About ten years ago, I started to experience a health crisis. I was in my late 40's and struggled with crushing fatigue and mental fog, some depression and a little E.D. and lowered libido just to complete the package. I did one thing very early on and that was go to an almost entirely low fat, plant-based diet. (Thanks Drs. Ornish and Esselstyn!) And I have eaten that way ever since, and it has definitely helped me in many ways. For the record, the majority of these rougly ten years, I have actually been flexitarian which is usually definited as 90+% plant foods and about 10% animal. And I was in good company: virtually all of the ultra long-lived supercultures are flexitarian.
However, during 2015, I went pesco lacto ovo vegetarian and in 2016 lacto ovo vegetarian. So I have been migrating up the plant-based stream and finally landed squarely on a purely plant-based, vegan diet. The change was abrupt for me and happened within 8 minutes of watching Leanardo DiCaprio's new movie on Netflix called Cowspiracy. That was one of the most profound 8 minutes of my life and kudos to the two men who wrote and filmed the movie (Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn).
Let me give you just a few facts from that first 8 minutes. I don't know whose decision it was to make the early part of the movie so intense, but it worked - it's full force from square one:
a) Livestock is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions. (This number may be somewhat lower depending on whose report you view, but the conclusion is still the same)
b) Livestock is responsible for 65% of all nitrous oxide emissions.
c) Livestock uses 30% of the world water.
d) Livestock is responsible for 91% of the Amazon rainforest's destruction and most of the masssive species' extinctions that we are experiencing today.
Now I could go on and on with facts from this movie - trust me that the above are just a few tidbits. But the bottom line is that I wanted off the Madness Train.
The core of what hit me were the Sustainability issues. Reading about thin film solar or cold fusion advances will just about give me an orgasm. And, to me anyway, it was extremely clear that the #1 thing - even ahead of technological advances - that a human being can do to help the earth be sustainable is to dramatically reduce their meat consumption.
So why am I vegan? Why 100% plant-based? Obviously, if everyone ate flexitarian - 90+% plants - the earth could probably be sustainable as well. Why chop out that extra 10%?
Before I go give my own answer to those questions, let me just say to anyone who is vegetarian that I am not trying to be judgemental or didactic here but just throwing out my way of thinking on the subject:
a) Dairy is a Bit Scary. I love non-fat yogurt - just love the stuff as far as taste. And I love dark chocolate too. However, I had a medium high PSA score and, although all tests showed inflammation and not cancer, I don't want to take any chances. To see what I mean, check out these pages: Potential Dangers of Milk and Dairy and High PSA But No Cancer.
b) Egg Whites Are Very High in Methionine. I am a huge believer in anti-aging and life extension. Yeah, that's what your mid 50's will do you - put the fear of God and Mother Nature in you. Even a casual reading of the medical literature will tell you that you do NOT want high IGF-1 levels in adulthood, especially in middle age and beyond. Egg whites, which I have consumed by the boatload, are high in methionine, the amino acid that stimulates IGF-1. So am I serious about anti-aging or not?
c) Breaking Free of Evolution. I saved this for last, because I would guess it would be the most controversial and perhaps most strange argument. But one of the things that struck me as the years went by is how much my life was shaped by an evolutionary past. Now evolution has produced incredibly miraculous things down here on this planet and I think we would all agree that the concert has been rather spectacular. But some of the outcomes are just not the "high road" in my opinion. At some point, you have to rise above that evolutionary past and move on. In fact, transhumanists would argue that we now must play an active role in our own evolution - Mother Nature's day is over in that sense.
And one of the first things that I would put on the chopping block of evolutionary outcomes is meat eating. It just makes no sense, at least to me anyway, at this point in human history. Seriously, go out and kill a furry woodland creature, skin it, chop it up and cook it? Where in the heck did that come from? At some point you have to say, it's time we move on as humans.
d) Old Dairy Cows and Male Chicks. There are additonal ethical reasons for not consuming dairy or eggs as well, and the arguments are posted ad infinitum on the web so no need to reproduce them here. But, suffice it to say, that consuming my non-fat yogurt and egg whites requires, due to modern livestock practices, for the same outcome as eating meat. Yes, they gotta ruin everything!
CONCLUSION: Pass the beans and quinoa!