lives of people who had either cancer, overweight, diabetes, or other problems. Both of them (“Forks Over Knives” and “What The Health”) are available on Netflix.
I am not saying that eating a balanced vegan diet will cure your cancer or heart problems for sure. Especially if you only have two more weeks to live. But what about trying? What can you lose? There are no side effects like most modern medicine and it can be low on the budget. Educating yourself on the health benefits of eating vegan can help you stick to a healthy diet. One of the reasons I started my website was to share the healing power of food. There are impressive evidences that prove that advanced heart diseases, certain relatively advanced cancers, diabetes, and some other degenerative diseases can be reversed through a wholesome plant-based diet (Campbell & Campbell, 2005; Esselstyn, 2008). Everybody is free to decide what seems right for oneself. For my part I want to reduce suffering. I try to buy local, seasonal and fresh products from sustainable farmers who do not use any artificial fertilizer, and no monoculture. Sometimes I do eat cashews, coconut milk and other exotic products. I try my best, but I don’t want to suffer myself. Something I had to learn and not to feel guilty about.
“Good health is about being able to fully enjoy the time we do have. It is about being as functional as possible throughout our entire lives and avoiding crippling, painful and lengthy battles with disease.” – T. Colin Campbell, The China Study
I am aware that I have the privilege to have a choice. I am not living in the Antarctic or on a small island with no land for agriculture. Through travelling I am experiencing that the consciousness is gradually increasing as to what huge impact our consumer behavior has. Not only for ourselves, but also for the animals and the world in which we live.
- Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M. (2005). The China Study.
- Jungbluth, N. et al. 2011: Environmental Impacts of Swiss Consumption and Production: A Combination of Input-output Analysis with Life Cycle Assessment. ESU-services Ltd. u. a. Bern.
- Landwirtschaft. https://www.landwirtschaft.ch/wissen/pflanzen/getreidebau/allgemeines/.
- Jungbluth, N. 2011: ESU-services GmbH, Uster. Berechnungen für den WWF Schweiz.
- Water Footprint: http://www.project-platforms.com/files/productgallery-new.php.
- Öko-Institut: https://www.oeko.de/oekodoc/328/2007-011-de.pdf.
- PETA: https://www.peta.de/tiereesseninfografik.
- How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger and Gene Stone (2016).
- Radical Healing: Integrating the World’s Great Therapeutic Traditions to Create a New Transformative Medicine by Rudolph M. Ballentine
- Diet and Nutrition: A Holistic Approach by Rudolph M. Ballentine
- Esselstyn Jr, M.D., C. B. (2008). Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-based Cure.
- Dominion (Compassion for Animals)
- Earthlings (Compassion for Animals)
- The Game Changers (Vegan athletes. physical health)
- Forks Over Knives (Health, nutrition)
- What the Health (Nutrition)
- Cowspiracy (Environment)