The decision of whether or not to consume animal products is a personal one, albeit one with far-reaching impacts. As an animal rights lawyer, you might expect me to take a definitive stance on the moral implications of that decision, and offer my reasons. Rather than do that, the idea that I want to put forward is that the decision to consume animal products should be an educated one. Taking the time to learn about the processes through which food gets to your plate might allow you to develop a more intimate relationship with your meal. Whether or not you follow an entirely plant-based diet, your dietary choices have the power to mitigate the harmful effects that animal agriculture has on both the animals and our environment. Choosing to consume fewer animal products, or replacing a few meals a week with plant-based alternatives, can be a fun way to get re-inspired in the kitchen and to cook in a way that aligns with your values.
Many of us do not educate ourselves on the sad reality of what happens to animals who are exploited by the food industry. We do not engage in purposeful reflection, likely because doing so would evoke some level of discomfort within ourselves that we do not want to face. The reality is that animals are sentient beings. They can experience a vast array of emotions, and they feel pain and suffering. If we thought about this every time that we consumed an animal product, our meals would likely be far harder to enjoy, especially for those of us who consider our companion animals as members of the family.
The first step in moving towards a more animal-friendly way of living is educating ourselves and taking the time to sit with whatever emotions or discomforts arise when we do so; to allow ourselves to process in mind and body what it means to make this choice. Consider which options are in alignment with your true morals and values.
The second step is to incorporate mindfulness when making food choices. So, where can we start? You can commit to finding out more about where your animal products are coming from and how the animals are treated. It has been well documented that conventional farming standards allow for widespread animal cruelty while the animals are being raised, during the transport of animals, and in the slaughtering process, as profits are put far above considerations of animal welfare. For example, Canada has no regulations governing how animals on farms are treated outside of standard Federal and Provincial animal cruelty laws. Their laws apply only once conditions and treatment have far passed what many would argue are morally acceptable standards, and into the realm of horrifying and egregious cruelty. Regulations around transportation and slaughter of animals not only allow grossly inhumane treatment of animals, but the few rules that are in place are often not enforced.
Upon further research, you may also debunk some common myths about veganism. Several documentaries shine a light on the benefits of a plant-based diet. For instance, The Game Changers is a recent Netflix released documentary that highlights many world-renowned athletes who follow a plant-based diet. They address the misconception that animal protein is necessary for muscle growth or peak athletic performance. The documentary counters the stereotypes sometimes associated with a plant-based diet, including the notion that meat-eating is inherent to masculinity, or that “real men” must eat meat. This is an effective marketing tactic for the meat industry but can be damaging to our conception of self, of others, and animals. It can be easy to ignore the fact that the beef burger or chicken fingers on your plate was once a sentient being. Game Changers calls this “flexible morality”- the idea that we can care so much for animals in our home, or specific species we connect with, but turn our minds away from the issues when it becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable. Instead, try out some plant-based burgers, or delicious bean burritos like those featured in the documentary. Reflect on how consuming animal products influences your conception of self and see how you feel after incorporating more plants and fewer animals into your diet.
Decreasing your consumption of animal products can have a significant impact on animal welfare. Already we can see the difference that plant-based alternatives are having. In 2018, dairy sales in the United States decreased by 1.1 billion dollars. Meanwhile, vegan milk-alternatives have risen by 61% in the last five years . Contributing to this positive difference can be as simple as opting for oat or almond milk at the grocery store. You may even find that you prefer the taste. Supporting sustainable practices instead of the exploitation and environmental harm caused by the dairy industry is a compassionate choice that you can feel good about.
If you don’t think that an entirely plant-based lifestyle is right for you at the moment, consider testing out a new plant-based recipe each week focusing on your favorite types of cuisines. Making changes to your diet and your purchases do not require an all-or-nothing approach. You can try easing into the lifestyle with Meatless Monday and join a global movement of conscious individuals looking to make a change. When you are ready, try an immersive, 22-day vegan challenge with the organization Challenge22. With this free program, you can join thousands of other people, be guided by mentors and registered dieticians, and get access to many plant-based recipes to try out. Using the myriad online resources available may help you feel confident and informed in your decision to eat more plant-based foods.
Each day is filled with choices that can make a positive difference, and you have an opportunity to make those choices each time you sit down to eat. I hope that through your journey of self-discovery, you will meaningfully consider the well-being of animals and make choices that naturally align with what you believe. You can make simple, everyday choices to incorporate more plant-based options and get creative in the kitchen. A plant-based lifestyle doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive, or perfect. You can feel great about incorporating a lifestyle that does not cause animals to suffer, but rather advocates for a kinder world.
Humane Canada, “Realities of Farming in Canada” online: <https://www.humanecanada.ca/realities_of_farming_in_canada>.
 Psihoyos, Louis, dir. The Game Changers. ReFuel Productions, 2018.
 Gross, Oli. “Dairy milk sales plummet by 1.1 billion as plant milk popularity soars.” Totally Vegan Buzz,https://www.totallyveganbuzz.com/news/dairy-milk-sales-plummeted-by-1-1-billion-plant-based-alternatives-continue-to-soar/.
 Meatless Monday, online: <https://www.meatlessmonday.com/>/
 Challenge22, online: <https://challenge22.com/>.