Founder and director, Catskill Animal Sanctuary
So on Monday, October 1, is World Vegetarian Day–the kickoff for Vegetarian Awareness Month than runs throughout October. If you’ve been toying with the idea of going vegetarian, then let me be your cheerleader, and let the following lists inform and inspire! Good luck…and please share your journey!
A Reason a Day to Go Vegetarian
1. Because there are thousands of reasons to go vegetarian (only room for 30 here), and only two not to: 1. because you’re afraid to try something new 2. because you don’t know what to eat. Thousands of reasons outweigh two, don’t they?
2. Because if you want to get healthy, you should start with food! Replace cancer-causing, fat, pesticide and hormone-laced meats with cancer-preventing, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering foods like apples, broccoli, blueberries, carrots, flax, garlic, leafy greens, nuts and sweet potatoes.
3. Because vegetarians are about 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters.
4. Because our meat and dairy-centric diet is woefully lacking in health-giving fiber, contained only in plant-based foods. A minimum of 35 grams per day is recommended; the typical American consumes only 12.
5. Because four out of five Americans with cardiovascular disease who switch to a healthy (low-fat, whole foods) vegetarian diet reverse their symptoms completely.
6. The news gets better. Heart and blood-vessel diseases, diabetes, and of course obesity are preventable for 95% of us if we follow a healthy vegan diet, exercise, and manage stress.
7. Because I’ll bet you agree with Dean Ornish, one of the researchers who proved statement #4: “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic while it is medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs.”
8. Because humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, and that fact alone should give you pause. Think about it for a moment. Isn’t it logical that cow’s milk is designed to feed baby cows? When ingested by humans, cow’s milk is linked to constipation, allergies, obesity, acne, childhood diabetes, and much more. It’s chock full of cholesterol (plant foods have none), and likely filled with antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides.
9. Because of pink slime. PERIOD.
10. Because 70% of our antibiotics are fed to livestock. Doesn’t that scare you…just a little?
11. Because we are going to run out of food if we keep growing most of it to feed animals, who in turn feed far fewer peoplepeople than if we grew the food to feed directly to people. (One can feed 16 to 20 vegetarians with the same amount of natural resources as a single meat eater.)
12. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions — compared with 13% generated by all transportation combined. In 2009, however, WorldWatch Institute reported that the more accurate figure may be as high as 51%. Our diet is cooking our planet.
13. Because along with hundreds of scientists and many major media, the head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize-winning panel on climate change urged people to cut back on meat to combat climate change.
14. Because it takes over 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, vs. 49 gallons to produce a pound of apples. We’re using so much water for beef production that many leading environmentalists are predicting that Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico will soon be virtually uninhabitable. Why? We’re taking 13 trillion gallons of water per year from theOgallala aquifer, the largest body of fresh water on earth. Its water is left from the melted glaciers of the last Ice Age. Once the water is gone, it’s gone.
15. Because vast bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay are becoming toxic waste sites. Due to massive algae blooms from chicken and dairy factories that line the Eastern Shore, only ten percent of the Bay has enough oxygen in the summer. It’s so depleted that animals leap from the water to breathe. We humans have given their desperate act the ironic name of “jubilee.”
16. Because 75% of our topsoil has been depleted primarily due to growing animals to feed people. It takes 500 years to replace one inch of topsoil–the stuff that food grows in. “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.
17. Because there are no septic systems on factory farms. Americans eat around 9 billion animal each year: that makes for a lot of poop. Some manure goes directly into waterways, and some is stored in giant pits called “lagoons.” When they leech, crack, or overflow, feces goes directly into our rivers, streams, lakes…and our drinking water.
18. Because chickens, cows, and pigs aren’t fed what they’re designed to eat. They’re fed what’s cheap and what makes them grow incredibly fast. Some of what they eat is rendered animals – the boiled and ground up remains of dead and diseased animals, including roadkill and euthanized pets.
19. Because in ways that truly matter, we are all the same. Think about it. Whether human or non-human animal, we all seek happiness and pleasure, we all try to avoid pain and suffering. We all have rich and complex emotional lives.
20. Because when folks sneak into chicken and turkey factories, here’s what they see: gas masks hanging inside buildings in which the animals lived, the lack of anything resembling farm life–not a single window to let in fresh air, not a tiny patch of earth. Dead and dying animals…lots of them: the bruised and bloodied ones, the ones struggling for air, the deformed ones, the ones covered in sores. As Jonathan Saffran Foer writes, “the power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on people not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”
21. Because of “flip-over syndrome.” It’s the term used by the poultry industry to describe sudden death. Forced to grow more quickly than their bodies can handle, about five percent of chickens die this way prior to their predetermined death sentence at 42 days.
22. Because terms like humanely-raised, free-range, and all-natural are…um…bullshit. Sorry. Utterly meaningless. The definitions are ludicrous and the industries regulate themselves.
23. Because brain scientists have recently acknowledged that most animals are conscious and aware in the same way that humans are, and confirmed that virtually all animals have at least some degree of sentience — even bees, according to Christof Koch in his Huffington Post blog, “Consciousness is Everywhere.”
24. Because of the hundreds of moments we’ve witnessed at Catskill Animal Sanctuary: pigs laughing, sheep protecting other species, turkeys cuddling up in our laps to fall asleep, tender friendships among goats and chickens.
25. Because it’s plain and simply wrong for a newborn animal to be ripped from its mother, terrified and hungry, and driven into a crowded pen with other terrified babies, purchased and slaughtered immediately or caged in darkness for four months, then slaughtered. (Veal).
26. Because here’s one of many examples of why switching to fish doesn’t help. During the process of fishing for tuna, 150 other species are routinely killed and thrown back into the ocean. Among them are great white sharks, swordfish, sea horses, bluefish, albatross, gulls, bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoises, killer whales, pilot whales, humpback whales, loggerhead turtles.
27. Because unless we reverse course, there will soon be no more edible fish in our mighty, majestic oceans.
28. Because I’ve barely scratched the surface here in depicting how animals suffer under our modern agribusiness system. I haven’t even mentioned pigs, who, like the rest, suffer mightily.
29. Because my guess is that you try hard to be a good human being, yet as a carnivore, you unwittingly subject hundreds of living beings each year to a level of suffering that you wouldn’t wish upon the vilest human being you could conjure up.
30. Because in the time that it took me to write this article, the USDA reports that almost 1 million chickens, 28,526 turkeys, 23,027 pigs and many thousands more animals — animals brain scientists have just said are conscious and aware, just like humans — were killed to feed us.
Reeling? GOOD! Here are 30 ways to get started on your vegan journey!
1. Wanna learn about this lifestyle? Order the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’svegetarian starter kit,
2. or download a veg starter kit from Mercy For Animals.
3. PCRM even helps pregnant women take care of themselves—and the baby!
4. And they help parents get the diet thing right from the beginning!
Oprah to the rescue! From her ‘Vegan Starter Kit’ website, here are:
5. Three weeks of what to eat 3x/day,
6. answers to lots of questions you probably have,
7. a pretty awesome shopping list,
8. and vegan alternatives to everyday foods.
9. No matter where you live or travel, Happy Cow will help you locate somewhere good to eat!
10. So will VegGuide!
11. Pam Rice’s fabulous publication, 101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian, will inform and inspire (thanks to Pam for supplying some of the information in my lists!)
12. Think your favorite chain restaurant won’t have food for you? Think again! Moe’s, Subway, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, PF Changs, and Taco Bell have several options; some, like Moe’s, have lots! Even Burger King has a veggie buger. Go here to see for yourself.
13. If you live in New York City, Westchester, or most of the Hudson Valley, Healthy Gourmet to Go will deliver your meals for the week. And they’re good!
14. Let Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s books help you get cookin’!
15. On a budget? No problem! Veg diets don’t have to be expensive.
16. If you navigate life via your iphone/ipad, download helpful apps!
17. Ellen (as in DeGeneres) offers a short list of films to rock your world and inspire you onward.
18. To her list, I’d add Peaceable Kingdom, The Witness, SuperSize Me,
19. Let’s not forget Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Our GO VEG page answers your questions and gives you and helpful resources. My first book, Where the Blind Horse Sings, will help you see farm animals from a whole new perspective, as will a weekend visit. Finally, meet great folks and hone your skills at a CAS vegan cooking class! Sign up early: they sell out fast!
20. As soon as you check out kriscarr.com, you’ll be hooked. Betcha.
21. Shop for products from food to clothes at Vegan Essentials and Pangea online.
22. Need some hand-holding or some know-how? You can still access PCRM’s 21-day VeganKickstart Program. (It’s even offered in Spanish!)
23. Here are some more replacements for your current — I MEAN FORMER — dairy and meat choices. (Many items are available in your local grocery or health food store).
24. Explore what various religions have to say about animal cruelty.
25. Follow CAS on Twitter for vegan recipes and breaking animal agriculture news.
26. For inspiration, education, shopping and so much more, read GirlieGirl Army and Our Hen House. And check out Our Hen House’s award-winning podcast!
27. For fun and good vegan gossip: Ecorazzi.
28. Relax at night with your copy of VegNews–celebrate your new life!
29. Attend an animal welfare conference or an animal rights conference to meet like-minded people. Or google “vegan meet-up” where you live.
30. Take your journey one day at a time, and remember that every step you take towards a vegan lifestyle is a powerful step in the right direction!