Reason #1: It shows respect for animals and lets them live a dignified existence.
I grew up primarily in a rural environment.
My father was a carpenter and my mother was a schoolteacher, and they both loved the idea of raising as much of their own food as they could.
We often raised chickens, had a few pigs, goats that we milked and so on that we would slaughter ourselves.
Growing up this way, with meat being a huge part of our diet and culture, vegetarianism just made no sense to me.
It wasn’t until I was exposed to some of the horrors that animals experience in the food industry (laying hens jammed into small cages for their whole adult lives with barely enough room to turn around, slaughterhouses where many animals’ throats are slashed to drain blood more easily, etc.) that I started connecting the dots.
I realized that these were mothers, fathers and children being sent to slaughter that would much rather live a simple, peaceful life rather than being poked, prodded and confined their whole life just so I could have my steak and milkshakes.
I tried justifying it for a long time, but eventually did what I knew was right and became vegetarian in 2005 and vegan in 2007.
I’ve never looked back.
Reason #2: You can get all the nutrients you need from plant sources.
I think that a lot of people eliminate animal products from their diet because they’ve made the ethical connection I described above, but there are people who do it for health reasons as well.
This was something I grew into as I learned more about the benefits of being vegan.
A huge concern for a lot of people is where they will get their protein, among other things. While protein is certainly important in a diet, I personally believe it is overemphasized in terms of what the body needs.
When I am not on tour, I’m at the gym lifting weights for about two hours a day. I also train for and run marathons. From the research I’ve done, plant-based sources like nuts, seeds, legumes - even green leafy vegetables like kale - are quite sufficient for supplying a body with the protein and the amino acids it needs following an intense workout.
Ultra-triathelete Rich Roll, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, ex-NHLer Georges Laraque, and MMA fighters Jake Shields, Mac Danzig and Nick Diaz are just a few of the athletes who excel in their sports while maintaining a plant-based diet.
Reason #3: The environment.
The amount of pollutants that make it into the ground, water sources and the air that are directly related to factory farming is alarming.
For instance, at home here in southern Manitoba, we can clearly see some of the environmental concerns associated with large-scale livestock operations.
At the end of May 2011, scientists from the University of Regina and University of Alberta concluded that the abnormal phosphorous levels in Lake Winnipeg are partly due to livestock farming.
This certainly needs to be addressed in a more proactive way by our government.
There are times I cringe at the idea of coming off as perhaps judgmental or militant when the topic of veganism comes up, but I think it’s important to share what you are passionate about when given the opportunity.
What we choose to eat can be a polarizing and complex issue in our society, so please just take this as one man’s view.
Live and let live!
Jeremy Hiebert plays guitar in Comeback Kid, a band he co-founded in 2000. You can read more about what it’s like to be a vegan in a touring band by visiting his blog at http://veganbanddude.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jeremyhiebert
Published in Volume 66, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 7, 2012)