European Vegetarian Union

Why and how vegan

By Alex Bourke

from European Vegetarian, Issue 1/2000
 

Why vegan
A cow produces milk only after she has had a calf. Every year we make her pregnant and kill her calf so that we can take her milk. After four calves we kill and eat the cow when she is about seven years old, even though she should live for twenty, because she is now less productive. 70% of beef comes from milk cows. Beef, milk and veal are all one business, all the same bloody, animal slave industry. It is just the same for chickens and eggs.
Around 50% of male meat eaters in America die of heart disease. For vegetarians the figure is 25%. For vegans it is only 4%. Meat has 40% of calories from fat, but cheese has 70%. Eggs are the richest source of cholesterol. Cheese and eggs are as much junk food as a hamburger. Plants contain no cholesterol and, apart from avocados and coconut, little saturated fat. Vegans who eat well get less than 10% of calories from fat, have zero cholesterol intake, have blood cholesterol levels below 150, and have virtually no heart disease. The story for cancer is similar, with the free radicals that cause it coming from animal products and pollution, and the anti-oxidant vitamins that destroy it being found only in plants.
In the United Kingdom in 1991 300,000 people caught salmonella from chicken and eggs, and 100 died. 350,000 got campylobacter from poultry and milk. 400 got listeria from pate and soft cheeses, of whom 100 died. 500 got E. coli from beef of whom 50 died. 5,000 got staphylococcus from meat, cream, custard and processed foods, and 5 died. 95% of food poisoning comes from animal products, and the rest is from cross-contamination in the kitchen. My kitchen is vegan. I never have to sterilise surfaces or tools or my fridge, because nothing dangerous lives there.

How Going Vegan
Man eats lots of animal products. He has a 40% chance of dying early from heart disease, and the same chance of cancer, not to mention plenty of other diseases like osteoporosis and diabetes which are rare in vegans. When he becomes vegan he says goodbye to milk, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and ice cream and hello to soya milk, or rice milk, or oat milk, or almond or cashew milk, and hello also to tofu, soya yoghurt, soya ice-cream, beans, nuts, grains, seitan and textured vegetable protein.

  

After Going Vegan
Six months later the same man is now much better looking. He is eating beans, pasta, rice, tofu, soya milk and lots of fruit and vegetables. His intelligence has increased. Fortunately his insurance company is not charging him extra because they do not yet know that a vegan will probably live much longer in retirement than a meat eater or even a veg-eat-dairy-an.
If you want to move towards a vegan diet, contact your national vegetarian or vegan organisation, where there will surely be some vegans to help you. To get you started, there is lots of information on the website of the Vegan Society (www.vegansociety.com) and they have an excellent catalogue of books. If you find a book too much to read in English, Viva! produced twelve excellent little guides of about 8-20 pages on each of the main areas of animal rights and vegan/vegetarian diet, and a beginner's guide to veganism called "The L-Plate Vegan". One book I recommend is 'Why Vegan' by Kath Clements, which is available in German from the SVV.
The old four food groups (meat, dairy, fruit/vegetables, grains) have been abolished in the USA, thanks to lobbying by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), representing 5,000 doctors using vegan diet to treat all the major western diseases. They recommend the four new food groups which are whole grains (pasta, rice, bread etc), pulses or legumes (peas, beans, lentils, tofu, soy milk, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein), fruit, and vegetables, particularly green ones for vitamin C, and dark yellow and orange vegetables for beta-carotene. Add to this some nuts and seeds. You can read more on their website at www.pcrm.org.

Vegan cooking
When you start cooking vegan style, you could go for a plate with 50% whole grains for carbohydrate, protein and B vitamins; 25% green vegetables for vitamins and fibre; 25% orange and yellow vegetables for beta-carotene; and a few pulses for protein, fibre, iron and B vitamins. You will find that a vegan diet contains every nutrient you need including plenty of calcium and essential linoleic and linolenic fatty acids, but without the cholesterol, saturated fat, microbes, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics that you'll find in all animal products, especially cheese and eggs.
Let me emphasise one crucial point for you to reflect on:
All the benefits of a vegetarian diet come exclusively from its vegan component. Cheese has more fat than meat and comes from the same place. Eggs have more cholesterol than chicken and come from the same place. Neither contain any fibre, carbohydrate, or anything that you will not find much more healthily in plant foods.

Myths
There is a myth that we need dairy products for calcium and protein. However there is not one single case in the medical literature of dietary calcium deficiency in a calorie sufficient diet. The countries with the highest consumption of dairy products (North America, Netherlands, Britain, Scandinavia) have the highest rates of osteoporosis, even though they consume up to 1000mg of calcium a day, twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation. Only Eskimos have a higher calcium consumption, and they in fact have the very highest rate of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is not a disease of calcium deficiency, it is a disease of calcium loss caused in older people largely by eating too much animal protein which is disposed of using calcium from the bones. In China and Africa they eat far less animal protein and have almost no osteoporosis. The Tutsi eat only 350mg of cholesterol per day yet have strong teeth and bones.
As for protein, it is virtually impossible to be deficient on a calorie sufficient diet unless you eat a lot of sugar and alcohol. When children in Africa got healthier after being given milk, it was not because of the milk, it was because they were being given food. We know that when Africans and Chinese switch from their mainly vegan to a western animal diet, they get all the same diseases as us, because of too much fat and too much animal protein.
The dairy industry tried to discredit veganism via protein and calcium. The meat industry tried with iron, but in fact iron deficiency is no more common in vegans than in the general population. Grains, beans and leafy green vegetables have plenty, and the extra vitamin C in our diet helps to absorb it. Vegetarians might like to know that cow's milk contains virtually no iron, which is why veal is white, whereas beans contain plenty.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is another myth. There are only anecdotal cases of it in vegans in the literature, and again it is no more common amongst vegans than in the general population. No animal that we eat makes B-12, they get it from bacteria in the soil that they pull up with grass, just as early humans got it from the surface of organic vegetables or river water, or perhaps made it in their bodies. Today if we live in a sterile environment we can get B-12 from fermented foods such as miso or tempeh, or yeast products.

Vegan-Lution
Ronny and I wrote Campaign Against Cruelty - an animal activist's handbook, to help make the world vegan as fast as possible by telling you all you need to know to set up as an independent campaigner. The entire book is available free at < www.veganvillage.co.uk/miso >, and we are working on French, German and Italian editions. If you would like to help us by translating a chapter, or with other languages, please contact me. You can join or start a local group, have street stalls, arrange meetings, speak in public or to groups, produce leaflets and newsletters, get vegan food into local canteens and restaurants, organise a demonstration, and get into the press, radio and TV. We are here to help you get started. So, what are you waiting for?
If we are going to change the world, we must put our knowledge in a permanent form. We must write books about every aspect of veganism, in every language. So start writing or translating, whether it is a leaflet or an encyclopaedia.
My favourite websites are: www.vegansociety.com , www.pcrm.org, www.veganvillage.co.uk
It is up to all of us to speak out and write. Give people the knowledge to take control of their lives. Make them independent, give them the personal power to choose and prepare their own food. Give them freedom, to live totally cruelty free, and free of disease. Think about who you would like to write for, such as meat eaters, vegetarians, people with heart disease, recipes for people who are already vegan, children, or produce a vegan guide to your town for residents or just the central area for travellers.
Together we can change the world. There was a time when aeroplanes, votes for women or no slavery seemed impossible, so what is wrong with creating a vegan Europe in one generation? Nothing is impossible unless you believe it is. Today you can start planning and preparing your contribution to world veganization. Your work will change people's lives. It will remove their blocks to becoming a vegetarian or vegan. It will make people free to be their true selves, living in love with all life. There is no finer work.
If you feel isolated, I heartily recommend the book 'Jonathon Livingstone Seagull' by Richard Bach. I will not tell you why. Just read it and I promise you will understand instantly. Another great story is 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. Your work, like that of PCRM in America, will help people to break through the greatest crime by the farming and medical establishment against the people of Europe. There are two million murders in my country every day of animals, and at least two thirds of the people are killed by eating them. You can do something about this. You can help people to wake up. You can become a vegan organiser and activist.
Here are twelve steps you can take to change the world:

  1. Go vegetarian.
  2. Go vegan.
  3. Become a great cook. No one eats food because it is healthy, but because it looks good and tastes nice.
  4. Learn about nutrition.
  5. Learn about vegan babies. People will tell you it is ok for adults, but not for children. Invest in copies of Vegan Nutrition by Gill Langley and Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet by Dr Michael Klaper, both available from the Vegan Society.
  6. Get some more books and learn all about the animal rights and ecology arguments for veganism. I particularly recommend 'The Silent Ark' by Juliet Gellatley and 'Diet for a New America' by John Robbins. These steps will gain you your black belt in veganism, ready to defend yourself in any situation. Then it is time to start teaching.
  7. Become a campaigner.
  8. Join or start a local group.
  9. Read magazines to keep up to date.
  10. Tithe. This is the old system where people gave 10% of their income to the church. If your work keeps you too busy to campaign much, why not "contract out" your campaigning by giving 1% of your income to a group you like.
  11. Get skilled. Learn word processing, do a course in journalism, work as a volunteer in a vegetarian organisation. They say the pen is stronger than the sword, but with a computer you can really kick Ronald McDonald's butt.
  12. Get as much power as you can and use it for good. Become a teacher, doctor, caterer, film maker, writer or politician. If Wales can have a vegetarian Minister of Agriculture to help farmers change from producing sheep to organic vegetables, why not your country?

Zen and the Art of Campaigning
Everything that ever was, started with a dream. Take a walk, sit or lie quietly, reflect and dream. When you've formulated your dream, it is time to act. Success depends on action. Doing nothing is itself an action, and the most harmful one of all. It is called neglect.
Once you have taken your first steps, the path will reveal itself to you, and others will keep you company on it.
The only difference between success and failure is that success kept on going till she got there. Whatever obstacles you encounter, there are others already on the path waiting to help you in every way we can. Just ask.
You have the power to co-creat a vegan world. Help others to join us on the path of truth, respect and love for all life.
I will see you at the celebration when the last slaughterhouse closes.

Alex Bourke,
PO Box 2284,
London W1A 5UH.
AlexBourke@aol.com
www.veganvillage.co.uk/veggieguides
www.veganvillage.co.uk/miso

The Vegan Society,
7 Battle Rd,
St Leonards-on-Sea,
East Sussex TN37 7AA,
UK. Tel +44-1424-427393.
Fax +44-1424-717064.
Www.vegansociety.com
Viva!, 12 Queen Square, Brighton BN1 3FD, UK. Tel. +44-1273-777 688. Fax +44-1273-776 755. www.viva.org.uk

© European Vegetarian Union - http://www.euroveg.eu