My Path To A Plant-Based Lifestyle

by | May 17, 2020 | Featured, Health & Nutrition, Social Impact

My path to a plant-based lifestyle

My personal story about how I made the decision to go plant-based is much more down-to-earth than most. No life-changing epiphanies or emotional scars, but rather a perfectly rational decision that started in late 2011 in a little upstate New York town. At the time I was taking part in a study-abroad program at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY. The picturesque little town that was painted yellow for the fall season was a suitable backdrop for a life-changing decision.

A longtime vegetarian

As a longtime animal lover who also happened to be vegetarian (no meat or fish, a lot of dairy and eggs), one of the elective classes I took was called Animal Law. As an aspiring lawyer, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit about how the US legal system dealt with animals. Boy was I right. In the class we learned mainly about the efforts to protect pets and wild animals, but there was one class toward the middle of the semester that I will never forget. A guest speaker was brought in to discuss the legal status of animals in the animal industries.

This would be a good place to mention that when I decided to drop meat from my menu at age 13, I did it for purely emotional reasons. I liked animals, so I figured I shouldn’t eat them. But in the 10 years since I’d never given much thought to what the lives of animals that produce our food looked like. This changed in two hours of eye-opening class discussion. The guest speaker, a lawyer that worked to strengthen the legal protection accorded to animals in the food industry, was a passionate man. He had to be, since he dedicated his career to fight for some of the most oppressed creatures on earth. He didn’t have an agenda. He came into class and told us of some of the recent activity in the space, and then opened the class for discussions. When the questions started coming about why it was so important to focus on these animals, the grim reality came out.

Learning the truth about the lives of animals

We came to know things we had never known- never could’ve imagined. Chickens are crammed into cages so small they can’t even spread their wings for years, and have the tips of their beaks chopped off with a burning blade. Pregnant pig mothers are held in cages that don’t even allow them to turn around. Male chicks are killed on their first day of life, either by gassing or grinding. Grinding?! Yes, grinding. Male pigs have their tails snipped and their testicles removed without anesthesia. And two things stuck with me in particular: first, that all these physical tortures paled in comparison to the pain of a mother cow when her calf is torn away from her so that her milk isn’t ‘wasted’ on it. And second, while all animals used for food suffer immensely, animals in the egg and dairy industries suffer the most. Wait, what?! I had become a vegetarian because I didn’t want to hurt animals, but this guy was saying that by consuming dairy and eggs I was actually paying the companies that were inflicting the most pain on them.

Making the decision: a 100% plant-based lifestyle

Of course I didn’t just take his word for it. I started studying the topic. The internet is loaded with information on animal industries, and it wasn’t too hard to find that our guest speaker wasn’t exaggerating. Animal industries aim to maximize profit, which requires them to minimize the costs of raising the animals, which results in the inhumane practices mentioned above (there are many, many more). That’s when I started considering becoming 100% plant-based. How could I support these inhumane practices? My next step was to look into the health impact of adopting a 100% plant-based lifestyle. And what do you know- most health organizations (Harvard, USDA etc.) actually support a largely plant-based lifestyle (100% or close to it). And as a bonus, it’s great for the environment! Okay, I was convinced. Plant-based was the way to go! The only thing standing in my way now was my love for dairy. But as I mentioned above, this was a completely rational decision. My appetite for dairy versus living a life that was true to my values and good for my health- for me it was a no-brainer.

A few days after going home I told my family that I was going to cut eggs and dairy from my diet. They thought I was a little crazy at first, but they quickly got used to it. Today they’re all about 70% plant-based, and they admire my choice. Living in Japan, I often get asked if my plant-based lifestyle is part of my religion or family habit. Well, here you have it- a completely personal, unexpected and logical decision that I’m extremely grateful for having made.

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Ofer Reish

I believe that animals are here to share the Earth with us, not to satisfy our desires. This led me to drop meat from my menu at an early age. In 2011, after learning about the process involved in the production of eggs and dairy, I started researching about veganism and decided to become plant-based. As I continue to learn and experiment, I still marvel at the many benefits that a plant-based lifestyle offers. I’ve lectured in schools about animal welfare and I hope that through veggino, we can help people in Japan explore this life-changing journey. The number of plant-based people worldwide has been skyrocketing in recent years, and it’s Japan’s turn now!

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