People are drawn to veganism for many different reasons, because it ties into a wide variety of issues. I’ll address the impacts of veganism (and non-veganism) at length in blog posts, but I want to mention a few central ideas right away.
Animals – Most vegans care about the suffering of animals and don’t want to participate in methodical cruelty and violence against helpless creatures. One way of thinking of veganism is as a boycott of the animal industry. This doesn’t mean vegans have to be sentimental animal lovers. They may simply feel that it’s morally wrong to kill without need.
Environment – Want to live lightly on the earth? Becoming vegan is a great way to cut your carbon footprint and to avoid contributing to some of the worst polluters of the air and waterways. Some statistics you probably won’t hear in school: The main source of water pollution in the US is farm animal excrement. Dairy cows produce twice as much manure as milk. Livestock is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. 60 to 70% of deforestation of the Amazon is due to the cattle industry. It takes nearly 50 times as much water to make a beef calorie than a potato calorie–that’s thousands of gallons of water used per pound of beef!
Health – It’s no secret that Americans are getting fatter and sicker, and most of our health problems are related to what we’re putting into our bodies. Fad diets come and go, but the most sound way to eat is to focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A reasonable vegan diet (not one heavy in french fries, potato chips and Oreos), is naturally high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, and low in fat.
*One note on health-motivated vegans: eating solely plants is merely the dietary aspect of veganism. The term for someone who doesn’t eat animal products, but has no issue with buying a leather jacket, for example, is “dietary vegan.” Vegans, on the other hand, generally have other, ethically-based reasons for their lifestyle. But health certainly is a great motivator, and I’d love to take dietary vegans on board as well, and to show them that they can impact not only their lives, but the world, by becoming full-fledged vegans!