The path to becoming a vegan was reasonably straightforward but like much else in life all sorts of issues arose that weren't exactly obvious at the time or were in the background and became more important as I began the practice and went from exploring the new shopping, growing and cooking regime to thinking about the impacts personally, locally and globally.
From a personal point of view it started after my treatment for cancer in 1997 and the effects of the toxic radiation I had every day for eight weeks. During that time it was almost impossible to swallow food and I began to lose weight rapidly to the point that the medicos were saying if I kept up the weight loss rate I would be fed through a nasal tube. Sounds disgusting but with the laceration of my throat from the effects of the radiation I can see why they thought it might be necessary. In the end I didn't have to go through the force feeding. I ended up losing fifty five pounds in three months.
During the recovery phase when I was able to swallow solids again I just couldn't stand the smell or taste of meat. I had not had dairy since being weaned anyway but did have the odd milk chocolate or dairy based ice-cream. I didn't put the weight on again and took up gym and cycling. I started to get quite fit.
Then after having a near death experience on a bike in 2003 and spending five months in hospital I got back to a vigorous routine of swimming and gym on a regular basis. One day my gym instructor mentioned a book, The China Study reviewed below. It was very persuasive and written scientifically with masses of data and analysis of that data. I questioned some medicos I knew including the surgeon who had treated my cancer and they all said they knew and agreed with the analysis BUT could not get people to go along or even do it themselves.
I saw the film Forks Over Knives which took the argument even further with the author of the China Study and a surgeon he didn't know coming to the san conclusion from different points of view. One in the operating theatre and the other in the lab. The other persuasive thing about the film was seeing actual patients being treated for a range of health issues with diet and exercise. It was inspiring and I have shown that film to thirty or more people in the last three years.
My doctor does a blood test annually to keep an eye on my vital statistics. Cholesterol down. Blood sugar down. In fact all the indicators have gone to the lower end of the healthy range. My blood pressure sits at around 110 over 65. So far so good.
At the same time I started to think about the greenhouse effects of the food I ate. Organic food might cost a little more but when you stop shopping to fill the fridge and cupboards and eat before stocking up again it is actually cheaper to eat an organic plant based diet than it is to eat meat and dairy. The amount of food wasted in the rich Western countries is really shocking.
That economy of eating organic is on a household basis but when you start to question the food miles in what you buy and buy locally produced food there is another huge economic effect that is planet wide in its reach, namely the carbon cost of not doing it this way. As Mark Bittman, the food writer for the NY Times graphically explains in a TED talk if you laid out the farm animals slaughtered for food in the US annually head to tail they would form a line stretching to the moon and back. The environmental costs are vast not to mention the food equity issues. Replace the existing farm land with organic plant crops and we could feed the whole planet as well as revegetate vast amounts of land. Our earth is a limited resource but we are spending it like it isn't.
After a while I started to think about the ethical questions in relation to the animals too. Who or what gives us the right to farm, kill and eat other living things? Why not your neighbour or a boat person? Sound ridiculous? Think about it from the slaughtered point of view rather than the killer's for a moment. I don't want to get into emotive arguments although it is easy to see parallels in my own family history. Let's just leave it at think about it and maybe cut your meat and dairy to two to three meals a week and see how you feel.
I keep getting asked when the subject comes up "but don't you miss not having ..." I can honestly say I have never missed or felt regret about not eating animal products and I can now not imagine wanting to.