Student Expresses Benefits of a Vegan Lifestyle [COLUMN]

Music industry headliners Jay-Z and Beyonce's recent 22-day vegan diet change has not only raised many questions, but also has shed a very necessary light on an undervalued lifestyle choice. February 13th will mark my one-year dedication to an all-vegan diet, and there is certainly no end in sight. With vegans taking the spotlight, I find that more and more people have approached me and asked me simply: Why? My answer, unchanging, is always: "Why not?"

There are multiple reasons to adopt a vegan diet, from supporting animal rights to decreasing one's carbon footprint. However, because of the outspoken organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), veganism has gotten a little bit of a bad rap. When I tell someone I'm a vegan, I can almost feel them taking a step back from me in fright. The assumption is always that I am a crazy woman who rains red paint on the wearers of leather and fur and has various bumper stickers on her (hybrid) car proclaiming "MEAT IS MURDER!!!" Although there certainly are vegans who behave this way, it is, of course, not the norm.

People are often surprised when I tell them that my motivation to be a vegan is not to save animals, but because I have many food safety concerns. This is usually when someone chimes in to tell me that I will die without consuming meat, that our bodies were manufactured by mother nature to thrive on animal protein, or that I will have the brittle bones of an 80-year-old woman well before my 30th birthday. The truth is, even if these things are true (which they aren't), the health repercussions one could face from eating meat are far worse.

The American meat industry uses various methods to increase the profitability of their animals, and uses unsafe practices and substances to ensure the highest profit out of every animal they produce. The animals are pumped with hormones to increase their size, such as Ractopamine, which is banned in 160 countries for being deemed unsafe and causing birth defects. They are given excessive amounts of antibiotics (since the animals spread disease very easily in their dirty close-quarters) and anti-depressants (yes, you're eating Prozac) due to their extremely stressful environment. After slaughter, the meat is further treated with yummy preservatives and, if it is something like ground-beef, is often washed with ammonia. Yes. Ammonia. Not to mention that raw meat is a cesspool of diseases such as salmonella, listeria, e-coli, and staph, which kill more Americans every year than AIDS. And did I mention feces? There is a percentage of feces that is allowed to be in your meat. Delish.

This-is gross. It is absolutely unacceptable that no one knows of the horrendous things that we consume, and it is wrong of these companies to produce a product that is marketed as being healthy but is actually deadly. Everyone has the right to choose what they eat, but it is so important to educate yourself on what is going into your body. Being a vegan has changed my life for the better, and I am healthier than I ever thought possible since adopting the lifestyle. I can assure you that there are clean, plant-based forms of protein, calcium, among many other nutrients that we have been notoriously told only come from meat and dairy. So I ask you again, why not?