What about protein? Glad you asked! Greens, beans, nuts, grains, veggies, and tofu supply plenty of it. By the way, many Americans eat too much protein, which can tax the kidneys and other organs. Good overviews on vegan protein can be found here and here; and Virginia Messina’s book Vegan for Life offers a good overview of vegan nutrition for non-specialists.
I’m an athlete with serious protein needs. Doesn’t that rule out veganism? Another protein question–yeah! There are actually plenty of vegan athletes out there, including strongman Patrik Baboumian, heavyweight boxer Cam Awesome, figure skater Meagan Duhamel, marathon runner Fiona Oakes, and NFL players Griff Whalen and David Carter. Vegan for Life includes a chapter for athletes, and NoMeatAthlete has lots of great information. Also see GreatVeganAthletes for more information.
Can veganism help me be healthier? Absolutely! You’ll find lots of information on that here.
I understand that meat is cruel, but what’s wrong with dairy and eggs? The dairy industry forcibly impregnates cows and then, shortly after the babies are born, takes them away so that the cow’s milk can be collected and sold. Both mother and child grieve after the separation. Girl calves are raised to repeat the cycle; boy calves—useless for milk production—are raised in pitiful isolation and deliberately malnourished for a few weeks, and then slaughtered for veal. (The females, once they pass their peak milking years, are also slaughtered.)
“Laying hens” are raised in horrifically crowded, filthy conditions and 50% of all the chicks—the boys—are killed almost at birth, sometimes by being shredded or buried alive. In its November, 2014, issue Harpers featured a long expose of dreadful conditions in the egg industry. And research has shown that there is “more death per calorie” in eggs than any other animal food product.
I’m interested in veganism but want to start small. How do I do that? Choose one meal or ingredient each week and replace it with a vegan substitute. Erik Marcus’s The Ultimate Vegan Guide is a great resource for beginners, and available free here. Also check out Vegan Kalamazoo co-founder Hillary Rettig’s article on how to go “invisibly vegan.”
I could give up a lot of animal-derived foods but not [bacon, cheese, etc.]. Is that a problem? Many vegans make the change gradually, and every vegan meal you eat is a win for you, the animals, and the planet. When you’re ready, check out the many amazing meat substitutes out there, including products by Gardein and Beyond Meat. People’s Food Co-Op, Sawall, Natural Health Food Center, and Meijer all have great selections.
Isn’t eating animals part of God’s plan? Plenty of religious people are vegan—in some cases because they see it as a form of stewardship of God’s creation. Google “Christian vegan,” “Jewish vegan,” “Muslim vegan,” or similar, and you’ll find plenty of information and support.
What about leather and down? Vegans look for substitutes. By the way, down is typically plucked from live, conscious geese who experience great pain as their feathers are torn off them.
And zoos and circuses? Nope—also, cruel. (Read the Mother Jones article, “The Cruelest Show on Earth”.) Human-only circuses like Cirque du Soleil are great!
What about the farmers? That’s a great question. Veganism that doesn’t account for the welfare of farmers is incomplete. Organizations like Farmkind are working to help farmers transition from cruel and unsustainable animal agriculture to peaceful and profitable options like industrial hemp (a traditional Michigan crop).
Isn’t it impossible to be a perfect vegan? Yes, because animal agriculture is so interwoven with other areas of our society. But that shouldn’t stop us from making positive changes whenever we can.