Only a couple of decades ago, vegans were seen as a strange breed of creature. Outsiders whose reluctance to eat animal products was considered a quirky personality trait rather than a respectable ethos by which they live their lives. The vegan lifestyle was constantly denigrated as impractical, unhealthy, and bizarre.
Yet in recent years, veganism has begun to be taken a lot more seriously. There are now 9.6 million vegans in the United States alone, representing 3% of the population and a growth of 300% over the last 15 years. But what’s changed?
There are so many reasons that people are eating less meat and more vegetables. These reasons range from ethical to the environmental to the financial. Go to any restaurant in a major city nowadays and there will be a wide range of delicious plant-based dinner options from which to choose. Twenty years ago, any vegan diners would have to be satisfied with either a green salad or an empty stomach.
It’s clear that the vegan diet will continue to grow in popularity, and as more and more meat alternatives become available, this trend will only speed up. But is the diet worth the sacrifice? If you’re a meat lover, you will probably need a very good reason to give up your succulent steaks and crispy bacon. To help you make up your mind about whether to jump on the plant-based bandwagon, here are the pros and cons of a vegan diet.
The meat industry is one of the largest contributors to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. As a planet, we are headed towards an environmental disaster, and if everyone were to cut out meat it would go a long way towards solving it. There would be fewer methane emissions from livestock, reduced transportation, and less single-use plastic for packaging meat products. Arable farming of fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, has a dramatically lower environmental impact.
If saving the planet isn’t enough to convince you, what about the inherent cruelty of slaughtering animals for their tasty meat? You might argue that hunting animals for food has an integral part of our survival for millennia, but this argument has little relevance anymore. It is no longer essential to kill animals for the continuation of the human race. If millions of vegans can survive on plant-based products, you can too.
If your carnivore diet results aren’t as life-changing as you hoped they would be, maybe going vegan can give your health the boost you need. Once upon a time, many health professionals advised against the vegan diet, claiming it wouldn’t provide the nutrients and protein you need to flourish. But nowadays, these claims are outright false. It’s perfectly possible to get all the protein and other goodness you need from vegetables and meat alternatives like tofu and Quorn. And they’re readily available in all good grocery stores. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that veganism is actually a healthier diet than an omnivorous one. It is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and can aid in weight loss.
Switching to a vegan diet can give you a chance for a better life. Meat is expensive, and cutting it out from your diet will save you an enormous amount of money in the long run. Fruit and vegetables from a farmer’s market cost very little, as well as being fresh and free of tampering and chemical additives. Your weekly food bill will be considerably lower, and you can use these cost-savings to spend on the things that really make you happy.
Considering all the benefits, you’d think people would be desperate to shed their meat dependence and start their plant-based transformation. So why then, do the majority of the population decide not to go vegan? The main reason is simply that meat tastes good, and people don’t want to prohibit themselves from enjoying one of life’s great pleasures. Becoming vegan undoubtedly comes with a sacrifice, and it is up to you to decide whether the environmental, ethical, monetary, and health benefits are worth it.
When you’re a carnivore, you can pretty much eat whatever you like. You may have allergies or dislikes, but in general, most items on a restaurant menu are available to you. But if you’re a vegan, all meals become fraught with potential errors. You’ll be constantly squinting to read the ingredients on everything you buy and annoying waiters by asking them which dishes are vegan. You’ll have to put a lot more thought into your meals and shopping lists, but with time and practice, you will inevitably get used to it.
No, it’s not a typo. Although there are many health benefits to eating a vegan diet, there are risks if you’re not careful. There is plenty of plant-based junk food available in addition to the good stuff, and many beginners to the vegan lifestyle end up eating very poor diets because they don’t educate themselves on the right things to eat. A common criticism is that plant-based foods don’t give you enough protein but this is false. You can get more than enough protein from vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The one thing you might struggle to get enough of is vitamin B12, which is found naturally in animal products and is essential for producing red blood cells and keeping your nervous system in good shape. If you decide to adopt a vegan diet, you may need to take B12 supplements.
Although attitudes are changing, there are still negative stereotypes about vegans. People variously perceive them as boring, opinionated weaklings with a superiority complex. These views are just as misguided as any stereotype, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still encounter these opinions if you become a vegan. But bear in mind that if someone gives you stick for your dietary choices, you can respond by pointing out that many A-list celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, and Ariana Grande are all vegans.