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The Top 5 Reasons I Went Vegan

Since I made the transition from a vegetarian diet to a full-fledged vegan lifestyle, I often get a lot of questions (and criticism) about why.   In all honesty, there’s countless reasons I could offer friends, family, and even strangers about why I made this life changing decision.   There are a lot of myths to veganism which I will eventually address in a future post, but today I want to share the top 5 reasons why I went vegan.

1. HEALTH

When I was around 23-years old, my health began to take a turn for the worse.   I began a heavy regimen of medications, visits to specialists, countless tests and medical procedures, etc.  At 25-years old my pulse jumped one evening to 220+ bpm as my heart went into Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).  Paramedics were called on my behalf and I was defibrillated three times while conscious.  Amazingly, that still didn’t correct the problem.   I would go through over two-dozen more episodes of SVT before I underwent a cardiac ablation surgery.   Still, my health worsened.   By 28-years old I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and began taking over 18 prescription medications multiple times a day.   All of this, many other conditions including my chronic back pain left me in a mess.   I was passionately and stubbornly in love with every type of meat, dairy, and seafood…yet veganism was not something that ever crossed my mind.

Finally in 2012, broken and desperate, I decided to try a vegetarian diet.   My world and health began to change almost immediately.   More fascinated on how something so simple could offer so much resolution to my health crisis, I decided to make a major life decision.  I decided to become a vegan.  Since 2012 I have been taken off all cardiac medications, now only taking two blood pressure medications.   I went from injecting two different types of insulin, to only taking an oral diabetes medication, to being taken off ALL diabetes medications.  On September 1, 2013 I will mark 9-months free of any diabetes medications.  I no longer take cholesterol medications.   In fact, my LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as my triglycerides levels couldn’t be more perfect!  SInce going vegetarian (then vegan), I have nearly lost 70 lbs.!   I no longer need to use medicated shampoo for my irritated and often times, painful psoriasis on the back of my scalp.  My concentration and attention to detail is more clear than it has ever been, I didn’t even realize that my brain was living in a fog…I thought that was normal.  This list could literally go on and on, but these are some of the highlights.

2. COMPASSION

I’m an animal lover…always have been and always will be!  Far beyond I can even remember, I was absolutely awestruck, in love, and fascinated by animals.   As I was growing up, my passion, love, and respect for animals only grew…even though I was an omnivore.  I remember coming into contacts with vegetarians (and vegans, as rare as they were) in my high school years and always found their points of view very convincing and eye opening, yet not enough to tear me away from my beloved carne asada, chorizo, beef hamburgers…let alone sushi, lobster, or fresh caught trout (yes, I used to be quite the angler).  But the more I grew, the more I learned.

I began to look into the source of my meats, dairy, seafood, and even my clothing.   What I discovered was horrifying.  Yet I was somehow convinced that going vegetarian (or vegan for that matter) would not change the industry, so I went on with life with a “blind eye”.   Eventually my conscience (and health) started to catch up with me.  As a compulsive seeker of truth, turning a blind eye was becoming more and more difficult to carry out.  Eventually I would have to practically inhale anything that was meat and make sure that I didn’t think about the source while doing so.   This became exhausting, and my conscience started to catch up with me.   As a victim of gun violence and an advocate for gun-control legislation, I have often spoke about how it doesn’t matter how many thousands of innocent children die by gunshots in our country , but the fact that a single child dies by a gunshot….for one is far too many.  I began to equate the same reasoning to the horrors in the inhumane and ungodly treatment of animals we raise for food, milk, and products.

Enough was enough.  I couldn’t deny the truth any longer.   How can I profess my love for animals and my opposition to their abuse, neglect, and murder…yet scarf down a steak?  I was invalidating and contradicting my own personal convictions for ease and convenience.  I was an accessory to mass murder.  Many documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Vegucated helped change my life!

3. ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is no longer a myth.   It’s a fact.   And the data is scary.  Each and every one of us has a moral obligation and responsibility to discuss the global crisis.  The studies and data are bone-chilling and scary.

A recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.  And the U.N. is not alone in its analysis.  A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.  Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. And a German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.  What most people don’t think about is the resources and energy (as well as pollution) it takes to manufacture meat…from growing feed for the animals, to processing their waste, consumption of water for the animals and growth of their food, pesticides, processing plants, rendering plants, rendering waste…the list goes on.   This is something the meat and dairy industry don’t want you to know.

And for the seafood so many love?   Meet overfishing:

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

One does not need to be a scientist to comprehend how this affects oceans and ocean life.  And like meat, there is the alarming environmental repercussions which come from seafood manufacturing and processing.

4. NATURAL

There’s no denying that vegan lifestyle is au naturel…if you take the natural way.   I’ll be the first to admit that natural veganism is something you strive for.  As with anything in life, there are a lot of unnatural and unhealthy ways to go about things, and veganism is not an exception.   However, with the right motives and drive, veganism offers a simplicity in being more natural as well as a burning desire to perfect the goal in becoming more natural and whole.   You begin to read every label…and for myself and many vegans, we put the products back on the shelf when we come across ingredients which contain ingredients we can’t pronounce…and of course, anything that is made from animal products (or has been tested on animals) goes back as well.

Learning to go natural is an organic and fresh experience.  It simply makes your soul feel good.   I shy away from overpriced and unhealthy “fake meats.”  Plus, meat just freaks me out, so why would I buy something that looks and tastes like meat.   I have fallen in love with growing our own food and buying from local farmers, makers, and manufacturers who believe and practice the same ethics as I do (or strive to), from people who embrace what this compassionate lifestyle provides us.

One of the many myths is this “diet” is expensive.   This lifestyle is remarkably inexpensive.  To my last calculation, our grocery bill has been cut by close to 65%.  This percentage doesn’t include the endless medication and medical appointment copays.  But it’s not really about the money.   It’s all about the feeling of fulfilment which is nothing less than an incredibly spiritual bond.   It may sound so cliché to spout that I’m a vegan for life, but so be it if it is.  I could never go back.  I would never go back.

IMG_76795. YUMMY

Do you know how many varieties and species of fruits and vegetables grow in the world?   What if I told you there we’re over 7,500 different types of apples alone which grow throughout the world?   And that’s just apples!  The selection of other fruits and vegetables is unthinkable.

Vegan cooking is fun, challenging, and delicious!  Another big myth about being a vegan is that our food is boring, bland, or lacking vital nutrients.   That’s just not true!  And as delicious as fresh fruits & vegetables, the food we eat does go far beyond that!

Vegan chefs took home the trophy at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational with a nondairy cheese winner, and vegan bakers have dominated the butter-and-egg fest that is Cupcake Wars…twice!  Chloe Coscarelli and Doron Petersan both earned top honors with nondairy creations.   In fact the best Macaroni & Cheese I’ve ever had is made fresh at Washington, DC’s Everlasting Life Cafe, an all vegan and 100% gluten-free soul food restaurant!   Yes…vegan soul food!  Since going vegan, I have been exposed to so many new and different vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods.   Your creativity and imagination are the only limit when it comes to preparing incredibly delicious vegan dishes!

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Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…and Elephants too

The life of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey baby elephant.

For many, the idea of a family trip to the circus may be described as fun, adventurous, and entertaining.   For many, a family trip to the circus is a tradition of sorts…something that one grew up doing and has carried on the tradition within their own family.   Fortunately for me, the closest thing I ever saw to a circus when I was growing up was the trapeze acrobats performing at the Las Vegas Circus Circus hotel.  My dad was not fond of the circus, and it wasn’t until I grew up that I finally realized why.  In 2006 a friend of mine had free tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Anaheim Pond in Southern California.   Little did I know this would be my first and last circus that involved animals.   Amidst all the fancy costumes, high-tech lighting, and special effects…were the quite clearly depressed, neglected, and miserable animals being forced to perform for the massive and very loud audience.  We wound up leaving about 40 minutes before the circus ended, as we I just couldn’t sit there and watch what I was witnessing.

After years of abuse, Tyke escaped from a circus, killing her ‘trainer’ before running out the door to get outside, then she was shot to death by police. She was shot nearly 100 times and it took two hours for her to die on the street.

How is this still allowed in the 21st century?   Money.   Money has everything to do with it.  circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (the largest and most profitable show of its kind in history) have a bulk of cash to fight allegations and charges, manipulate the law, and buy their way out of trouble.   They also try to deceive their consumers with such programs as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in hopes that it will take the pressure and eyes off their ongoing abuse toward elephants and other animals used and exploited in their shows.   Fortunately, countless animal rights advocacy groups as well as local & federal law enforcement agencies are cracking down on this ongoing problem, but it will remain a problem until we ban circuses from using and exploiting animals in their revenue making productions.

Here are 15 Reasons to Boycott the Circus provided by Florida Voices for Animals:

1. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses.  Because of continued abuse of circus elephants, there is a pending lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

2. Many people claim that circuses are conservation programs for endangered species (such as the Asian elephant).  However no circus animal has ever been released to the wild and the conservation claim is merely a way to justify the exploitation of animals for profit.

3. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment. However, the US lags behind.

4. Elephants are trained to perform unnatural acts by the use of a “bullhook”, which is a 2-3 foot long club or stick with a sharp metal hook attached to the top.  It is repeatedly used to beat, hit and poke the animals, often leaving permanent scars.  There are numerous undercover videos and testimony from past circus employees corroborating this information.


5. Heavy, metal, and short chains are used to confine circus elephants.  The elephants are chained by one front leg and one back leg, preventing them from laying down.  The chaining of elephants also prevents them from interacting with other elephants, which is a natural behavior for elephants as they are very social creatures.

6. Ringling Brothers typically transport the elephants from city to city by train, chained by one front foot and one back foot and unable to lay down.  They are also kept in cramped conditions for over eight hours without stopping for water.  They are trained for 11 months and the one month they are not being trained, they are still confined in horrid conditions.

7. Elephant transportation vehicles lack climate control and are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.  The are compacted into small spaces for days on end.

8. In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day.  In addition to the physical abuse of circus elephants, they are also deprived of their freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behavior, which includes socializing with other elephants.

 9. Although minimum legal protections are provided in the Animal Welfare Act, the law does not provide adequate protection for circus animals.  Often a veterinarian isn’t even on site and local vets are not knowledgeable about the unique medical needs of exotic animals.  Circuses are frequently cited by the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, for failure to keep veterinary records, for providing moldy or rancid food and no water, for storing chemicals near the animals’ food supply, and for stocking expired medications.

10. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act.  These circuses are almost always given a slap on the wrist and forced to pay a minimal fine.

11. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is very difficult because the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcement, only has 100 inspectors to monitor conditions at approximately 12,000 facilities.

12. Although poaching is a problem in Africa, there are wildlife conservation parks that are constantly patrolled to ensure the safety of animals.  Elephant poaching has decreased since the highly enforced ban on the possession and sale of ivory.  In recent years, the elephant population has significantly increased due to conservation efforts.

13. Although circuses claim that they are a form of educating the public about elephants, there is no education in watching the exploitation of elephants that are cruelly trained to perform unnatural acts.  Circuses teach children that it is acceptable to exploit animals.  No research has been shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the status of an endangered species.

14. Elephants in the circus, regardless of how much they are “trained”, are still wild animals capable of and have a history of lashing out, escaping, and thus posing a risk to public safety.

15. Elephants in the circus often carry diseases such as tuberculosis (aka “TB”) and can infect humans with this disease.  Note that there is no cure for this disease in either elephants or humans.

The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, jump through rings of fire, or piggy-back each other.  To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

Please do NOT support any animal circus.  Animal abuse is not entertainment.   Together we can make a difference.   Please visit the following links below for a list if animal-free circuses as well as a petition to demanding action to help ailing elephants.

List of Animal-Free Circuses (PETA) 

Take Action to Help Ailing Elephants (PETA)

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