Photo: Glayan/Shutterstock

Why I Went Vegan

Sustainability Student Work Activism
by Caetano Laprebendere Jul 8, 2014

Smack in the middle of your journey across Central Africa, you find yourself taking a seat at a dinner table in Burundi (considered the world’s hungriest nation) along with a dozen friendly Burundians. They’ve prepared a humble feast of corn, sweet potatoes, and beans in celebration of your arrival in the capital. Suddenly you run out with everyone’s plates and trade all 12 meals for a single steak you eat all by yourself, just because you felt a craving, leaving your friends to starve.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Why would anyone do that?

Now imagine yourself sitting at home, about to have the same steak dinner alone. You may be surprised to learn the only difference between these two scenarios is that you aren’t going to see your Burundian buddies starving to death from your apartment window, though you’ll catch a glimpse of them as you mindlessly zap past CNN while digesting horizontally on your couch.

It takes 2,500 gallons of water (one 15-minute shower uses on average 150 gallons of water, so 16.7 showers), 12 pounds of grain (i.e., 12 meals that in turn require their own resources to be grown), 35 pounds of topsoil, and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline (besides, you know, an innocent sentient life) to produce a single pound of feedlot beef.[1]

It’s not about scarcity; it’s about unfair distribution.

We produce enough food to feed 150% of the current global population of 7 billion people, meaning we could feed up to 10 billion. Although we produce more than enough food for everyone, 842 million (1 in 8) people go to bed hungry every night.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” This also applies to world hunger. It’s not about scarcity; it’s about unfair distribution.

The United Nations recently announced that, “A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.”[2] In simple terms, we shouldn’t be giving insane amounts of perfectly good food to an animal in order to kill it and be left with a fraction of what was already edible. We should instead consume the whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds themselves without putting them through an animal’s body first. That way you get all the nutrients you need without the cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats, animal proteins, and other substances known to be harmful to your body.

“Every 2 – 3 seconds some human (most likely a child) starves to death, while pigs and cows continually get fat.”[3] Those in the know are aware that, at least in the USA, the voting which occurs every four years isn’t nearly as effective as that which happens every time someone exchanges their small, green paper rectangles for a product or service. This means for every cent you hand over to any industry that profits from the treatment of animals as commodities, you’re voting for and promoting such wasteful and inconsiderate practices.

As an avid traveler whose heart breaks when I see people too skinny, or obese yet equally malnourished, I’ve decided the absolute least I can do is adopt an ethical vegan lifestyle. Ever since I made that decision, my health has improved dramatically, as well as my conscience and interest in helping others live in a way that’s less harmful to themselves and everyone else. It’s an idea whose time has come, and it’s inevitable. Food shortages in the coming years will finally connect the dots for many, but the sooner we act the better the outcome.

My whole life I’ve been not just aware of the vast number of issues currently faced by humanity, but I’ve also been caught up in a constant search for the most powerful cause to dedicate my life to in order to have the most widespread positive impact.

If you can relate to this, and are at all interested in lessening or completely halting any negative impact you may currently have on our human and non-human friends around the world, and want to protect the environment and your own health, then I strongly recommend the one speech that’s changed so many lives and will probably change yours for the better as well.


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