By Kasey Minnis on
1. Vegans know where all their protein comes from.
Most people seem to think that protein only comes from meat, eggs, and dairy. Well, folks, you may’ve heard the phrase “proteins are the building blocks of life” -- remember that plants are alive too! Vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and even some fruits can be healthy sources of protein. Considering that, if you’re eating animal products plus all these plant foods, there’s a possibility you’re actually getting too much protein and that can be bad for your health.
2. Vegans know that many cheeses are not vegetarian.
Have you ever looked at the ingredients on cheese and seen the word “enzymes”? Those are the same enzymes that would cause milk to coagulate in a mammal’s stomach, since the coagulation process is essential to cheese making. Traditionally, these enzymes are taken from the stomachs of slaughtered veal calves. Today, rennet can also be made from vegetable sources or produced in a lab, but many brands - particularly of hard aged cheeses such as parmesan, romano, and asiago - still contain veal rennet. So that fettuccine alfredo you’re eating for Meatless Monday, well, it might not be quite so meatless after all. (To find out if your brand of cheese is vegetarian, check here: http://cheese.joyousliving.com/CheeseListBrand.aspx.)
3. Vegans know how to save on their grocery bill.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service recently did a study to determine if it’s true that eating healthy is more expensive. They found that, serving for serving, healthy foods are less expensive than unhealthy ones. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are among the least expensive foods when calculated on a per-serving basis, and beans are one of the lowest cost proteins. Meat and junk foods were at the top end of the cost-per-serving scale. So for more food, fewer calories, and cheaper grocery bills, eating vegan is the way to go.
4. Vegans know that gelatin is not just wiggly and jiggly - it’s also made of piggy.
When we think about gelatin, we think of Jell-O - bright, colorful, wiggly cubes of... pig skin? Yes. Gelatin is made from collagen, which is found in the skin and bones of animals. Pig skins, cow hides, and the bones of these animals are boiled to extract the collagen, which is filtered and ground into a powder. It’s then used to make Jell-O, pill capsules, and included in a surprising variety of other products.
5. Vegans know that animals die to produce eggs and milk.
So often, people will ask vegans, “Why don’t you eat eggs? It doesn’t hurt the chicken to lay them. Why not milk? Cows have to be milked or they’ll die.” Here’s the real deal: taking the living conditions of these female animals out of the equation, what do you think happens to their male offspring?
Today’s chickens are bred in very specific ways - to be either egg-layers or “roasters.” The male chicks of the egg-layers haven’t been bred large enough to be valued as roasters, so they are useless to farmers. They are slaughtered at birth, frequently in horrific ways.
As for cows, how this crazy idea that cows have to be milked got started, I’ll never understand! Cows are mammals and their process of nursing their young is exactly like human breastfeeding. When they get pregnant, their bodies produce milk for the infant. When the infant stops needing milk, their bodies stop producing it. In order to keep a cow producing milk, it has to be continually re-impregnated, and its calves have to be taken away. Female offspring may become dairy cows, but male offspring are typically slaughtered for veal. (Check out the first two FAQs from the veal industry to see for yourself http://www.vealfarm.com/faq.aspx)
6. Vegans know you’re eating some stuff you don’t know about.
Crushed insect shells in juices and candies, hair and feathers in bread, fish oil in your orange juice, animal fat in your soap... these aren’t accidental contamination or urban myths, these are standard ingredients. (They will be labeled in respective order as: carmine, cochineal, shellac, or confectioner’s glaze; amino L-cysteine; omega-3; and sodium tallowate.) And yes, the government has deemed these bugs and bits to be safe for you, but clearly manufacturers know the very idea is unpalatable to you or the sources would be made clear.
7. Vegans know that the scrawny weakling vegan stereotype is a total myth.
The number of powerful vegan athletes at the top of their games continues to grow. From Olympic track and field star Carl Lewis (who reports the best year of track he ever ran was the year he went vegan) to NFL running back Arian Foster (who is expected to lead the league in rushing though he went vegan this summer), athletes who go vegan are finding it not only doesn’t hurt their performance, it can help!
8. Vegans know how awesome vegan food really is!
To be fair, you may know this too if you watch Cupcake Wars, where vegan bakers have faced off against traditional fare and won more than once. Or you may know it if you’ve ever had a particularly wonderful spaghetti marinara. Or if you’re crazy about hummus. From cornflakes to Oreos, from cherry turnovers to fresh bread, you probably eat ‘accidentally vegan’ food all the time without thinking about it. But there’s so much more amazing vegan food out there to discover. The idea that it’s all salads and soy is pretty silly, when you think about it.
9. Vegans know what it’s like to change the way you look at food.
We understand that you “love your steak.” We know that you think you “could never give up cheese.” What makes you think that we didn’t feel the same way? The vast majority of vegans once ate just like you do now. So there’s little point in telling us all the reasons that you “can’t” develop a kinder, healthier diet - we know you can, when and if you make that choice. (And the truth is that you wouldn’t find it a fraction as hard as you think.) But we can also empathize with how hard it is to even contemplate, how difficult it is to think about changing something that’s been such a fundamental part of your life since childhood. Why not ask what it’s like, or how we accomplished it? You might be inspired to take some small, positive steps for your health or the animals.
10. Vegans know how animal rights, human rights, and environmental conservation are inextricably intertwined.
The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization, The Stockholm International Water Institute, Oxfam, along with many other organizations of scientists, politicians, and thought leaders are calling for a major reorganization of our food system and warning of the dire environmental, health, and societal consequences of continuing on the path we’re on. Simply put, current factory farming methods to produce meat are contributing to global warming, world hunger, and epidemics of preventable diseases. The choices we make about our food today will impact all our lives tomorrow.