Defending one’s choices in life can be a battle, especially as an American who chooses not to eat any (or very little) meat.

News Flash: you don’t have to defend your choices to anyone, ever.

Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world where people hear you don’t eat meat and then say, “Oh wow, that’s awesome. May I offer you some of this tasty animal-free dish I made?”. Instead, you get a weird look or a surprised look, and sometimes they just plain ol’ say,  “Why not?”.

Let me count the ways (probs not even all of them) that one might choose to Just Say No to eating “anything with a face”…

From PETA’s How to Save the Planet guide:

Climate Change: A staggering 51% or more of global greenhouse-pas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute. According to the United Nations, a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.

Land Use: It takes almost 20 times as much land to feed a meat-eater as it does to feed someone on a plant-based diet since vegans consume crops directly instead of funneling them through animals first. In the US, 56 million acres of land are used to grow feed for animals, while only 4 million acres are producing plants for humans to eat. More than 90 percent of all Amazon rain forest land cleared since 1970 is used for grazing livestock.

Water Use: Animal agriculture requires an enormous amount of water – both for the animals to drink directly and in order to grow crops for them to eat – all just to produce meat. Just by going vegan, a person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year.

Energy Use: It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce protein from animal sources as it does to produce the same amount of protein from grain.

Pollution: Animals raised for food in the US provide many times more excrement than does the entire human population of the country. Because there are no animal-sewage processing plants, it is most often stored in waste “lagoons” that can be seen in aerial views of factory farms or it is sprayed over fields. Runoff from factory farms is one of the leading reasons why our rivers and lakes are polluted.

Oceans: Commercial fishing nets often clear the ocean floor of all life and destroy coral reefs. The also kill dolphins, birds, sea lions and other “bycatch” animals. Coastal fish farms release massive amounts of feces, antibiotics, parasites and non-native fish into sensitive marine ecosystems.

Animals: Chickens, pigs, turkeys, fish and cows are intelligent, social animals who can suffer and feel pain and fear just as humans, dogs and cats do. Billions of animals are imprisoned, mutilated and violently killed by the US meat, dairy and egg industries every year.

On top of all that serious and heartbreaking stuff. Here are some personal reasons one might choose a plant-based diet:

Health: crowding out animal products with plants leads to

  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower “bad” cholesterol
  • Healing of digestive issues
  • Healing of skin issues
  • Cut down or out snoring
  • Reverse metabolic disease

Looks: clear skin, strong hair & nails, weight loss, better sleep (bye-bye saggy eye bags), smell better (bye-bye toxic feet stench), healthy digestion (bye-bye constipation and explosive poops).

Compassion: animals have feeling too dude. Chickens are social creatures. Cows, pigs, sheep and other mammals give live birth to their young, just like we do, and then their babies get torn away from them. Not cool.

Why not? In the immortal words of the doors, “the time to hesitate is through.”

We’ve been brainwashed to believe protein equals meat and calcium equals dairy. WRONG! There is more bioavailable (nutrients your body can  use immediately without going through some other process) calcium in broccoli than in a glass of milk (BTW, when then do doctors ask older women to add more dairy to their diets to avoid osteoporosis?). There is more bioavailable protein in a cup of beans than in a steak. Plus, you can skip all the constipation, nasty gas and digestive irritation if you eat plants instead of animals. Those are not good looks on a date, by the way.

Here are some great documentaries to give you some food for thought:

  • Hungry for Change
  • Vegucated
  • Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
  • Forks Over Knives

These are all available on Netflix. Once you watch them you’ll get more suggestions for similar videos. Take a weekend and binge watch these and expand your mind. Have some Earth Balance popcorn while you’re at it 😉