Plant-Based Diet Deserves Praise


Nicole Kennedy, Opinion Editor

Often criticized on social media with their own genre of memes, vegans and vegetarians do not get the credit they deserve for adhering to a plant-based diet.

By abstaining from consuming meat and other animal products, vegans do their part to conserve Earth’s finite resources. It is simply unsustainable for 7.7 billion people to coexist if a hearty portion of each person’s diet consists of food derived from animals.

Forgoing meat or other animal-based products like dairy or eggs reduces the need for raising livestock, which requires significant land and other resources to sustain. Supporting plant-based diets requires 1/3 less land than that required to support meat-based diets, according to The Vegan Society.

It may be difficult to accept that what we eat has such a significant impact on the environment in which we live, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report that said that if every human being on the planet switched to a vegan diet, this would contribute to 20% of the change needed to stop global temperatures from rising.

While I acknowledge that it is likely impossible to convince everyone to make such a significant change, it does reveal just how much eating meat is working against the best interests of our species and the planet.

Vegans and vegetarians should also be praised for sparing animals that are commercially raised in cruel circumstances. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), each vegan saves 200 animals from the slaughterhouse per year.

Animal cruelty is not the only negative consequence of a diet that includes meat. PETA’s website reports that meat proteins are known to be the top source of food poisoning in the United States.

Most people bash vegans for having to take protein supplements or find nutrients in creative ways, dubbing them as equally “unhealthy” as meat eaters. But, vegans reportedly have more energy than meat eaters. The Academy of Nutrition recognizes that vegans are far less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and cancer than their omnivorous counterparts.

Vegans today are often type-casted as millennials and hipsters, but many admirable people have been advocates for a plant-based diet: scientist Albert Einstein was a vegetarian; Ellen DeGeneres and Joaquin Phoenix are more contemporary vegan role models.

There is also a misconception that vegans only eat skimpy servings of grass. This is wholly untrue.

Some resist changing their diets because they do not want to let go of comfort foods. In reality, vegans still enjoy many staple foods such as rice, French fries, and even pastas or bread, simply by using substitutes for animal products in the respective ingredients.

Recent developments have also led to the creation of plant-based substitutes for ice cream, cheese, butter, and even meat.

It doesn’t take a saint to abstain from eating meat. Even the most average and least-environmentally active person can make the switch. Anyone can choose a fibrous veggie burger over grey, corporate beef.

And, if you feel you just can’t give up animal products, then you might want to be a little for forgiving of those who do.  They are are doing their part to slow the negative human impact on the environment that you enjoy.