Veganism. It occurred in my life in an unexpected way. It became obvious to me, and suddenly upset my way of life. Until then I was a pesco-vegetarian by birth (we didn’t eat meat but sometimes fish). But I realized how much animal suffering my consumption caused in spite of this.
Just “by chance”?
It was indeed just by chance, during a debate with a vegan friend, that this reality came to me. A cold, icy reality, I then understood, I knew, and could no longer unknow it.
Why do more and more human beings decide now to take this personal step towards empathy and compassion?
I don’t know the cause, but I can share with you those who have pushed me to go so far as to radically change my professional career.
Veganism, what is it?
“Lifestyle that excludes any use of animal products (dairy, meat, leather, etc.)“.
When I started to read the labels more closely, I was very surprised to find that there are ingredients of animal origin almost everywhere!
Sometimes in a hidden way, to bring glamour to a product that is in fact the opposite.
Do you know what keratin is, in shampoos? Or carmine in lipsticks Collagen in certain food supplements? Or even rennet in dairy cheeses (taken from calves dead bodies)?
All are animal substances obtained at the price of atrocious suffering for these little beings.
Animal agriculture, which was minimal at the time of our ancestors, has become with the rise of our western civilization a real production factory. Animals are considered as objects. Their lives is only worth the money that their bodies can bring back to their “owners”.
Gandhi: “The moral development of a nation is measured by the way it treats its animals“.
More than one veganism type
Vegan food practice excludes from the diet everything that comes from animals: fishing and slaughter products, insects, dairy products, honey, eggs.
The vegan way of life excludes all animal exploitation as a whole. So beyond food it also rejects products tested on animals and animal components in cosmetics and food supplements, as well as the wearing of fur, leather, silk, feathers, horn, scales, ivory.
It also boycotts circuses with animals, zoos, aquariums, (preferring animal sanctuaries), animal races, bullfights.
The goal is to minimize animal suffering as much as possible on One’s own scale.
For me consuming is voting. Don’t we call it law of supply and demand? Through the money I spend (and the one I earn), I demand a more emphatic, fairer world, respectful of all its inhabitants and of the planet.
The main triggers for veganism
I’ve always seen three main axes behind what drives people to get closer to this way of life.
For me the trigger was the first chapter below. But other vegans told me their path started from environment or health considerations.
Taking an interest in veganism for whatever primary reason is a way to open up to other approaches.
The ethical approach
Who never had their heart melting at the sight of a little puppy? Or at a cat that jumps on your knees to get cuddled, or at a baby that plays with a doggy that is six times its size?
Very early on we develop this instinct, this natural impulse of empathy towards animals. A special bond is formed with them from a very young age, often encouraged by our parents.
Animals feel it too and instinctively go easy on children. They feel empathy. Whatever the species, research has now shown it with wolves, rats, pigs.
What is it that then creates a separation in our brain that makes it okay for us to have certain species as pets, but that we raise others to eat or exploit them?
Education certainly, and we forget little by little that as kids we loved all animals without making a difference. This is called cognitive dissonance. Some also call it speciesism.
But the living conditions of farm animals are the opposite of any moral consideration. We reduce these sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, to mere objects.
You only have to watch the documentary Earthling to realize this (beware, it contains difficult images).
I don’t want to go into the details of the tortures inflicted on them, no matter if organic or conventional methods: artificial insemination, removal of calves from their mothers just a few hours after birth, destruction of male chicks after hatching because they have no commercial value, raw castration of piglets, not to mention the nightmare of the slaughterhouses…
Paul Mac Cartney: “If slaughterhouses had windows, we would all be vegetarians“.
This is why the ethical approach of veganism is gaining momentum. Social networks have massively exposed animal abuse in recent years. This is no longer sustainable for many people.
Far from being a religion, a doctrine, or even a philosophy, veganism is first and foremost a way of life. Moral criteria are favored before any act of consumption, for the respect of animal well-being and a society that is fairer towards them.
The health approach
I remember that in the first few weeks I went from a pesco-vegetarian diet, far too rich in dairy products (I was “compensating”!) and sweets, I felt more comfortable in my body. A few small inconveniences related to a tired liver totally disappeared.
I was surprised to see myself with a clearer and more radiant skin, as if rejuvenated. I was doing a lot of sports at the time and was surprised to find that I had also gained stamina.
Another astonishing thing that I couldn’t put a word on, and that more vegans confirmed to me later, was mental clarity. I didn’t know how to describe it at first, I just had my ideas better in place when I woke up, a more available, more positive mind. I had to experience it to realize that previous to my switch there was a kind of mist in my head.
“You can’t live without eating meat”, really?
Every day science makes new advances. Today old clichés about eating meat to build muscles are outdated.
In 2014 the WHO has been forced, after scrutinizing several hundred studies, to classify processed meat in the “carcinogenic” category, alongside cigarettes! Red meat is placed in the “probably carcinogenic” sub-category (1).
In fact, a large number of studies have reported the link between meat consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Consuming 76g per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%, compared to a 14% decrease in this risk for populations consuming more fibre (2).
A vegan diet is therefore protective for your health.
What about proteins?
The largest study that compared the protein intake between omnivores, vegetarians and vegans among 71,000 people in 2013, found that vegans and vegetarians absorb daily 70% more protein than necessary (and 80% in omnivores). It is therefore almost impossible to develop a deficiency.
Without even thinking about it, you are therefore most likely absorbing much more protein than your body needs. (3)
To see for yourself, watch the documentary that shows why top athletes are now adopting veganism: The Game Changers.
In fact the world number 1 tennis player, Novak Jokovic is vegan himself! Patrik Baboumian, the strongest man on Earth was a vegetarian first and became stronger after starting being on a vegan diet!
So, how about forgetting those biased beliefs?
Milk, white as snow?
Dairy product lobbies have succeeded in the last decades in making us accept and even fiercely defend the idea that they are vital to our bones and to the growth of children.
We now know that osteoporosis occurs mostly in developed countries, where consumption of dairy products is the highest (4).
Science reassessed our calcium needs downward according to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (5).
In fact, the body adapts to the volume of our daily intake. With 415mg/day (very easily reachable with a varied plant-based diet), the intestines absorb it more efficiently and our kidneys retain more of it.
On the other hand, with an intake of 1740mg/day (in France the recommendation is 950mg/day with an upper limit of 2500mg/day), the intestines block its absorption and the kidneys eliminate more of it. Excess calcium is then stored in the soft tissues (kidneys, heart) and makes us vulnerable to disease such as the formation of clots (6).
Thus with a plant-based diet, we can never be deficient in calcium.
What about eggs in all this?
A 2019 study by the scientific journal JAMA (7) established the link between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in women: 13% increased risk of cardiovascular disease by half an egg per day, and 16% risk of mortality. This is linked to their cholesterol content, 133mg per egg.
We have no physiological need to consume eggs, our body naturally produces cholesterol according to its needs.
Many countries now recognize that vegan diets are suitable for all ages, are healthy and “nutritionally adequate, and may have benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” (8)
The environmental approach
Nowadays the environment is in danger.
Human activities are of course at the origin of this.
So what should we think when we see that 14.5% of our greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture (9)? This is more than all means of transport combined!
A few figures :
– 70% of agricultural land is reserved for breeding (10)
– Livestock farming is responsible for 80% of global deforestation (11).
– To produce one kilo of beef you need 15.000L of water and 12kg of cereals.
Breeding thus monopolizes monumental resources, while we face a problem that for me is the shame of humanity: hunger in the world.
How can we believe that we will not be able to feed 10 billion human beings, when we feed more than 64 billion terrestrial animals every year, with most food that would be fit for human consumption? An ethical question arises…
So being on a vegan diet drastically lowers our carbon footprint. Some say that a vegetarian in a 4WD is polluting les than an omnivore on a bicycle! Well, I still prefer my bicycle. 🙂
Tolerance above all
Here is a chapter that is very important to me: tolerance.
I consider that the way we decide to eat is just like spirituality: a personal path.
The way we nourish ourselves touches our intimacy; it is what sustains life within us. This is why I respect and will always respect the choices of each person.
Before I became 100% vegan, for several years I was making exceptions when eating outdoors with my friends. At the same time I was aware that the vegan lifestyle was in my heart and what I wanted to strive for. For the animals, for the planet, for my health.
That is why it is important when you see, for example, a friend who is striving for a vegan lifestyle and you see him one day eating a non-vegan dessert, not to criticize or mock him. But encourage and even salute his aspirations. It is also for us that he tends to veganism, for our planet.
Becoming vegan may not happen overnight. It took me 8 years! But since 2016 I am 100% vegan and it is for me one of the greatest joys in my life.
Activism: I chose the soft way!
What a joy it is when you become vegan to discover the countless culinary possibilities available to you! No more cow’s milk? No problem: here are the almond, oat, coconut, rice milks… One lost, ten found!
And ditto for the other products, we discover, a real treasure hunt! The industry itself lends itself to the game, since we no longer count vegetable steaks, sausages, cheeses, and other chocolates, it is increasingly easy to eat vegan!
But for me, the royal road remains home cooking! This off-the-beaten-track know-how fascinated me at once.
Making a cake without eggs and cream is possible? Oh yes it is! Coming from a large family of bon vivants, eating while having fun is a priority. The joy of gathering around a beautiful table full of delicious dishes is written in my genes.
It’s a sharing, the joy of getting together and spending a highly convivial moment together. I please and surprise my guests with delicious flavors, using ingredients that I know are good for them and respectful of nature and animals. “What else”?
That’s why I decided to totally change my career and become a chef, to share my enthusiasm with even more people 🙂
For those who wish to go further
- Here is a gold mine in terms of resources: the Peta website offers in-depth articles on every aspect of veganism and animal agriculture, but also offers a very large number of recipes.
- For the last few years, the month of January has also become “Veganuary“. This event was launched in England in 2014, encouraging people to go on a vegan challenge for a month. Many countries started to participate since then, and in 2021 registered 500.000 participants worldwide!
- And to go further and higher, read The Yoga of Nutrition, by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov. He was a French teaching Philosopher and Spiritual Master of Bulgarian origin, who deepened the benefits of eating mindfully and gave methods how to do so, to nourish not only One’s body but also One’s soul and spirit.
Here are some of the videos that greatly contributed to my awakening:
- For HEALTH: Forks over Knives: on Netflix or here.
- SPORT: Game Changers:
- ENVIRONMENT: Cowspiracy
What did YOU make become (or want to become) a vegan? Leave a comment down below 🙂
(2) International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 49, Issue 1, February 2020, Pages 246-258, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyz064
(4) Johnell, O. and J.A. Kanis, An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporos Int, 2006. 17(12): p. 1726-33
(5) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 4, October 2007, Pages 1054-1063, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.4.1054.
(7) JAMA. 2019;321(11):1081-1095. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1572
(9) FAO 2013
(10) FAO 2006
(11) Greenpeace 2009