Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why You Should Be Vegan

The essay below is one that I wrote last year for my students as a model of a persuasive essay. I'm a teacher of fifth grade students, so keep in mind that this is aimed at ten- and eleven-year-olds. I'm planning on having my current students read it tomorrow (Thursday). If their reactions are anything like I remember, I'll post some of their comments, anonymously, of course.

As I’m sure you’re already aware, I am a vegan, which means I’m a strict vegetarian who doesn’t eat any product that comes from animals, including milk and eggs. It works for me and many other people all around the world. And it can work for you too. You should adopt a vegan diet because it’s healthy, it’s cruelty-free, and it’s cheaper than being an omnivore.

One reason being vegan is better is because it’s healthy. First of all, if you don’t eat meat, you’re not consuming cholesterol. And cholesterol you don’t need to eat, because your body can make all it needs. Scientists have found that many fruits and vegetables are not only highly nutritious, giving you all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates you need without all the fat, but they help prevent disease. Blueberries, for example, are one of the highest in antioxidants, which are important in fighting free radicals that could lead to cancer. The American Heart Association recommends eating “a variety of fruits and vegetables a day” because they know from all the research that a low-fat, high-fiber diet helps prevent heart attacks and stroke.

It’s cruelty-free. I mean, really, who wants to eat food with a face? It’s just gross!!! Those poor, unsuspecting animals were just trying to get by, just like the rest of us and then BAM they’re dead, cut up into pieces, wrapped in plastic, and shipped to your local neighborhood grocery store. Animals have feelings just like us, even chickens and cows, and they shouldn’t have to suffer and die for us to have a nice meal. You can have a perfectly fine meal without meat at all. Look at all the dishes from around the world that are already vegetarian: red beans and rice, falafels in pita bread, miso soup with tofu, and so on. I’m sure you can think of even more. And we don’t need to take milk away from cows either. That’s cruel too. Cow’s milk is for baby cows, not for humans. Think about it!

Have you been to the grocery store lately? When you were there did you compare the cost of a pound of beef to a pound of tofu? Of course you didn’t, so I did it for you. Yet another reason that being vegan is better than being an omnivore is that it’s cheaper. By the way, a pound of tofu costs about $1.29 to $1.49 per pound, $0.20 extra for the nice organic tofu, while even cheap, fatty, nasty-tasting hamburger I wouldn’t feed to my worst enemy’s dog still costs about $2.29 a pound. Salmon and cod cost $6.99 a pound, porterhouse steak costs $5.99 a pound, chicken strips are $4.99 a pound, and pork loin roast costs $3.49 a pound. All of those prices, by the way, are the weekly specials that are discounted more than the regular price, while tofu always costs about the same. All meats cost more than the meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, and seitan that vegans eat, because all of those come from plants not animals. It’s just cheaper to raise plants than it is to raise animals. It’s just plain old common sense.

People are always saying to me, “What do you eat?” It’s hard not being sarcastic after a while, because I feel like I’m VeganMan, poster child of the vegan movement. So, I politely say, “I eat fruits, vegetables, and grains. You know, all the stuff on the food pyramid, except meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products, like milk and cheese.” Yeah, being vegan does take a little bit more work than being an omnivore. I can’t just walk into most fast food places and order whatever I want off the menu. But, being vegan doesn’t mean I’m deprived of anything. I get plenty of protein; you don’t have to eat meat or drink milk to get enough protein. And I still enjoy foods like cookies, muffins, and ice cream; it just has to be made with soymilk and soy margarine instead of cow’s milk and butter, which comes from cows, by the way. Now I’m not saying you’ll never have a heart attack if you’re vegan, but why wouldn’t you reduce your risk if you could? And the thing is, you can. It’s totally up to you. You choose what you want to eat. If you can talk your parents into buying you toys and other stuff you want, surely you can talk them into buying you healthy, cheap, cruelty-free vegan food.

So, I have to be a little more careful and selective. I have to read food labels and politely say, “No, thank you,” when people offer me food a lot of times. But for me, it’s worth it being vegan. I know that my food choices keep me healthy, are right for my beliefs about suffering, and it’s easy on my checkbook. Go vegan!

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