Ask almost any vegan and they will tell you that their only regret about going vegan is not doing it earlier.
While any time of year is the perfect time to ditch animal products, January is often seen as a great time to make a change.
Here are five important reasons why you should take this plunge.
1. It's kinder to animals
If you love animals and hate the thought of them suffering, then adopting a plant-based diet is certainly for you. Every year, more than 60 billion land animals and countless marine animals are slaughtered for consumption globally.
The majority of these animals will have spent their short existence on a factory farm, where they are confined to packed sheds or cages, where many of their natural instincts are denied, and where disease and mortality are commonplace.
The suffering these animals go through doesn't stop there. Regardless of whether the animals are raised or intensive farms or 'free-range', or 'pasture-raised' systems, they all suffer a brutal and terrifying death at the slaughterhouse.
By going vegan, you will be able to remove your support for these cruel practices.
2. It's better for the planet
The planet is in a desperate state, indeed experts have said that we have a little as 12 years to limit some of the worst effects of climate change.
What does this have to do with veganism?
Well, animal farming is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, fresh water use and water pollution. The production of meat and dairy is responsible for around 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all motorized transport combined. For example, 100g of beef on average produces 105KG of greenhouse gases, whereas 100g of tofu produces less than 3.5KG.
One such study into the environmental impacts of meat production not only found that a plant-based diet was the most sustainable, but resulted in the lead researcher, Jospeh Poore going vegan and saying: "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use […] It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car."
As consumers we have the ability to choose food that does the least damage to the environment, and most plant-based products are indeed the best in this regard.
3. It's healthy
There are many health myths surrounding a vegan diet; someone will inevitably ask you where you get your protein from or B12. However, every major dietetics association agrees that well-planned vegan diets can provide all of the nutrients one needs to be healthy.
Indeed the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is the largest organisation of dieticians in the world says: "[A]ppropriately planned vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes...Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity."
A similar position is taken by the British Dietetics Association and the NHS.
As with every diet, it is important to know what foods to eat in order to meet your nutrient needs. There is a lot of information about eating a healthful vegan diet, which makes this so much easier. I highly recommend The VeganRD and Jack Norris RD. You can also find lots of useful nutritional information in Animal Aid's Guide to Going Vegan.
4. It can help your bank balance
Whilst some may view veganism as being more expensive than non-veganism, this doesn't have to be the case. Of course, if you're splashing out on the fancier meat-alternatives (which are delicious, by the way!) or buying products such as vegan Ben & Jerry's regularly, you may end up spending more.
But it is important to note that some of the cheapest foods on the planet are plant-based. I'm talking about beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables (opting for frozen may be an option if you are on a tighter budget), potatoes, rice, and things of that nature.
You can make simple, delicious and nutritious meals using cheap ingredients that not only help the planet and animals, but also save you money. Jack Monroe has a number of cheap vegan recipes on their Cooking on a Bootstrap website and there's also the £1.50 Vegan website to name a few. ?
5. It's never been easier
Finding vegan alternatives to your favourite foods has never been easier. What ever your favourite foods are now, I can guarantee you will find a plant-based version of it that is as delicious. In every supermarket and health food shop you are guaranteed to find a whole host of vegan options – including a wide range of plant-milks, vegan cheese and more. Not to mention, almost every major chain restaurant offers vegan options and most others are more than happy to accommodate.
So why not help animals and the planet and try veganism? You can order a FREE ‘Go Vegan’ pack from Animal Aid, or perhaps try veganism for the month of January by signing up for Veganuary.