With every transition to veganism comes a journey of which there are many paths.
Some choose health and adopt a plant-based diet, some make the switch for environmental reasons, and most, for the animals, living a life that excludes exploitation and cruelty towards our fellow Earthlings.
Becoming vegan is a massive lifestyle change, you have to think about so much more, and about things beyond yourself.
These individual changes are indeed profound but could they help save us from ourselves — could they change the world?
My transition was not one that began with deep ethical realization and moral revelation resulting in a Helen Lovejoy-esque existential panic, screaming 'won’t somebody please think of the animals?!'.
It was one that began with self-preservation.
A family member had been diagnosed with angina, a form of coronary artery disease, and I believed, as most people do, that my fate had been genetically sealed and that it was entirely likely that I may end up in the same unfortunate position.
But as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, physician, cardiologist and author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, says: "Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger."
It was around this time that What The Health had been released, and this changed everything.
After watching, I wasn’t sure what to believe. It seemed entirely plausible but the sensational nature of the documentary made me question its validity. “Vegan propaganda!” I professed.
PBN documentary Vegan 2017 shows the global vegan journey
With my curiosity piqued, and omnivorous ways challenged, I set out to debunk this 'nonsense' - although, I think part of me knew it was true and didn’t want to believe it because, you know, cheese — my doubts, shattered.
Numerous studies, doctors, nutritionists and scientists, all advocating a whole food plant-based diet, against the current flow of the mainstream information.
They weren’t doing this for their own benefits, or the benefits of some big corporate entity, but for the sole purpose of helping people and tackling the world’s leading causes of death.
Ditching animal products
In light of this new information, right there, right then, I changed my ways, ditched the cheese, the egg and what little meat I ate, and then a new obsession was born.
I became an advocate of the plant-based diet and had protected myself from angina and the range of other lifestyle diseases — I definitely wasn’t one of those vegans though.
And then a month later...I was vegan.
My obsession with a whole food plant-based diet led me to a number of influencers.
These included YouTubers Mic the Vegan, whose focus is plant-based nutrition backed by scientific evidence, and Simnett Nutrition, whose focus is on callisthenics, and as the name suggests, plant-based nutrition.
Finally, I discovered Dr. Micheal Greger, author of How Not to Die and founder of the non-profit website Nutritionfacts.org.
PBN interviews Dr. Greger
Initially, I watched for the information on nutrition, but then something profound happened.
I started doing more press-ups than I thought possible, being able to exercise for longer periods, I just seemed to be fitter somehow — the famed vegan superpowers, perhaps.
Most importantly, I realised how unnecessary eating animals and their secretions really was.
This slow realisation into veganism led to a new and very upsetting curiosity: how we treat animals for our own use and the subsequent effect on the environment.
No matter how graphic and upsetting it was, I watched it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye any longer.
The disgust, anger and sorrow I felt give rise to a passion for veganism and to learn about as much as I could.
It began with Earthlings and Land of Hope and Glory then talks and debates about ethics by vegan activists such as Gary Yourofsky, Earthing Ed, James Aspey and Joey Carbstrong — I had been forever changed.
Everything came into question.
Where does our food come from? How is this stuff packaged? Where do our clothes come from? What happens during the production process? How does it affect the workers? What about my washing up liquid? Is such cruelty and suffering really caused just to make money?
Documentary Land of Hope and Glory
That was it, I could see it all, bloody, polluted greed-driven industries with marketing so deceptive that people just didn’t know the truth.
Plastic in the oceans; animals bred into a life of torture and misery; exhausted cows mistreated in India for their skin; Bangladeshi women working for pittance in sweat shops making cheap high street clothing for us in the west; the heating of the oceans and death of the coral reefs; dogs, rabbits, monkeys being tested on for our safety.
This is how veganism changes you: you see the consequences your actions have on this fragile planet, no matter how small.
Not only do you see the big picture but you start to think about the impact the little things you say and do has on people around you.
Through the single simple choice to not eating animals or their secretions comes a cascade of compassion that spreads outward into every aspect of your life, through every action, along every thread of thought we have, and choice we make.
The more people become vegan — which is happening at an exponential rate — the more compassionate, healthy and mindful of their actions people will become.
This, I believe, will change society for the better.
Violence begets violence and once we stop hurting the vulnerable, and such behaviour has been eradicated from the world, what else exists but peace.
We have the potential to solve world hunger and food poverty and would have an abundance of food if we didn’t have 56 billion extra mouths to feed as we grow enough food for over 10 billion people.
We could reduce the physical and financial strain on the medical institutions of the world and see a reduction of unnecessary surgeries, medication and care potentially freeing up time and resources to focus on caring for those with other pressing medical concerns.
We can - and need to - reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by factory farmed animals and the machinery in this damaging industry, one of the biggest contributors of global levels of greenhouse emissions and a range of other environmentally cataclysmic effects.
How honest are industry messages about health?
We’re moving towards a world that is becoming more reliant on clean and cheap renewable energy and less interested in the destructive use of fossil fuels.
We’re becoming more interested in sustainable products, such as plant-based plastics. We will eventually move into an age of abundance — prompted by technologies like 3D printing — all of which could see the end of capitalism and the start of a post-scarcity economy.
The acquisition of wealth would be a thing of the past being replaced with a society that could work together for the betterment of all with human compassion as the foundation.
Isn’t this what we all want?
A world without disease, poverty and famine, without hatred, intolerance and greed, with peace, equality and compassion, with philosophical, cultural and scientific growth and, of course, the ability to replicate as much hummus as you want.
This world rich in hummus and unending compassion may be a long way off but, I believe it is achievable.
Change starts with the individual, one person’s choice to do something different.
Great change is caused by a group of individuals — a movement. A movement, for our health, our planet and every sentient being on it.
A movement of hope and compassion that could change everything, forever.