Here’s a series of resource posts intending to help the flexitarians, vegan-curious, new and struggling vegans navigate their journey in Singapore. Changing lifestyle habits takes unlearning and relearning. There will be challenges, so set goals and take it a step at a time.
This first post is to explain the reasons people go vegan. Knowing the whys are important because:
1) If you’re not interested in this but have vegan loved ones, you’ll make their lives SO MUCH easier by understanding and supporting. I’ve seen many friends go through much emotional turmoil over this choice – from being ostracised by friends and family to being threatened by their own parents.
2) If you want to change, the right knowledge can strengthen your resolve, inspire and take you further.
3) I want to clear the misconception that we are either health freaks or misanthropes. Animal welfare isn’t always the first push factor and “healthy eating” isn’t in every vegan’s vocabulary.
There are 20,000 species of edible plants worldwide; the misconception that vegetarians/vegans eat only vegetables needs to be out. The other edible non-animal food groups are grains, legumes, fruits, seeds and nuts, fungi and algae (actually, botanically speaking the last 2 aren’t even plants). Plenty and abundant!
Why on Earth did these tree hugging, kale chomping (I don’t even like kale) people give up fried
chicken? 3 main reasons:
It’s proven that by not taking animal products one cuts down on growth hormones, cholesterol, saturated fat, uric acid, carcinogens, etc. It’s also getting out there that dairy isn’t as nurturing as we thought. A well-planned plant-based diet can be as nutritious with lower inflammation, stroke, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes risk.
For me, going from being a junk food vegetarian to junk food vegan then (mostly) whole foods vegan was a major step in improving my childhood irritable bowel syndrome, as well as:
- Less fever and flu. Used to catch it few times a year, now once every few years.
- Less acne and oily skin. Needed to use oil blotting sheets daily now I don’t need them unless the weather is hotter than usual.
- No more sugar cravings now.
- No more frequent headaches.
- Less acid reflux and no more random attacks of painful diarrhea.
- Lots more energy without coffee – very helpful in productivity-crazed Singapore.
- Exercise drained me and now it’s actually enjoyable.
- Better mood, generally much happier.
- Increased appetite.
Based on numerous scientific studies, animal agriculture is extremely inefficient. It’s a huge burden on our planet’s land, water, forests, a contributor to world hunger and climate change. In fact, going animal-free generates the smallest diet-related carbon footprint as seen here:
Many people see little hope in certain people at important meetings to solve environmental issues, thus they feel like they must take action on a personal level.
(Monkey Parliament by Banksy)
Singapore is highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising seas threaten our land mass, increasing temperatures breed more dengue mosquitoes, more dry months means worse yearly haze and food prices will rise due to unpredictable weather causing lower yields. We can do so much more in addition to the usual “drive less, turn off the lights, recycling” etc.
People are outraged over animal testing and fur. Many cosmetics, tobacco, household products are also made with animal testing. There is major public outcry over the mistreatment of animals for entertainment. What most people might not know is that production of meat, fish, milk and eggs is even more outrageous. Wouldn’t it be nice if it’s like what people think: cows and chickens run on grassy fields milking and laying eggs then tranquilized and killed while they are not conscious? But it’s not true. The industry makes sure the process of making animals into food is hidden. Here’s the link that explains all briefly and it’s not graphic. That’s why people who chanced upon the truth, cannot bring themselves to support the animal farming industry or other forms of exploitation anymore.
Whoever passed the law saying that a human can’t torture cats and dogs but it’s okay to force beagles to smoke 30 cigarettes a day, mince “useless” male chicks alive and kill newborn male calves just because they can’t make milk, you’re proof that evolution can go the reverse direction.
If you don’t prefer to read, these are some highly informative documentaries that address all 3 aspects of the plant-based lifestyle. They are highly responsible for turning meat-lovers into herbivorous creatures within hours!
Forks Over Knives
Try your best, don’t pursue perfection. When we walk, insects may die, when we eat veggies, we may ingest pesticides. Our food may also be made by child labour. We still need to use electricity so we’re contributing to climate change. As long as we exist, it is inevitable to cause unintentional suffering or death to other human or non-human beings AND damage to the Earth. Best we can do is minimize it. Hence the definition of “veganism” as stated by The Vegan Society –
“…a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.”
Everybody’s reasons for change are different. I know vegans who love the health benefits and vegan junk foodies who are 100% passionate about animal welfare and 0% about health. I know that some vegans, like myself, don’t care about whether the food is cooked in the same oil as non-vegan food, as long as we are not paying to contribute to animal exploitation. I also know of vegans who are very particular about the oil and utensils used to prepare their food. There are also people who eat and live like vegans but prefer the term “plant-based” – that’s fine! Lastly, I also know of people who are flexible – vegan as much as possible unless in certain difficult situations like travelling to remote places with language barriers. Go with whatever you’re most comfortable with. As long as one reduces animal consumption in any way, that’s awesome and keep doing it! My favourite way to describe this lifestyle is borrowed from an Aboriginal saying: “Touch the Earth lightly.”