It’s always wise to check everything involved in a lifestyle decision (pros & cons) when you’re considering it for the long haul.
Vegan pros and cons can be discussed in terms of its impact on animals, health, or the environment.
While discussing all the pros and debunking some of the perceived cons, we hope this post will enlighten and help you make an informed decision.
Animal Rights and Liberty
This is straightforward and is the most compelling reason for many to become vegan and to have an unwavering will to remain one.
By going vegan you reduce demand for meat & stop supporting the ruthless factory farming industry.
Animals are sentient (capacity to experience life) beings that have emotions, social relationships and intelligence. Scientific studies show that animals can experience joy, pleasure, stress, pain, fear, affection and show many more complex emotional behaviors.
In the U.S. approximately 29 million cattle, 2.2 million sheep & lambs, 115 million pigs, 1.5 million goats, and 9 billion birds are killed for food every year. If you imagine & consider the annual headcount of cattle killed in USA as a human headcount, it’s like killing everyone in Australia in a year or causing four holocausts.
You cannot even include the numbers for fishing as it is measured in tonnes! According to one estimate, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either completely exploited or depleted.
All the above stats will only make any sense if food animals are considered living beings instead of commodities.
Apparently, if you follow a vegan diet for one year you’ll be saving 100-200 animals annually (vary on individual consumption and includes beef, pork, chicken, fish, other seafood, etc.)!
Animal Over Population
A question asked by some non-vegans is “what happens to the billions of farm animals if everyone goes vegan?” Let’s answer the question with humane options since killing the animals is out of the equation. Because humans are the ones who left room for such a question to be raised.
First of all, we should understand that the world’s billions of chickens, cattle, pigs, geese, goats, lambs, sheep, ducks and turkeys are an artificial creation by our own kind. Though by no means it is kind. Production of such large numbers is the result of a system driven by gluttony, profits, and speciesism.
It is pity that these animals have been forcefully bred generation after generation bringing them into a world in which they don’t find any regard to its sentience, rights, and life.
Remember, all these animals that mankind subject to dreadful injustice were once living in the wild freely. Therefore, it is our responsibility to intervene and end the misery for animals that we on our own started.
Having a plan for an efficient and effective program will certainly help these animals to be reintroduced to their natural habitats. This should be done gradually & humanely with a lot of thought & care for the animals. Once we do our part to rectify the terrible misdeed humans created, we can allow mother nature to take its course.
What we are about to discuss next has much relevance to the pros and cons of vegan diet.
We can’t talk about healthy weight without considering the BMI (body mass index).
BMI is the way to measure your body fat based on your height and weight. In general, a BMI range of 18.5–24.9 is considered a healthy weight.
Since vegan diets are low in fat consumption people who follow these diets have found it much easier to shed those fatty pounds more easily.
I can vouch for that with my own experience as I have been able to stay within the healthy BMI range throughout my vegan life (my current BMI stands at 22.31). Though healthy body weight is not the sole factor determining your overall health it is still an indicator not to be overlooked.
Low Heart Decease & Stroke Risk
Our body stores excess calories (energy) in the form of fat, which could result in more cholesterol. Too much of cholesterol can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
To put this into context, approximately 1 ounce of steak will give 77 calories whereas 1 ounce of vegetables would give you only 18 calories. Besides this, we can also get excessive cholesterol directly from animal products.
Therefore, it is much easier for vegans to control their cholesterol levels, compared to omnivores (people who eat both animal and plant-based food). Since our body naturally produces all the cholesterol it needs, it is sensible to have some control over the additional cholesterol intake from food sources.
According to studies, those who adhere to a vegan diet can maintain, control or reduce blood sugar levels quite efficiently.
For those who already have diabetes, this could mean making your body more responsive to insulin, taking less medication and keeping your complications related to blood sugar under control.
Low Cancer Risk
Numerous studies have suggested that eating a diet abundant in vegetables and fruits not only will reduce your exposure to cancer but equip you with cancer-fighting properties to lower the chances of developing cancer.
Especially processed meat such as sausages, deli meats, ham, salami, bacon and hot dogs have been linked with a higher risk of colon cancer. Red meat such as beef, lamb, and pork too could pose a cancer risk if consumed excessively.
A well-planned vegan diet can lead to healthy digestion due to its fiber. Though meat has no fiber, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are rich in fiber. Especially insoluble fiber is known to create smoother bowel movement and helps those who have difficulties with constipation and irregular bowel movements.
Fiber also makes you feel fuller. If you feel fuller you don’t eat more than you require and that helps to keep a healthy weight which in turn keeps digestion in good health. This is especially beneficial for those who have digestive issues such as acid reflux. You can also keep bloating under control when meat is avoided.
Healthy Skin, Hair & Youthful Aging
We all love to look and feel young and no two thoughts about it. But this is not about a magic pill that gives you the fountain of youth, rather a realistic lifestyle which truly prolongs your aging process.
- Fruits and vegetables are plentiful when it comes to essential vitamins and antioxidants. These are much-needed building blocks for glowing skin.
- Since vegetables and fruits are fiber-rich it could help you to get those skin damaging toxins out of the system.
- Opting for low-fat vegan diets will help you reduce those pore-clogging saturated fats which are found to be higher in animal-based foods.
- Healthy unsaturated fat found in avocado, olive oil and fatty acids found in almonds, walnuts are a great source to keep skin hydrated and supple. These healthy fats will also give greater growth & strength for hair & nails as well.
- With all the above benefits, a vegan diet would ideally give a lot of anti-aging properties to fight free radicals which are vital to look and feel younger.
Sleep apnea which is caused by interrupted breathing during sleep is said to affect 1 in 15 Americans and about 100 million worldwide.
Three causes of sleep apnea are being overweight, having a large neck size and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Hence, eating fatty foods and gaining weight could cause you to have more wake-ups during sleep. One may think eating fatty foods make them sleepier, but in the long term, it could interfere with their deep sleep causing insomnia.
Solution? Go for a vegan diet that helps you to keep your weight under control. Another point to consider is, as vegans generally pay more attention to their diet and health, their “feel good” state too may help them to have a better sleep quality.
Besides all the above vegan benefits, this is something many vegans look forward to. You don’t have to wait until some special pill is found, a new breakthrough in science or some hi-tech costly discovery to lengthen your lifespan. Studies have shown, people who follow a plant-based diet already experiencing it.
One study done on vegetarians showed that men extended their longevity by 7 years and women by 4 years approximately. In another study, a vegetarian diet showed a 12% reduction in causes for mortality.
Vitamin B12 is derived mainly from animal food sources. Lacto-Ovo vegetarians get vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy products.
Vegans don’t have to worry about it, as they can get this vitamin from fortified foods (plant milk, certain breakfast cereals, marmite, etc.) and supplements. Check the labels to see whether vitamin B12 is included and for quantity.
This is another misconception that vegans are not getting enough protein. Protein is a major nutrient which is needed for cell functioning, tissues, bodily chemicals, and bones.
It’s abundantly available in a typical vegan diet that includes vegetables (soybeans, beans, broccoli, corn, lentils, etc.), nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, etc.) and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, flaxseed, etc.).
Some may think vegans don’t get an adequate amount of calcium since they avoid dairy products, but nothing could be further from the truth. Calcium is a vital mineral for bones, teeth, blood vessels, nerve signaling, blood clotting, hormones, and for contraction of muscles.
Vegans get calcium from vegetables like bok choy, collards, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, cabbage, fortified foods, nuts, seeds, and oranges.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These heart-healthy fats play a vital function in reducing heart disease, high blood pressure, boosting brain function, and easing joint ache. Fatty fish is a primary source for omega-3s.
So what does this mean for vegans? They can still get plenty of it from sources such as flax seeds, flax seed oil, chia seeds, camelina oil, hemp seed, canola oil, and walnuts.
Lack of Variety in The Diet (Seriously?)
Some may think being a vegan means eating the same types of vegetables every day and following a boring diet. This is actually a misconception and a vegan diet is only limited by your own imagination.
Do these vegan food look boring to you? I bet not.
They also keep on discovering new recipes to make their journey exciting. In fact, when they start enjoying and experiencing the variety of vegan food, they wish they became vegans much earlier.
Having a Meal Outside
This may look awkward for the vegan newbie, but with a bit of common sense & preparation eating out as a vegan could be a walk in the park.
To overcome this occasional inconvenience, you can simply check nearby vegan restaurants via online maps or check restaurant menus online in advance. For a start, Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican & Oriental Restaurants tend to have many vegan options.
You can also request the restaurant to replace meat with these tasty vegan meat substitutes like tofu, mushrooms, jackfruit or eggplants.
A few related posts to having a meal outside as a vegan,
- Vegan Eating Out Guide
- Best Vegan Restaurants
- Pizza Hut Vegan Menu Options
- Starbucks Vegan Menu Options
Humanity, Environment, and Personal Pros & Cons
Alleviation of World Hunger
Based on current demand-supply trends the growing world population could face a food crisis in the coming century. It takes more resources to produce a pound of meat than to produce a pound of beans. More soil, water, energy and other resources required for the meat industry than the crop industry meant for humans.
A higher number of people die from hunger than the total deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria.
If these resources spent on humans instead of farm animals, more food would be available for the 795 million people (approx.) in hunger worldwide.
Mitigate Environmental Impact
Let’s look at some stats,
- Grazing has caused an issue for 171 endangered species.
- About 102,000km2 of rainforest from 1996-2006, was destroyed and 80% of it made as grazing land for livestock.
- Land used as pasture and crops to feed farm animals causes the highest amount of deforestation and has made it quite difficult to restore for other types of farming for human consumption.
- To produce one pound of beef it takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water compared to 700 gallons to make a pound of lentils and 299 gallons to make a pound of rice.
- According to one study, farm animals create more greenhouse gasses than the transportation sector. These greenhouse gasses consists of intestinal gas, decomposition of animal excrement, and carbon dioxide released via deforestation to create grazing lands for livestock and animal feed crop.
In light of the above, refraining from meat consumption and adhering to a vegan diet would certainly help in reducing the environmental impact & restoring the natural habitat.
Transitioning from an omnivore diet to a vegan diet could be budget friendly as well. The cost of protein per gram of beef, milk & eggs is much higher compared to a gram of vegan options like oats, beans, lentils & chickpeas.
This shows you don’t have to be rich to go vegan. All it takes is an inexpensive, well-planned diet to be a healthy vegan.
Did I mention the hospital bills you’ll be saving from health benefits a vegan diet provides? Apart from that, there are many other economic benefits and cost savings from reduced environmental damage and a healthy population.
Irrespective of the motive to become a vegan, consciously or subconsciously, vegans know that they are making contributions towards good causes.
Not only these lifestyles would lead to a brighter future for our own species, but it accommodates a world of coexistence for all sentient beings and natural habitat.
Anyone becoming a vegan would know it is not a simple decision by any means. It takes deeper & broader thinking, values, commitment, and self-belief to make such transitions.
All these powerful qualities, forces and fulfillment enable them to have a positive outlook on life and future in general.
Insufficient Crop Production
Some may question whether the world can sustain a global population going completely vegan. According to one estimate, an agricultural land of 10 acres can sustain 60 people by cultivating soybeans, 24 people with wheat or 10 people with corn, but with cattle, only 2 people can be supported.
Furthermore, out of all land used for agriculture, 70% majority is occupied by livestock farms. If there is no demand for livestock these lands can be converted into crop production.
As you can see, there is enough land to sustain a vegan population worldwide.
Personal & Social Awkwardness
How my non-vegan family will react to my change? Am I to tell my friends that I am a vegan when I visit them for a meal? Am I to accept non-vegan gifts? How can I explain my stance? Will I hurt them? Do they know what “vegan” means in the first place?
These are all valid and relevant questions that you could ask in certain junctures of your vegan journey. The way you can react to these occasions may depend on the way you reflect upon the reasons, why you became a vegan.
Question is, do these challenges outweigh the benefits and values you believe & standby? The way you face and overcome these challenges may determine how you’re going to stay vegan for the rest of your life.
As far as family matters are concerned, you will be the best to know about your family more than anyone else. Sometimes sincerely explaining your ethics and showing the benefits backed by evidence may just do the job for you. You may not only get their approval but they may even adore your honesty and maturity. Who knows, with your good example and logical reasoning they may even consider adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Always remember being a vegan is about doing your best and not trying for perfection!
You can also use certain occasions as an opportunity to spread the vegan message, promoting compassion and a healthy lifestyle. Be smart and do this at the right moments. Being proactive, patient, rational and having common sense could help you face challenging moments and have control.
We learned about vegan benefits and perceived disadvantages. We also got to know how the arguments against veganism can be dealt with the right mindset.
Some of you may have sought the advantages and disadvantages of veganism for personal reasons, but we presume with this post, you have understood the broader spectrum and the gravity of your decision to all parties and the other aspects concerned.
In a nutshell, you learned the impact of veganism with regard to animals, yourself (body & mind), environment, and the planet at large. We hope this post gave you enough food for thought on vegan pros and cons to make an informed decision for yourself and other sentient beings.
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