Why would anyone want to be a vegan? Don't you just eat lettuce all day? LOL No, but I won't go into the details of my diet today, other than to say it's quite tasty, and yes, I do love good food just like anyone else. I have probably actually found a lot more awesome recipes because I'm vegan than I would have if I'd never made the switch.
For those of you that don't know, I am the regional coordinator for Mercy For Animals. One of our goals is to educate the public about the rampant animal abuse on factory farms, as well as the impact of a vegan diet on health and environment. Mercy For Animals has been around for about 10 years now, but just go started in my area about a year ago. Following is the speech that I gave at our kick-off dinner last October.
...I want to tell you how I got involved with vegetarianism and Mercy For Animals. I had a pretty traditional upbringing. Meat was a normal part of dinner most nights. My favorite meats were chicken and pork chops. While attending [college], I tried ribs for the first time, and I really liked them! Smothered in all that BBQ sauce, I’m sure I was a mess. I definitely had to ask for extra napkins!!
At a campus fair, I walked up to the vegetarian club’s info table. The woman staffing the table told me how egg laying chickens are crammed 6 at a time into tiny cages where they don’t even have enough room to spread their wings. In order to prevent injury and death from their stress-induced fighting, their sensitive beaks are seared off with a hot blade. She encouraged me to avoid contributing to this cruelty by adopting a vegan diet, one that contains no meat, dairy, and eggs.
I have to say, I was skeptical and irritated. I was studying to be a dietitian at the time, and I believed that we needed at least some animal products in our diets to be healthy. I thought this woman was irresponsible for telling people to eat this way.
But her message about the abuse of animals stayed with me. Over the next few years, I would sometimes think back to our conversation. Finally, I decided to do some research of my own. I’m a dietitian, so I wanted to see what the American Dietetic Association had to say about vegan diets. I already knew that a person can be healthy without eating meat, but I was very surprised to see the ADA’s position paper on vegetarian diets say that vegan diets are healthy for any stage of life, whether old or young, infant, pregnant, or lactating!
I could no longer use the argument that we had nutritional requirements for meat, eggs, or dairy. Even the ADA, which heavily promotes dairy products, agrees we don’t actually need them.
I did some internet research, and found out that the horrendous abuses of animals in factory farms are not isolated incidents, but actually are standard practices. For example, in the dairy industry, cows are treated like machines instead of living creatures. They are artificially inseminated each year, and their babies are taken from them within 24 hours of birth. The mother cow mourns the loss of her young. If the calf is male, he goes into a tiny veal crate, in the dark, where he is unable to move and is fed an iron deficient diet which makes him anemic, so that his meat will be white and tender. I had no idea that drinking milk supports the veal industry.
After learning about the cruelty, I decided I could not support these practices, and I adopted a vegan diet. I found some great substitutes for ice cream, cheeses, and meats, plus there are many awesome vegan cookbooks and websites. I learned that being vegan can be easy and taste great!
But it wasn’t enough for me to just give up animal products. I wanted to share with people this important information about where our food comes from. I found Mercy for Animals and I really liked the work they do. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anyone to coordinate activities for... That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a part of getting MFA started in our area.