The Food on My Plate
Sara Gauthier, Division 2, 12th grade

Change can be intimidating, especially on a global scale. However, it is important to recognize that all successful change initiatives have begun with an individual. As an individual, making a difference can even just start with your trip to the grocery store. The foods you consume affect more than just yourself; by choosing to eliminate animal-based products, you are choosing to better your health, promote compassion, as well as contribute to preserving the environment. This alone is a simple step to create and inspire positive change around you.

I made the decision to become vegan only 6 months ago, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. It has impacted my physical and mental health in ways that I never would have imagined. Initially, my motivation was to better my health, however, the animal protection is what has made this change a lifelong endeavour. Veganism has introduced meaning into my life, and the consciousness I have regarding my decisions has increased profoundly. I’ve gained a sense of determination to spread the vegan message and ensure that the world is no longer blinded by lies, as I once was.

As humans, we have a responsibility to protect and care for those who have no voice, rather than suppressing them even further. Among the voiceless is the animal community. Millions of animals are brutally slaughtered each and every week, and this system will not stop unless people begin to speak up. Choosing to abstain from all forms of animal exploitation is the first step. If this community is able to grow and expand, the animals may have hope. Of course, making this change will not be the difference between an animal’s freedom or their death in a slaughterhouse. The animals will continue to be bred for this purpose, never seeing daylight, as long as the demand still exists. Fortunately, by becoming a vegan, you have the ability to spark curiosity in others. That is all it takes for someone to make the connection between the food on their plate and what goes on behind slaughterhouse doors. In order to do better, you need to know better. Most people were raised with an omnivorous diet. Without being informed of the cruelty within these industries, most people would see no reason to question the traditions they’ve grown up with. This is where we can make the difference. Extending your voice to those who don't have a voice is the most effective way to be the change you want to see in the world.

With a rapidly growing global population and quickly diminishing natural resources, our planet will not be able to sustain future generations if changes are not made immediately. Animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to environmental destruction that we face today. The production of animal products uses resources extremely inefficiently. For example, equal amounts of land are able to produce 98 times more plant-based food than possible with animal-based food (Andersen, Kip, and Keegan Kuhn. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. , 2014). An article published by Common Dreams in 2012 found that the world is currently producing enough food to feed 10 billion people; however, a large portion of this food is fed to livestock, rather than the millions of starving people who are desperately in need of food. In terms of resources used, raising animals for food consumes 30% of the world’s land mass, between 20-33% of the world’s fresh water consumption, as well as 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gases, which is more than the transportation industry produces (Andersen, Kip, and Keegan Kuhn. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, 2014). Animal agriculture is also responsible for 91% of total Amazon rainforest destruction. Popular suggestions for helping the environment including using less water or carpooling will only be effective over a long period of time. Unfortunately, changes need to be made immediately. The easiest way to make an immediate change is to simply change the foods you put on your plate.

Obesity and disease in our society has been increasing, and it is important to focus on the prevention of these conditions before treatment is necessary. Following a healthy vegan diet (consisting of primarily whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) has the potential to prevent many health conditions. Weight maintenance on this diet is simple, because most plant-based foods have a low caloric density, meaning you are able to eat more volume in the same amount of calories as you would eating a standard meal containing animal products. In fact, a study published by the American Diabetes Association discovered that among vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians, those who identified as being vegan were the only ones who fell into a healthy BMI class. The study states, “The 5-unit BMI difference between vegans and non-vegetarians indicates a substantial potential of vegetarianism to protect against obesity.” Following a vegan diet also allows you to avoid all dietary cholesterol and saturated animal fats. Avoiding cholesterol is especially important because the consumption of cholesterol is directly related to heart disease. As stated on Statistics Canada and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States, and #2 killer in Canada, respectively. Improving global health needs to come from each individual. In consideration of this, making the change to go vegan will allow for easy weight maintenance without major portion restriction, as well as increased protection against several common diseases.

Global change is not something that will ever occur overnight. Shifting the perception of each individual is necessary for progress. Simply wanting the world to change is not enough. Your actions have to reflect the changes you want to see. Abstaining from animal exploitation is sending the message that you want to better your health, better the environment, and, most importantly, promote the ethical treatment of animals. Putting the responsibility in your own hands is the way to create a world of which you are proud to be a part.
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