street x vegan
There are countless people everywhere doing their part. Elite athletes are testifying to it, high-profile actors pushing for change, documentary film makers breaking it all down for us, regular folks posting and sharing recipes and inspiration with each other, and now, here I am, addressing the niche of people that enjoy my work. For now at least, this is my part.
It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but swayed by advertising, the common conscious, my own selfishness, and most definitely a victim to my own ignorance, I’ve only just recently committed. It took me 32 years to get here, but I feel healthier and happier, with higher energy levels and a less heavy conscious. Better late than never.
I am vegan.
Why? The reasons are numerous.
The reasons against it however, are few, or more specifically, two:
A taste/texture preference to meat.
That’s how I ended up deciding to make the change. It was my convenience and preference versus a long list of ethical and health reasons. I now believe strongly in the importance of veganism, but I have no high horse to sit upon, I’m a newly minted vegan, not some saint of Gaia, not yet. So take my words for what they are - friendly council.
I’ve been into health and fitness for several years now, but two of my (many) exceptions were fried chicken and hamburgers. I was the meat guy among most of my groups of friends. If there wasn’t meat in a meal, then a meal it was not. Protein was the single most important nutrient, everything else be damned. And to be fair, it is important...it’s just also very much available on a plant-based diet. You don’t have to support greedy conglomerates, disgusting industries, and the painfully unethical systematic exploitation, abuse, and killing of animals to ensure your gains, let alone your survival. Not at all.
As it turns out, Jack was on to something - beans are pretty magical. Legumes and vegetables are where it's at, that “it” being nutrients from sustainable sources. For me, soybeans probably come to bat the most, being surprisingly versatile given all their forms and ease of inclusion in many kinds of recipes. Chickpeas, lentils, oats, and quinoa are heavy hitters, and we have nuts, nut butters and seeds to round out the team. There are also more obscure players such as seitan and nutritional yeast. Meatless, you will not wither out, you will in all likelihood be better than before, and so will the place you live (Earth). Win, win.
I live in Japan, arguably one of the more difficult countries to be vegan in. Not having yet become even remotely mainstream, not many people here are familiar with veganism or even vegetarianism. However, I am managing. I’m slowly learning more about what to consume and why. I cook more and eat better, healthier. I’m more interested in food than I’ve ever been. I’ve discovered entire aisles and sections in my supermarkets that I’ve somehow never noticed before. Yes, eating out can suck sometimes. You have to check if things are vegan...explain what vegan means, and surprise surprise, options are few in a country where animal broth is in almost every sauce. Hence the “It’s inconvenient”, but it’s doable. The price I happily pay to lower my footprint on the world.
For a vegan, specifically a healthy one, some amount of preparation is needed. Whether that be soaking some beans overnight for cooking the next day, having a restaurant or two in mind for the place you’re traveling to, or bringing lunch or a smoothie with you. The latter has been a daily thing for me since long before I became vegan. It’s just incredibly practical and efficient, and I recommend it.
I don’t necessarily believe eating a minimal amount of animal protein will significantly impact your health, but why risk any negative change at all? Food science changes frequently. It feels like everyday there’s an article claiming such-and-such consumable causes cancer and the following year is then said to prevent it. I’ve not seen one claiming the same for broccoli or some other common vegetable though. (It’s probably out there though, written by some unfortunate and inconsolable soul who’s father regrettably passed away after tripping on a head of cabbage.) In the end, with vegetables, you can’t really go wrong. Forks Over Knives: The Documentary Feature details the health benefits of a plant-based diet, in particular the effects on chronic diseases.
From memory, I don’t know if I've ever positioned myself strongly as an animal lover, but I consider myself to be naturally compassionate, and that compassion needs to extend to animals. I work with kids all the time, and someday I might adopt or have kids of my own, and if asked if I love animals, I intend to reply “Yes, of course”. And when I say it, I want it to be sincere, not accompanied by an asterisk and some dodgy fine print. Can you love animals while knowingly supporting the meat, dairy, egg and fish industries? After doing some reading and seeing some absolutely horrifying video footage, my answer is a hard no. I encourage you to check out Dominion. It is graphic and it is upsetting, it’s the reality our consumerism has wrought and it deserves our attention. I challenge you to at least watch the first 7 minutes. If nothing changes for you after that, then...
We could talk Global Warming. We’ve all heard those words and imagined...a warmer world with less polar bears, but that’s not the extent of what we’re up against. The potential ramifications of higher temperatures are far reaching and, dare I say it, catastrophic. Scientists aren’t always right, they’re human, they make mistakes, but if we make a mistake by not heeding their warnings now, it’s not going to be one those situations where we say “Huh, I guess they got that one correct” and go on our merry little way. No, we’d be leaving our children to deal with dead ecosystems, extreme weather, and the loss of cities, countries and even continents. And who doesn’t like polar bears anyway?
Okay, maybe you’re not a fan of animals, children, or Earth. Sure. But you’ve made it this far, so maybe you’re interested in what you possibly stand to gain from being vegan.
After two weeks or so of making the switch I noticed significantly elevated energy levels. After a day of physically active work that would usually reduce me to a tired mess, I find myself still running on full. So abundant in energy am I now that I often run short stretches to and from places. And I’ve never really liked running.
The next biggest change for me is recovery time. Before, I would do 1 or 2 intense workouts each week. The day after a workout I’d be sore. The day after that, I’d be a broken man. And on the third day, I’d be somewhere between ’back in the game’ and ’let’s see what tomorrow brings’. Nowadays, on day two of recovery I’m ready to work out again. I also don’t get as sore to begin with. And I can work out for longer. Veganism is like a secret hack to feeling physically great. Check out The Game Changers if any of this has caught your attention. It explores the plant-based diet from the viewpoint of some of the worlds top athletes. It's really enjoyable, and covers a lot of ground in general.
I’ve always been a bit of a realist/pessimist...and well, I suppose I still am, but I definitely find myself more motivated and more willing to accept the happy things in life. Plant-based placebo? Possibly. Because I feel less guilty? Likely. This is just how I feel I’ve changed personally, so take it with a grain of sea salt and all that.
I don’t expect those who make it to the end of this will magically turn into brussel sprout heroes and green pea do gooders, but I do hope I’ll have managed to more firmly plant the idea somewhere in the many acres of your mind (awful puns very much intended). Ignorance is easy (blissfully so, you could say), and made easier by those with vast power and capital placing money in the ”right” pockets, all to the detriment of society. Be informed. Not by them or by me, but by yourself. Knowledge is out there, we’ve just got to carefully sift through all the garbage, lies, and bots.
We as humans are just a collective of individuals, and while a single soul can’t often effect global change, the change that you make can be felt, heard, understood and adopted by your friends, and their friends, and so on.
I encourage you to be the first domino in your social circle.
As of 2020, I think it’s fair to say there’s still a bit of a societal rebuff to veganism. But just as we now have equal rights (albeit with many regrettable exceptions) for humans regardless of race, sex, or sexuality, so too will animal rights come.
I now stand on what I believe will be the right side of history, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to find that out together.