The movie was called Earthlings, an award-winning documentary about humanity’s use of other animals for food, pets, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research. “That was the day I went vegetarian,” Emina says. Recommended to her by her younger sister, the movie motivated Emina to find out more about what she eats and wears. “In 2013 I went vegan because I realized that the milk and egg industry are as cruel as the meat industry – if not more so – and I decided not to be part of this system anymore,” she adds.
The habit of eating animals is declining around the world, and more and more people decide to quit it every day. Some estimates say there are around 400 million vegetarians in the world, out of which 0,5 percent are vegans, who do not eat animals, nor use any animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, leather, fur, or cosmetics derived from animal products.
At the heart of veganism is the core principle that animals are not rightfully possesed by humans, and thus should not be exploited. “I realized that sentient beings, like animals, have the same capacity to suffer and feel as humans,” says twenty-five-year old Ibrahim from Sarajevo, who became vegan almost four years ago. Photos and videos showing brutal slaughter, and the unbearable torture of millions of animals and their suffering in animal farms is what made him and many other people decide to stop using any animal products.
“Being a vegan is more about changing a lifestyle than just switching to eating plants. But it starts with eating plants.” he adds, noting that his research revealed to him that veganism can offer a solution to environmental pollution and world hunger.
Many recent research studies have confirmed that animal eating and breeding, and raising and feeding animals for food is a tremendously inefficient use of our natural resources. In 2010, the UN released a report encouraging a global move away from animal products. The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment - from the feed and water required to bring the animals to slaughter, to the industry maintenance and transportation. It is confirmed by different sources that the vast amount of grain feed required for the meat and dairy industry is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss, and species extinction.
Besides having benefits for the environment, many experts agree that a vegan diet is one of the healthiest ways to live. Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown in studies to raise a person's risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a number of other illnesses and conditions. Last year, even the World Health Organization confirmed that eating animals can cause serious health problems.
“I had big health issues with my digestive system, and they disappeared the moment I stopped consuming cow milk. I feel stronger, and I have started caring about my food,” says Emina.
Research shows that since a vegan diet relies on fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, it is richer in vitamins and minerals than any other diet. “But even if plant-based nutrition were not the healthiest option – I would still not eat animals again. I could never ever do that again.”
The so called “vegan movement” is driven by the young. The results of a new survey from Vegan Life Magazine and the Vegan Society conducted in the UK revealed that almost half of all vegans are aged 15-34, compared with just 14 percent who are over 65.
This is partly due to the Internet and social media, where young people can easily find out about animal cruelty, as well as read about inspirational role models and get general vegan tips. “Also they tend to stick less to the ’old ways’, they tend to break away from tradition and religion and incorporate new ways of thinking”, says Ibrahim: “The idea of animal suffering is easily dismissed by older people, because they tend to rely on what they have been taught by their parents, tradition, and religion when they were younger. They believe more and question less.”
However, by doing nothing more than simply living as a vegan – which means to stop supporting products and practices which exploit animals – people can greatly reduce animal suffering, improve the ecology, and take their health into their own hands.
Sounds tempting? If yes, just join the club and be the next one to make a change.