Sandra Higgins, Go Vegan World, discusses veganism with Clare McKenna on Newstalk Radio.

A few years ago, Clare McKenna (Newstalk radio) approached us for help to go vegan. In the run up to Christmas, Clare focussed her own research on the use of turkeys as food. She visited our sanctuary and a turkey farm and slaughterhouse. As a result, she has almost eliminated animal flesh from her diet. One of her pertinent questions on the show today was ‘should everyone know where their food comes from’. The aim of Go Vegan World is to provide information on the injustice of using other animals and help people to transition to veganism. Our website contains a lot of the information you need to help you make that change.

In the run up to World Vegan Month, Clare invited us onto Newstalk to discuss veganism. Some of the questions asked are the ones that many of us had prior to going vegan. What is veganism? Can you be healthy on a vegan diet? What are the benefits of being vegan? Is it easy to go vegan?

Sandra addresses these questions but she makes very clear that veganism is much more than a diet. It is an act of resistance against the injustice of using other animals as resources. Each one of us values our life. I value mine. You value yours. The hen whose egg you ate for breakfast, who will be killed at 18 months old, values hers. The cow whose milk you poured on your breakfast cereal, whose calf was taken from her by the dairy industry, values hers. Every time we make a non-vegan choice, someone who shares our capacity to feel, suffers and will die. You could easily be vegan instead. What are you waiting for?

What is Veganism?

Veganism is a way of living that avoids exploiting others based on their species membership. It is a way of according other animals the fundamental rights that we regard as essential for ourselves such as not being exploited or killed. In the same way that discrimination against another being based on their gender, age, sexual orientation, religious or other beliefs, race etc is unacceptable, discriminating against another being based on the species they belong to is unacceptable. Although many people think of veganism as a diet, it is much more about equality and justice.

The Benefits of Veganism

The Environment

Humans are animals too and our use of other animals is inextricably linked to human injustice. This is currently evident in the environmental and global warming horror that is unfolding before our eyes. Begin vegan means respecting that the resources of the earth do not belong to one species. Everyone is responsible for living sustainably so that others have enough. Eating a plant-based diet is one of the more important components of being vegan and by doing so our impact on the environment is significantly lower than that of non-vegans. Recent research shows that a vegan diet contributes 75% less emissions, land use and water pollution; cuts the destruction of wildlife by 60% and reduces water use by 54%. While many people think that taking less flights or buying an electric car are the most impactful behavioural changes, changing how we eat has far greater environmental benefits.

Diet & Health

During the interview Clare asked about the health benefits of a vegan diet. All the major world dietetics associations recommend a wholefood, plant-based diet for health and sustainability. Plant diets are associated with lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and Type II diabetes. With a little planning, it is easy to get all the nutrition you need by eating a diet based on plants. Some of the nutrients that require a little care on all diets, not just vegan diets, are sufficient intake of calcium, B12, Vitamin D, as well as to make sure you are eating good sources of iron, iodine, selenium and zinc. It is important to consult reputable sources of information on nutrition.

Is it Easy to go Vegan?

It is very easy to make the behavioural changes involved in being vegan once you understand the rational for being vegan. The most important reason is to avoid exploiting and killing other animals but there are other social justice issues implicated in veganism such as sustainability, environmental protection, workers’ rights etc.

The selection of vegan replacements for animal products has never been better. They make it very easy to transition to veganism. Just as non-vegans should not eat a diet with too many processed foods, the healthiest diet for vegans is low in processed foods which can be used alongside fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. There are also delicious fortified vegan foods which are a very tasty and convenient way to get essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and B12.

Most restaurants offer vegan options or will do so if notified in advance. While there is room for improvement, with the growing popularity of plant-based diets and more people becoming vegan, things have improved vastly in the last few years.

It is also much easier to buy vegan friendly clothing, shoes, and personal care and beauty products. With a little research you can become very familiar with how to read labels and find that living vegan is second nature to you. Like most vegans, you will probably say it is the best decision you have ever made, and your only regret is that you didn’t do it sooner.