If you had told me a few years ago that I would turn into an animal loving, tree-hugging vegan, I would have told you that you were crazy.
One side of my family is Italian and Irish, while the other side is Jewish. Our typical family dinner consisted of things like meatballs, corned beef and challah bread, all of which are laden with ingredients from animals.
Despite my heritage, here I sit as an ethical vegan who has a job dedicated to animal activism. Here is how that happened.
I don’t have a big dramatic story about going vegan; I pretty much just decided to do it overnight. I had been a vegetarian for about six months before deciding to become vegan, so it wasn’t a complete shock to me.
After watching documentaries like “Cowspiracy” and “If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls,” I was hooked.
I had been living in blissful ignorance about where my food came from, but the images and statistics shown to me through the many documentaries I watched were a shock to my system.
I knew I could never go back.
Many people who go to college and begin to think for themselves without their parents’ guidance become vegetarians once they are aware of the cruelty that is standard practice on factory farms in our country. Some decide to take it a step further and become vegans.
There are a lot of different labels for diets floating around, so it is probably best to start off explaining the important differences between vegetarians and vegans.
Vegetarians do not eat any meat from animals, including beef, chicken, pork and fish. Vegans, on the other hand, abstain from all animal products.
Whether it is vegetarian or vegan, there are demonstrable benefits that come with both.
Vegetarians are 12 percent less likely to die from diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease and they tend to live up to eight years longer than omnivorous eaters, according to a 2013 Loma Linda University study.
The advantages extend beyond health to the environment.
On average, meat production contributes to 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Worldwatch Institute. Going vegetarian or vegan lessens that problem.
These benefits of the vegetarian diet are only increased by going vegan.
Studies done by animal rights groups like PETA, Mercy For Animals and The Humane League have shown that a vegan diet gives people more energy and can increase antioxidant levels in the body, which help fight off diseases like cancer.
I could give you all of the gory details to argue for an ethical take on veganism, but I would be here all day.
I will only say that a vegan diet is crucial if you are looking at animal rights from an ethical perspective. The dairy and egg industries cover up their own atrocities that they make animals go through, it is not only the meat industry.
I know veganism can sometimes have negative connotations behind it because of the stereotypes that society puts on it.
However, if you do your research and do it for the right reasons, then I guarantee you will be making the best decision of your life. If you’re considering making a change in your diet, then veganism is the right way to go.
Going forward, this column will focus on issues animal welfare, the environment and nutrition, as well as how all these topics are interconnected.
It will not be a weekly column of simply talking about veganism, although that will certainly be a recurring theme.
I look forward to exploring this topic more thoroughly.
I hope that all of you will enjoy taking part in that exploration as well.
Lippy, a sophomore nutrition and foods major from Huntersville, is a columnist.