Some of you may find the title of this article, "Can Veganism Save the World?" completely without merit or even foolhardy. Well, I'm glad to report that more and more people are giving this lifestyle more serious
thought. Among them are a famous film director and a caring philantropist. We will meet them later.
Reasons for Becoming Vegan
I think many of us have already heard some of the reasons for becoming vegan. Professor Colin Campbell's China study maintains that a PLANT- BASED DIET would lessen the incidence of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Sadly, this important finding doesn't seem to impress those who subscribe to a lifestyle of "Eat, drink, and be merry"--no matter the cost or consequences to our health and longevity later on.
But many of us have embraced this new lifestyle for a different reason. We cannot abide the thought of FARM ANIMAL SUFFERING in the cruel confines of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The meatless, dairy-less, eggless vegan diet brings us peace of mind, since, by following it, we know we are not responsible for the suffering and death of our fellow living beings--creatures of God, as we are, who share our basic needs. I believe that the gentle, loving St. Francis called them our brothers and sisters.
The third reason for adopting a vegan diet is perhaps the least thought about, but it is equally powerful. France's Nguyen Thi Thuy's wonderful post this week on Facebook's Catholic Vegetarian brought it to the fore
with a great deal of positive information.
The post started with a challenging question: How do we save the planet and feed 9 billion people? Our resources are finite, and even now, 868 million people worldwide are stricken with famine, because we are using water and grain resources to raise animals for meat instead of using the grain for people to assuage their hunger.
Sadly, too many of us with full stomachs seem to give nary a thought to the hungry and starving of this world. But the philanthropist Bill Gates has given it thought, and you'll be as surprised as I was to learn that he is endorsing a vegan diet.
I wrote him a couple years back asking him to help support animal charities. Though the Gates Foundation was kind enough to reply to my request, they said they couldn't help. But now, with Bill Gates's endorsement of veganism, the foundation is indeed helping the animals, even though this was not the purpose of their endorsement. Gates has come to the realization that the only way for the whole world to be fed is is for as many of us who can to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
In his blog Nguyen Thi Thuy quotes Gates as saying: "We need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources." He is therefore endorsing vegan foods, even faux meats and eggs, which he says taste good but don't require vast amounts of natural resources for production.
If some of us don't care about our health, or are not concerned about animal suffering, hopefully we will be moved by pictures of starving babies and children, along with their hungry parents.
I have never forgotten the picture from the '80s of a Biafran mother holding her starving, bony child. For people of compassion, that picture should be reason enough to reallocate the use of our grain resources from feeding livestock to feeding hungry children. This is a third, highly compelling, reason for becoming vegan.
Most of us have never felt what it means to be really hungry, and perhaps we should experience it so that we can do what is necessary to address and prevent it.
Thuy's piece reminds us that one pound of meat requires nine pounds of cereal (grain). Wouldn't it be better to save the grain for the world's hungry? Isn't it about time we thought of the greater good when choosing our foods to eat?
Other People of Influence
I was very surprised to learn in Thuy's post that more people of influence are joining the ranks in coming to this conclusion: that if we seriously want to feed the world, the only way to do it is to transition to a plant-based diet. Notable voices that have joined the chorus are those of James Cameron, E.Williams and B.Stone (co-founders of Twitter) and Hubert Reeves (astrophysicist).
Michelle Kretzer wrote that James Cameron used the occasion of an award speech to tell everyone to go vegan. I bet they were suprised.
I certainly was.
When the National Geographic bestowed its "Explorer of the Year" award to James Cameron for his solo dive to the deepest part of the ocean (the Mariana Trench), Cameron seized the opportunity in his acceptance speech to tell the explorers and scientists gathered there to speak about something important to him: namely, "EATING VEGAN."
I'm still not over the surprise that James Cameron, who also directed the movies "Titanic" and "Avatar," is a vegan. Of course, I'm sure all of us vegans are equally delighted. One never knows who next will decide to become vegan, but certainly Cameron's decision to do so is a big boost
for veganism. It is important that people of influence endorse
this compassionate and needful lifestyle.
In her article about Cameron's National Geographic awards speech, Michelle Kretzer quotes him in expressing this especially poignant and heart-felt sentiment:
"I've had an epiphany recently," Cameron said. "I want to challenge all
of you as people of deep conscience, people who are environment
stewards of the earth and oceans. By changing what you eat, you
will change the entire contract between the human species and
the natural world."
Well said. I'm so glad I became vegan over 30 years ago--thanks
to my beloved dog, Peaches. Do you have a Peaches in your life,
or some other worthwhile reason to become vegan today?
Here are some other voices from the past and present that have endorsed veganism:
Dexter Scott King, son of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He told Vegetarian Times in October, 1995:
"I think everyone has the ability to stop a moment to think and say: 'If I knew you, I would not eat you. And somehow, it's really that simple.'" (He is still vegan today, and his mother Coretta King also became vegan before she died.)
Steve-O explained his feelings about veganism in an article published in the Huffington Post, entitled "Crazy for Vegetables." He wrote: "I am convinced that of all the changes I made in my life, adopting a vegan diet was certainly the best for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. It has done me good in all areas of my life."
I''ll mention some other vegan celebrities here. But if celebrities are "your thing," I believe you can find a more complete listing on the Internet.
Here are a few for now from a variety of celebrity fields: Avril Lavigne, Chris Martin, Mike Tyson, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Venus and Serena Williams, Victoria Beckham, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Julia Roberts, and Richard Gere. All are or were vegetarians or vegans.
And, of course, we can never dismiss the compassionate voices from
the past. All felt that the solution to eradicate and prevent famine
was to become vegetarian. They include: Plato, Socrates, Buddha, St.
Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci,
Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, George Bernard Shaw, Tolstoi, Voltaire,
and Laurent Huguelit (a Shaman).
Finally, a Few Inspiring Quotes:
"Nothing will be as beneficial to human health and increase chances
for survival of life on earth as the evolution of a vegetarian
"I think we are sleepwalking off a cliff if we don't do this."
"Let us preserve ourselves, the living beings, men, our health, our
spirituality, peace, and the planet."
Hubert Reeves, Bill Gates, E.Williams and B. Stone