The conversation around veganism is one many people don’t want to have – it can make people who enjoy meat feel guilty or “icky”.
Other people, such as certain vegans, want to have the conversation too badly – to the point where they may come across as pushy.
The primary reason for this is that veganism is often seen to be focused on animal cruelty, a highly sensitive topic that’s always unpleasant to talk about. Those who love meat often don’t want to experience another guilt trip about animal harm.
They also often won’t believe that plant-based alternatives can taste as good, or better, until they try them themselves.
Evidence over the last few years has proven numerous other important reasons to go vegan, vegetarian, or even flexitarian (read more on that below) – allowing for a much more pleasant and wide-ranging conversation.
Let’s have a look:
8 Good Reasons to Choose Plant-Based Alternatives
From significant health improvements to saving money and boosting international food security, we explore the fuller picture of benefits offered by replacing meat with plant based options:
1. To Help Avoid the Next Pandemic
Cows are regularly dosed with antibiotics, in a single enclosed space – increasing microbial resistance and thus often rendering vital types of antibiotics ineffective for human use.
An antibiotic-resistant bacteria was found contaminating the majority of beef, pork, and turkey samples in a 2018 report from the Environmental Working Group, and numerous scientific studies have found an association between meat production and bacteria such as MSRA.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), use of the strongest antibiotics in animals should be a last resort and should be banned, even when an illness has been diagnosed in a food-producing animal.
However, this would mean quarantining animals, culling herds, or allowing them to die rather than treating them – creating an obvious loss of resources and profit for the companies involved. WHO has no power to enforce its guidelines – this decision is up to local governments.
2. Because We Don’t Actually Need to Eat Meat
The U.S.’s most esteemed authority on nutrition and diet, the American Dietetic Association, states that vegan diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” and that they are “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Fortified plant-based foods, such as products from companies like Redefine Meat, provide almost exactly the same nutrient profiles to real beef. Those worried about nutrient deficiencies can put their minds at ease.
Take a look at this video by 3DPrint.com on meatless ‘steaks’ from Redefine Meat:
A registered dietician at the Vegan Society, Heather Russell, says:
“Protein deficiency is a really rare thing in the western world. It’s just about combining protein such as beans, pulses, seeds and nuts.
It sounds as if you’re eating rabbit food, but you’re not. You can just sprinkle a handful of toasted pine nuts over some pasta or add a can of beans into your chili.
In reality, plant based foods can provide all the essential protein building blocks that we call amino acids. Good sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya products, peanut butter, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds” (Guardian).
3. To Improve Your Health
Numerous studies have now proved that the replacement of meat with plant-based alternatives offers the following health benefits (as concluded in various authority websites such as Healthline):
- lowers risk of heart disease
- improves kidney function
- lowers blood sugar levels
- lowers risk of diabetes complications
- may protect against certain cancers
Many health experts now recommend plant-based diets to those with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and other health conditions.
4. To Help you Lose Weight
People following a vegan diet are more likely to lose weight. Going vegan can help overweight people reduce body fat and shed pounds – even if they eat the same number of calories as meat-eaters.
A comparison study between regular dieters and those on a vegan diet, over 16 weeks, saw vegans losing six kilograms of weight while the other group did not lose anything.
In another study of randomized trials of 796 people in 2022, a meta analysis showed that a three-month vegan diet reduced weight by an average of 4.1 kilograms compared with control diets (for the European Congress on Obesity).
5. To Help Save Our Planet
Is meat bad for the environment? This common question amongst people who want to help combat global warming can be answered simply – the answer is yes.
The MIT Climate department published conclusions from numerous studies in 2021, stating that producing a pound of meat emits roughly 15 times the CO2 used to farm a pound of peas, corn or wheat.
The UN estimates that meat production constitutes over 14% of all man-made greenhouse gasses, including methane. Around a third of our ice-free land is used for livestock, and further, huge areas of forest are cut down to grow crops to feed them.
However, it’s not just climate change that’s the issue here – there are several other major problems from the meat and dairy industries that affect the planet negatively. They are the primary causes of deforestation, wildlife destruction, overfishing, and reduction of fresh water supplies.
6. To Help Improve Human Welfare
Someone following a vegan diet will use roughly a third of the land used by someone eating a normal omnivore diet.
This has a huge impact on sustainable food production, food wastage and socio-economic problems – ultimately affecting the lives of those who live in poverty and hunger.
Factory farms and slaughterhouses also often employ undocumented workers in low-paying positions, knowing that they can’t afford to speak out about dangerous conditions and the PTSD often experienced as part of the job.
7. To Save Money
Plant based foods and ingredients are usually significantly cheaper than meat, with whole grains, beans, legumes, potatoes, and other foods providing nutritious meals.
Lancet Planetary Health published findings by an Oxford University study which proved that swapping meat out for plant based foods could reduce grocery bills by as much as 34%.
While fresh options are always nice, many of the items mentioned above can be bought and kept for long periods of time in tin form.
This will help to reduce the possibility of food wastage – as an alternative to meat and dairy products which can go off over time more easily. Stocking up and using only what’s needed is great for planning, budgeting and letting nothing go to waste.
Henry Firth, one half of the vegan social-media sensation Bosh!, says:
“It’s a myth that vegan food has to be expensive… (however) it’s a good idea to avoid products that even say ‘vegan’ on them. So you’re not going to go to the expensive supermarkets and buy products in plastic that have been made in labs or factories; they’re going to be expensive. You’re just going to go back to basics and eat fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and beans – and you are going to be incredibly healthy, as well as saving money”.
8. Because it Doesn’t Have to be Black or White!
A “Flexitarian” is someone who has made a conscious choice to cut down on the number of animal products he/she/they consume.
For example, someone may decide to eat animal products on the weekend only, a certain number of times per week or per month, when at events, or in certain situations.
Doing this will still make a significant difference in positively offsetting some of the problems we’ve outlined above.
Every Bit Helps: Final Thoughts on Choosing Plant-Based Alternatives
The impact of choosing to substitute meat with vegan foods is enormous, and the evidence for this impact is now beyond argument. Whether your omnivore friends, family, loved ones and co-workers are open to embracing veganism fully, or are simply willing to become more curious about plant-based alternatives, they now have plenty of reasons to at least try incorporating a few vegan meals into their lives, perhaps even on a regular basis. Sprinkle some of our points into the conversation, and let us know how things went in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Veganism?
A vegan diet is made up of plant-based food options that replace animal products like eggs, cheese and meat. Some vegans also avoid other animal products (not for eating) - such as excluding use of leather or wool.
What is Vegetarianism?
Being a vegetarian means excluding meat, fish and poultry, but still eating dairy products (yoghurt, cheese, milk, eggs).
What is Pescatarianism?
Pescatarians eat fish (and possibly other seafood), but not meat or poultry. They usually also eat dairy products.
What is Flexitarianism?
The word “Flexitarian” is relatively new and is often used in jest; however, more and more people are consciously cutting down on their animal product and diary consumption because of the reasons we’ve identified in this article (or others such as animal harm). This diet and/or lifestyle choice can be called Flexitarianism.
Redefine Meat: Why is Eating Meat Bad For The Environment?
Healthline: 6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eating Vegan
The Guardian: 14 Things You Need to Know Before You Go Vegan
Vegan.com: Why Go Vegan? The Top Reasons Explained