Updated: Jun 9, 2021
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about helping others by sharing useful knowledge. Today, I am going to write about a sensitive topic for many people: meat and animal products. Perhaps you’ve had vegans tell you that if you eat meat, you’re a cruel human being. I’m not here to blame you or criticize you or chastise you. My intention is to help you.
Image Source: Unsplash
I write about things I wish I had known when I was younger. Examples include relationship advice, productivity, happiness, success, and health. If I had known these things earlier, I could have prevented so much pain and suffering. This article is no different.
This article is going to explain how the reasons for not eating meat is from an ethical, environmental, and health perspective. But before that, I want to talk a little bit about my own experience going vegan so that you understand where I’m coming from.
The Early Days
I ate meat for the first 21 years of my life, though I have to comment that the first time I ate steak and sashimi, I felt like puking. I didn’t love meat naturally. I ate it because I thought it was normal. I even remember forcing myself to practice eating steak and sashimi at restaurants so that I could "fit in".
WHY did I think eating meat was normal? Here are some reasons I can think of:
All the adults did it, so it must be okay
TV commercials advertising meat and animal products show cute animals being happy
I watched SpongeBob on TV, and the show made “Krabby Patties”, which are basically hamburgers, look delicious. I would remember wanting to go get a burger and think to myself I’m eating Krabby Patties.
I played games like RuneScape, where you go around fishing and killing things, including animals. The animals then “drop” meat, and you can go cook the meat to make food, which heals you. The games also show animals wandering around in the wild with freedom, and you can go up to them to get resources like eggs, milk, and wool without hurting them.
I watched YouTube videos of people eating all sorts of meat as a form of pleasure, fun, and enjoyment.
I imagine these reasons might apply to many others as well.
When I was in university, I got into working out mainly because I wanted to bulk up and fit the stereotypical image that society has of a male. As a result, I ate lots of meat and protein shakes with milk. All the other guys at the gym were doing the same thing, so again, I thought it was normal and even healthy.
The Book That Changed Me
Shortly after I graduated university, I discovered a book called Liao Fan’s Four Lessons, which resonated deeply with me. The book is about cultivating virtues like compassion and humility, and in it, Liao Fan urges the reader multiple times about not killing animals. He is very soft and poetic in his persuasion, and below are some excerpts from the book:
“All living beings love life and are afraid to die. How can I be at peace with myself by taking another’s life to nurture my own? At times, animals were even cooked alive, such as fish or crabs. They may not have been completely slaughtered before going into the cooking pot. Such pain and suffering reach down into the bones, how can we be so cruel to these animals?”
“We can be nourished just as well by consuming vegetarian foods. Why let your stomach become a graveyard and reduce your fortune through the sin of killing?”
“We should feel sympathy for all living creatures, even the tiny ants, who know of suffering and are afraid to die. How can we kill and eat living beings and not feel the least sorry? Some people even say that these things were meant for human consumption, but there is no logic in this argument, and it is only an excuse for those who desire meat.”
“When we think thus, how dare we kill? How can we swallow a morsel of that flesh? Besides, even if the meat does taste good, the taste only lasts from the mouth to the throat. After we swallow, there is nothing left to taste… Why let your stomach become a graveyard?”
“Even if you cannot quit eating meat altogether, you should still try to gradually reduce your meat intake until vegetarianism is accomplished. In this way, you can reach a higher state of compassion within your heart.”
“Tung-pwo Su, a great poet from the Song Dynasty once write: ‘For love of the mice, often leave them some rice; In pitying the moth, we won’t light the lamp.’ What a kind and compassionate statement!”
When I first read about cooking crabs alive in a pot, I flashed back to a time in university when some friends and I put some live lobsters in a boiling pot of water. I remember hearing a high-pitched whistling sound, and I thought it was the lobster screaming in pain. I felt so much remorse and sadness upon that flashback that I knew I needed to change.
I listened to that audiobook hundreds of times during my commute to work. I decided to give vegetarianism a try. My well-intentioned friends had warned me about nutritional deficiencies, so I thought, “Well let’s try this for a month or two and see how I feel. If I feel worse, then I’ll stop. If I feel the same or better, then I’ll continue.”
The Chef That Changed Me
Around the same time, I discovered a vegan cooking channel on YouTube called Avantgarde Vegan by Gaz Oakley. Oakley had just started his YouTube channel at that time, but now (4 years later), he has over 1 million subscribers and is known internationally for his superb vegan dishes. He makes vegan food and lifestyle seem very cool and appealing without being preachy, which is something I greatly admire about him. I followed many of his cooking videos and also bought his book, Vegan 100.
Previously. I didn’t like cooking because I thought it was gross to handle meat. But I really enjoyed vegan cooking and made many delicious and beautiful meals thanks to Oakley.
The best of my vegan cooking. Big thanks to Gaz Oakley.
After two months, I felt no difference in my health and energy. I think a big part of the reason was because I didn’t eat much meat on a daily basis anyway; I mostly ate meat at restaurants with friends. However, I still continued to consume animal products like milk and eggs because I loved milk tea, cakes, and cheese. At the time, I didn’t associate these things with killing. I still had the idea that these cows and chickens are wandering around in nature, and we don’t hurt them by getting milk and eggs from them.
The Sickness That Changed Me
A couple years later, I got quite sick, and I was really confused because I thought eating vegetarian is healthy. Later, I learned from Medical Medium that my problem is an EBV-viral infection in the liver. This virus eats things like eggs, dairy, and heavy metals. Hence, I went vegan for health reasons.
Moreover, EBV-viral infections are extremely common in our society, and it’s the cause for most mystery chronic diseases that doctors can’t heal. In his book, Medical Medium, he explains that out of the 320 million people in the US, over 225 million Americans (that’s over 70%!) have some for of EBV. This virus is responsible for diseases like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, hypothyroidism, and it can be a contributing factor to many other diseases. What I appreciated about Medical Medium is that he doesn’t persuade you to go vegan. He even says it’s okay from a health perspective if you eat meat, as long as its in little amounts. He states that his goal is to help sick people heal by spreading the truth, not to criticize people for the food choices.
I realized that even though I was vegetarian, I was still consuming dairy and eggs through milk tea, pizza, ice cream, pastries, and cakes. When you’re really sick and in pain, and you know these delicious foods are hurting you, it’s very easy to stop eating them.
I followed Medical Medium’s recommendations to stop eating those foods and to eat more fruits and vegetables, which help cleanse the body and fight EBV. It took around half a year for me to heal, but I’m just one of the millions of people that have proved his advice to be true. Now, I think of myself as a Medical Medium vegan, which means I focus on whole foods, fruit, and vegetables, and I avoid processed foods, excess fat, dairy, and eggs.
The Activist That Changed Me
Recently, Gaz Oakley reached 1 million subscribers on YouTube, and he released a video explaining why he went vegan. I was curious why he didn't explain it earlier, and he said he didn’t do it sooner was because when he first went vegan, he tried telling some of his colleagues and friends, but he isn’t good at articulating ideas, so people felt offended by him and shunned him away. Then he realized that he’s really good at cooking, so he decided to do his activism through cooking, which obviously has been a huge success.
In his video, he said he was listening on the radio to one of his favorite musicians who happens to be vegan, and that musician mentioned a video that made him go vegan overnight. So Oakley watched that video, and it also made him go vegan overnight. The video is a 1-hour lecture by Gary Yourofsky given to a university class.
I watched it yesterday, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wish I had known about all those things earlier! Now I’m very clear on why being vegan is important aside from health reasons, and I now see the urgency and importance of not just being vegan myself, but also spreading the message to minimize damage on the Earth.
Now that I've finished my backstory, let's get into veganism.
The 2010 Gary Yourofsky Lecture
I will summarize the key points since I know many people might not have the time or desire to go watch that 1-hour lecture. But I hope that after you read my summary, you will check out his speech.
Gary explains that animals are the forgotten victims of our world. When people are enslaved, abused, murdered, or raped, we raise our voices and stand up for the victims. Yet 53 billion land animals and 18 million marine animals are killed every year on this planet in inhumane factory conditions, and people don’t think a second thought when eating meat or animal products. He explains that we should go vegan for three reasons: ethical, environmental, and health, but primarily because of ethical reasons.
From an ethical perspective, he states, “98% of animals who are abused and killed on this planet are abused and killed by the meat, dairy, and egg industries.”
He further explains that at any moment, there are no less than 5000 concentration camp trucks containing terrified, innocent beings: cows, pigs, and chickens. When these trucks arrive, the animals are so terrified, they won’t get off, so humans use electric prods to force them to walk to their deaths. Inside these factories, they are hanged upside down and then chopped up into a hundred pieces while conscious! These animals have done nothing to wrong us, so why must we treat them so cruelly?
He shows a short video of the inhumane treatment that happens at these factories. He says that he didn’t believe these things when he first heard about them, but then he actually went to these factory farms and saw it with his own eyes, and that’s why he cannot help but be an activist. The horrors are beyond what I can describe in words, which is why I urge you to go watch the lecture.
Pretty much everyone would cringe at these slaughterhouse images. Gary asks, "If it's not good enough for your eyes, then why is it good enough for your stomach?" I heard Earthling Ed, another vegan activist, say "If we wouldn't want to kill the animal ourselves, why is it acceptable to pay for someone else to do it on our behalf?"
Near the end of the lecture, Gary asks the students what the worst scream is. He says,
“Worse scream I have ever heard! A mother cow on a dairy farm, as she screams and bawls her lungs out day after day for her stolen baby, to be given back to her. And I can only imagine, the same scream every woman in this room would make, if somebody held you down after birth and stole your newborn baby from you.”
He further explains cows, like humans, need to be new mothers to make milk. Every year, these female cows are raped by human machines that inject bull semen into her to make her pregnant. After she gives birth, the calf is taken away from her, and humans abuse her to produce as much milk as possible. Humans then drink the milk that the cow made for her baby. If you think about it, dairy is even more cruel than beef.
Remember I said earlier that Liao Fan was very soft and poetic in urging us to be vegetarian? Well, he lived 500 years ago, and I’m guessing back then, people still got eggs and milk in a humane way. In our modern society, even eating eggs and dairy is supporting animal torture.
Gary convinced me to speak up about this issue when he said, “I hope you all understand what I’m offering you today. When you hit the door, after my speech, are you aware, that for the first time ever, you can now directly participate in ending a massacre?”
From an environmental perspective, Gary explains that animal agriculture is the number one factor for environmental pollution, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The animal waste from factory farms pollute the world’s lakes and rivers more than all other industries combined. Moreover, these animals are doused in chemicals to kill flies that spread disease, and the food that they eat are sprayed with up to 20 times more chemicals that what is allowed for human consumption. Not only do those chemicals pollute our air, water, and earth, it’s humans that end up eating those chemicals when they eat the meat.
50% of all water used in America is wasted on animal agriculture. It takes 800 to 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, but only 25 pounds to produce a pound of wheat. It takes 4200 gallons of water per day to feed a meat eater, but only 300 gallons of water to feed a vegan.
Of all agricultural land in the US, 80% is used to raise animals for food. 95% of soy in America, 80% of corn, 70% of oats, all are animal feed. 1 acre of land can yield 30,000 pounds of carrots, 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, or 250 pounds of meat. We would use less land and destroy less habitat if we just ate crops directly instead of feeding animals to then eat their meat.
The root cause of world hunger is meat eating societies. 65% of the world’s grains are set aside every year to feed 53 billion land animals that are killed for meat. Instead, we could be using those crops, which are enough to feed 53 billion animals, to feed just 6.5 billion humans and have so much extra leftover. [The documentary Cowspiracy explains that 82% of the world’s starving children are living in countries where food is fed to livestock who then get eaten by people in wealthier countries]
Burning 1 gallon of gasoline in a car release 19 pounds of CO2 into the air, but clearing enough rainforest to produce just 1 hamburger releases 165 pounds of CO2. Furthermore, cutting down rainforests destroys homes of countless animals. And unlike coniferous forests, tropical rainforests can never be replaced after being cut down.
Before hearing this speech, I had no idea how big of a deal being vegan is on the environment. I sure wish I knew earlier!
From a health perspective, humans are designed to be herbivores. Gary explains that real carnivores, like lions and wolves, have shorter intestines to push out rotting flesh faster. Also, real carnivores never get clogged arteries. The number one cause of death in human meat eaters is clogged arteries.
Herbivores, including humans, have saliva that can digest carbohydrates; Carnivores do not. That’s because herbivores are supposed to eat lots of carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, and humans should as well.
The jaws of carnivores can only go up and down to rip and swallow meat. They don’t chew or grind with side-to-side action. The jaws of herbivores can grind side to side in order to chew. Our teeth are broad, short, blunt, and flat, just like the teeth of other herbivores. Although we do have incisors and molars, all herbivores have them because they are needed to eat hard foods like apples.
After talking about how humans are designed as herbivores, he talks about the link between animal products and disease. He explains that the four big factors to cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and obesity are cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and animal protein. These four things are found in meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. When you go vegan, you eliminate animal protein and cholesterol entirely from your diet and 95% of saturated fats.
He then gives special attention to cheese. We see so much advertisement about how dairy gives us calcium, and calcium gives us strong bones. Then why is it that the USA, which eats the most dairy out of any country in the world, has such a big problem with osteoporosis (a disease of weak bones)?
It’s because animal protein is too acidic for the body. In order to neutralize that acidity, the body has only one way: it takes away calcium phosphate from the bones. The phosphate part is used to neutralize the acidity, and the calcium part is peed out. Meat’s acidity is another reason why 1 in 3 meat eaters get cancer (aside from the obvious reasons like smoking and environmental pollution).
I remember back when I was in a young kid in school, one of my teachers made a comment about how we need to appreciate life and take care of our health because 1 in 3 people will get cancer. Back then, I was thinking, "What? Cancer just happens to 33% of people? That's so scary! What if my mom gets cancer?" After hearing Gary speak, I now realize why so many people in America get cancer. Fortunately, my mother is also vegan, so I'm not too worried about her, but I am worried about the millions of meat eaters out there!
A summary quote from Gary: “You’ve been duped. They’re killing you, they’re killing the animals, and they’re killing this planet.”
The Good News
Most people refuse to go vegan because they love the taste of meat and animal products. Near the end of his talk, he tells us the good news: When we go vegan, we don’t give up anything because now we’ve got vegan versions of meat and animal products.
“I love the way meat tastes. Love it. Cheese, love it. Cow’s milk and eggs, love it. Guilty as charged. I did not stop eating this stuff because of a taste issue. I stopped for ethics, morality, decency, compassion to the animals that I share this planet with.
But here’s the coolest thing about being vegan in this day and age: It’s never been easier. You can have the same smell, taste and texture of meat, cheese and milk, without it. Nobody has to suffer and die for your dinner anymore, including you. They make all the products you like to eat, in a vegan version!”
He then gives a long list of all the great tasting vegan food that he has eaten, such as Lightlife bacon, Tofurky, Gardenburger, Tofutti Pizza, and so much more. There’s also vegan dairy options like soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and vegan ice cream. Keep in mind this lecture is from over 10 years ago; our options are even more abundant today.
He assures us saying, “If you go to my website and click on ‘Veg Shopping Guide’, I have taste-tested everything for you in advance. Check out the brand names I recommend. I can assure you I eat nothing nasty.”
More on Health
I often hear people say that they cannot go vegan because there are essential nutrients from meat and animal products that I cannot get from plants. They don't believe those people who say that you can get all the nutrients you need from plants.
My response is that the point of veganism is not purely for health. It’s for health, moral, and environmental reasons, with morality (not putting unnecessary harm on others) being the most foundational reason. Yes, you can eat animal products and be healthy because there are so many other factors to health, such as relationships, exercise, purpose, and community. However, the more important question is how much animal products can you eat to remain healthy?
The problem of whether animal products are healthy or not keeps getting debated, and different people will find different scientific studies to confirm their own opinion. But the question of how much meat is not really debated any more. On the relaxed end of the spectrum, Harvard Health and the Canada Food Guide says 25% of our food calories come from healthy proteins. That can be animal proteins, but it can (and should) also include plant proteins like nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and leafy greens.
In the five Blue Zones, where people who live the longest and healthiest lives in the world, people get 95% of their calories from plants and only 5% from animal products. One of the Blue Zones, Loma Linda, is completely vegan. The other Blue Zones only eat meat 5 times a week on average, and the serving size is small—just 3 to 4 oz, which is the size of a deck of cards. In other words, from a health perspective, people should get 0% to 25% of their calories from animal proteins, and probably the closer you are to 5% or even 0%, the healthier.
The final comment I’ll make is that there are totally legitimate reasons for not going vegan right away. People may not be ready right now and need to do more research. Or they have too many things going on to be thinking about adding another big change in their life. Or they don’t have control over their food and what gets put on their plate. Or they face extreme social pressures to eat meat. None of these reasons are valid for eating less animal products though.
Change and improve at a rate that is comfortable to you. Maybe it’s doing “Meatless Mondays” where people eat vegan just on Mondays. Maybe it’s making one meal a day to be plant-based. People could buy plant milks to add variety to their milk chooses in the fridge. Instead of getting all protein from meat, people could substitute half of it for plant proteins and mock meat. People could simply just buy more fruits and vegetables and put them on the kitchen table to remind themselves to eat more plants. As these small, healthy changes add up over time, we can make a big difference.
I hope I've done my best in this article to promote veganism and educate you in a non-confrontational way. The choice to go vegan is mainly for moral reasons, but it also has a huge impact on environmental sustainability and world hunger. Change doesn't have to be immediate. Make small and comfortable changes; the important thing is consistent progress in the right direction.