Today, vegans look very different from the stereotype most people have grown up with in their minds. They’re diverse in age, ethnicity, interests, and geographical location.
What many of us have learned is that veganism is less about what we look like, and more about how we live our lives, which boils down to the values we share and exercise through our actions.
Many people “wake up” to the plight of animals after watching a documentary. We know it’s wrong to harm another person, but animals usually come second until we’re exposed to the amount of animal cruelty inherent in the food industry.
Here are recent estimates from PETA on how many animals are killed for food each year:
- 29 million cows
- 9 billion chickens in the U.S. (and 305 million hens used for their eggs)
- 245 million turkeys, 46 million of them killed during Thanksgiving
- 31 million ducks
- Tens of billions of fish and shellfish (more than all the animals combined)
Just visit a sanctuary to witness the life these animals can live when they’re not killed for food. They’re also quite Instagrammable!
While vegans typically start changing their diets to be more compassionate to animals, the health benefits can’t be ignored. Decades of scientific and medical study have proven that a vegan diet not only provides most of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we require, but also prevents chronic diseases plaguing most Americans today: diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, food-borne illnesses, and more.
More and more professional athletes are also turning to vegan diets for its recovery benefits.
Vegans are no stranger to protesting at or near slaughterhouses, factory farms, zoos, and aquariums to raise awareness for the plight of animals. But activists can also look very different. Greta Thunberg, Earthling Ed, and Tabitha Brown built their reputations mostly online, and they have a large impact with their words, photos, and videos, even if they’re not always on TED stages.
Remember, it’s not about the numbers, but the message, education, and being authentic while you encourage others to go vegan.
Vegans have to innovate constantly to get their message out in new ways. When I began my journey, I watched documentaries, read books, and dug into cookbooks, swapping out animal-based ingredients for plant-based alternatives before learning about all the other reasons to go vegan.
Today, it’s more likely someone will be impacted by what they see online, but there’s also a lot of junk information that says you can’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet. This is why health, environmental, and even social science is just as important as the launch of a new faux chicken product. Innovation is important, both on a business and consumer level.
Whatever values stand out for you, be loud and proud of your lifestyle, and don’t give up!