For five years I looked at a postcard on my bulletin board that challenged me to go veggie for a week. I thought about it many times over the years, but it was not until I saw this poster in the subway that I decided to do it.
Why do we love our dogs yet think nothing of eating pigs? Pigs, who are loving, sensitive, playful animals who bond with each other, recognize their own names, can learn “tricks” and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates. Pigs, who are so intelligent that Tina Widowski a biologist who studies them says “When I was working with the monkeys, I used to look at them and say: ‘If you were a pig, you would have this figured out by now.'”
When I finally decided to become vegetarian I did not do it for a week. I did it for life. I could no longer justify eating animals. And the more I learned about how cruelly factory-farmed animals are treated the more committed I became that not only would I not eat them but I would (as I paraphrase Ghandi) be part of the change I want to see in the world.
In the last year since I became vegetarian I have learned a lot. Not only about the horrors of factory farming, but also the health benefits of a vegan diet and the positive impact that a vegan diet can have on both the environment and on the world supply of food.
About three months ago Liz Marshall walked in these doors. I had never met her before. But after the meeting when she was talking about her new movie I asked her about it and she handed me a postcard for “The Ghosts in Our Machines” which was playing in the Hot Docs festival the following week. Ghosts follows animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur as she photographs animals that are used , abused and killed by humans for food, fur, or scientific research. Ghosts asks the question: “Are animals property to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings, deserving of rights”. Anyone who has a pet they love only needs to look into their eyes to know the answer to that question.
Although I knew this would be a difficult movie to watch, which it was, I knew I had to see it. It was a beautiful, heart-breaking movie and I cried the whole way through it. I left realizing that being vegetarian was not good enough. I needed to give up all animals products including cheese – which I love – and eggs. My new goal was veganism.
Last September, in my quest to learn how to be a healthy vegetarian I went to the Vegetarian Food Festival at Harbourfront – the largest festival of its kind in North America. Not only did I discover lot of great tasting foods but watched some very interesting presentations.
I saw Rich Roll, the author of “Finding Ultra”. In 2006 Rich was 40 years old, 50 lb overweight and unhealthy. After deciding he needed a major life change he switched to a vegan diet, lost his excess weight and two years later came in 11th in the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. If you are not familiar with what an Ultraman marathon is, it is a double Ironman. That is, a 6.2 mi swim, 261.4 mi bike ride, and 52.4 mi run. Not satisfied with this accomplishment, in 2010 Rich completed the EPIC 5 in Kona (five ironman’s in five consecutive days on five different Hawaiian islands). Although I do not aspire to run any marathon, of any length, Rich’s story was truly inspiring and confirmed that you can be healthy and fit on a vegan diet.
At the food festival I also watched the movie “Forks Over Knives”. The film traces the personal journeys of a pair of researchers, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. Both who grew up on farms and both who, independently, through their extensive research and personal experience treating patients, came to the conclusion that degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Dr. Campbell is the author of “The China Study”, which is considered by many to be “the most important book on health, diet, and nutrition ever written.” (John Mackey, Founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market).
My third reason for becoming Vegan is that it is better for the planet. Meat and dairy production is a very inefficient use of the world’s resources.
- 1 billlion people in the world are malnourished
- 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water
Yet 40% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock and it takes 100x more water to produce a pound of meat than an pound of wheat. According to John Robbins in “Diet for a New America”, the grain required to feed livestock in America for one day is enough to provide every person on earth with two loaves of bread.
In addition, acccording to the 2006 report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.
Am I 100% vegan? The answer unfortunately is no. Being Vegan does takes some pre-planning, especially when eating out. But I am almost there.
I truly believe that a vegan or plant-based diet is better for the animals, better for my health and better for the planet. For me it is the logical and ethical choice.
From my speech to Rainbow Toastmasters , Monday July 8, 2013.