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Why I Switched to Plant-Based

One of my biggest reasons for going vegan is to live a life where compassion is my main practice. The truth is, we are all an extension of one another, and we are all spiritual beings. My goal is to live a life where my love extends to all living beings, and that includes all animals, even insects (I know, I thought it was weird at first too but nope it's true, I don't even kill bugs anymore!) There are actually a few reasons for my transition to veganism, and they stem from my love for animals, my care for the environment, and also for my health.

I have always felt deeply connected to animals from a really young age, I felt more comfortable around animals even more than most humans. My first experience with vegetarianism was at a very young age because of my best friend's passion for animals. She had become vegetarian at 13 years young and she was introducing me to all kinds of things as well as the horrors of the animal food industry. Traumatized by it at a very young age, I was sickened to continue eating meat, although I didn't feel there was much I can do at the time still living with my parents and not yet cooking my own meals. Being so young, I felt like I wasn't in control of what goes on my plate and let the idea go. I had another experience with vegetarianism for a few months while I was in college when I had moved out and was living with roommates, I succeeded for a few months and felt great! Upon moving back in with my parents for the Summer though, again I dropped it, for convenience reasons. I tried again for my 3rd time about a year ago, and a few months later, after watching more documentaries and learning more about the animal agriculture industry, I converted to veganism, luckily with the help and support of my two roommates and best friends I was living with at the time. We all transitioned together which did make it a lot easier and we helped and encouraged each other and cooked delicious vegan meals together.

The reasons I stopped consuming animals and animal products are many, here I will list a few:

- To take a stance against animal cruelty. I have read many articles, seen many videos, watched many documentaries - enough to know that what goes on in slaughterhouses is animal abuse and is extremely disturbing to say the least. I feel there is no humane way to take a life. Every one has a will to live, even animals. There is enough evidence out there that animals can enjoy pleasures and experience love and feel suffering from pain the same way as humans can so it does not make sense that we value these feelings in humans and not in animals. I believe in standing up for animals and animal rights and in giving them a voice where they cannot speak. Change starts with changing ourselves, in choosing kindness over cruelty, conscience over ease. If you would like to watch some documentaries to inform yourself on the harmful effects of the animal food agriculture industry: I recommend Food, Inc. (on Netflix) and Earthling (I haven't seen this one but it has been recommended to me.)

- To contribute less to environmental damage. Animal agriculture has insane detrimental effects on the environment and contributes greatly to environmental issues and damages such as habitat loss, water shortages, soil erosion and degradation, pollution and climate change. Some of the things that shocked me is the amount of water and land it takes as well as the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced. Just as an example, it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat (beef) and nearly half of all water used in the United States goes to the production of animals for food. I encourage you to watch the documentary Cowspiracy (on Netflix) co-produced by Leonardo Di Caprio, for further education on the animal agriculture industry's effects on the environment. Here is an article written by One Green Planet on Cowspiracy, animal agriculture and switching to plant-based.

- Bonus: turns out it's great for your health too! If you eat a balanced diet, veganism turns out to be much healthier for you. I actually learnt this later on, and I can say after almost a year of following a (mostly) plant-based diet, I do feel great health-wise. This plays a role in my decision now because I see the results it's brought to my life. My energy levels are higher, I have less fatigue than I used to, I feel less tired, and I genuinely feel good about what I choose to put into my body. When we eat an animal, we are also consuming the growth hormones and antibiotics they were given (which contributes to developing antibiotic resistance or allergies in ourselves as well as other harmful effects), their body system's hormones (many of which are based on fear and suffering at the time of their death as well as from animal abuse experienced), and lots of bacteria and other antimicrobials and pesticides that are unnatural and unhealthy to human bodies to be consuming all of which contributes to an increased risk of disease in ourselves such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, and many more. Consuming all of this plays a large role on every aspect of our health: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. I personally experience less anxiety since I have stopped eating meat. I would like to lead a life where I know every single ingredient that enters my body and that they are always natural and cruelty-free. The documentary What the Health (on Netflix) really helped to encourage me to transition.

When I switched to a plant-based diet, I feel like my connection to the Earth and to animals grew so much stronger. If you are thinking of switching to a vegan diet, I believe that it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the planet. It does take commitment, especially at first, but I promise it does get easier very quickly. It is a learning process like anything else. There are going to be times where it's more difficult but believe it will get easier and with a little commitment at the right times, it does. Commit to it especially when you are out doing your groceries and when you are cooking food for yourself at home. These are very important steps in contributing to shifting your diet. Look into if there are vegan or vegetarian restaurants in your area, there are a number of them popping up nearly everywhere now. I wish you luck in your transition if you choose to do so and I promise it is a fulfilling one.

Switching to Plant-Based: What You Need to Know

- Vitamin B12: can be found in enriched plant milks, nutritional yeast. It is best to supplement anyway to make sure you get enough daily.

- Protein sources: lentils, beans, nuts & seeds, tofu/soy products (my opinion: in moderation), whole grains.

- Eat a wide range of fruits & vegetables: best thing is to incorporate all the colours into your diet to make sure you consume a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals daily.

Going vegan isn't just eating salads, there is an alternative to anything you can think of. Craving a hamburger? Black bean burger or veggie burger. Bacon? Marinated portobello mushrooms. Taco meat? Lentil tacos. Pulled pork? Barbeque marinated jackfruit. Hot dog? Carrot dog. Chicken nuggets? Veggie nuggets. Cream sauce for a carbonara pasta? Soaked cashews. You can still have all your desserts too. There are replacements for milk such as plant-based milks like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk and more. There are replacements for eggs as well such as bananas, flax seed eggs (ground flax seeds and water), applesauce, peanut butter and more. Honestly, in my experience anyway, switching to veganism, you end up discovering a wide array of new tastes & flavours. I also eat so many more fruits and vegetables than I ever did since making the switch. The alternatives end up being healthier for you + you save money!!! (Meat & cheeses used to be the most expensive things in my grocery cart.) What more can you ask for? Same great tastes (or better), better for your health and you spend less on groceries!

Becoming vegan also means to stop consuming products that have been tested on animals as well as to stop purchasing clothing and accessories that required an animal to be murdered for it, such as furs and leathers. Making the change doesn't mean to throw away stuff you already own, you can still keep them to use until they have served their purpose or you can gift or donate them. Future products that you purchase do require a little bit of research just to find brands that don't test on animals which you can easily find online. Personally I just stopped wearing makeup and using hair care products but that is just what is easiest for me. A simple option that is better for the skin and hair is to opt for all-natural products (you find them along the way or make them yourself DIY style) + why not embrace natural beauty, we are all beautiful.

My message is one of Peace. My wish is Peace on Earth. I believe in expressing kindness and compassion in all situations and areas of life including what goes on my plate. Practicing veganism also helps you to be more conscious and conscientious because to knowingly choose compassion whenever you eat is to be more consciously aware. I feel like my compassion towards animals has grown immensely and is still growing. I am proud to not be contributing to the harm or cruelty of animals and to not be consuming fear into my body - to be choosing kindness with every meal. Since switching to a plant-based diet, I have felt even more connected to the Earth and to animals.

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