HELEN BURTON: New year, new vegan diet

Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001
Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001

I’ve started the year by joining in with Veganuary along with thousands of other people who are eating vegan for the month of January to see how they get on. I’ve been pescatarian (only eating fish but no meat) for most of my life, but with all the research I’ve done into living an ethical lifestyle I’ve known for a while that veganism is the most ethical way of eating, however it’s a big step to take, so trying it for a month seems like a good idea. If you are not sure of the benefits then there are two main issues.

The first issue is obviously compassion for animals. I don’t eat meat because I think it is unnecessary to kill animals in order to eat them, I have always had a perfectly healthy diet without the need for animals to be killed on my behalf. Vegans also believe it is wrong to raise dairy herds because dairy cows are separated from their young at birth so that humans can take their milk. Male calves are then killed. If you really think about the trauma of an animal having its baby removed at birth then it becomes easier to see why vegans choose to cut dairy out of their diet. There are plenty of videos online about how distressed the mothers become if you need evidence.

The second issue is a concern for the planet. Raising animals for meat and dairy requires a lot of land, not just in keeping them but also in order to grow food to feed them. In the UK alone 70 per cent of agricultural land is used to raise animals for food or to grow the food they eat, but if we all ate a plant based diet then only a third of this land would be needed to and there would also be a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. More than 90 per cent of all cleared Amazon rainforest is used for meat production, and more than half the water used in the world is used to raise animals. They are shocking figures aren’t they? At the recent UN climate change conference in Paris meat consumption was firmly on the agenda, with unlikely planet champion Arnold Schwarzenegger urging people to avoid eating meat to save the planet.

I’m not sure how I’ll get on but at the moment I’m loving it. The facts on the benefits of veganism are undeniable and it feels good to know I’m doing what I can for animal welfare and the planet, but after 44 years some habits are hard to break, especially when it comes to food. At the moment I’m focusing on what I can eat rather than what I can’t. In Eastbourne we have a vegan shop in the Enterprise Centre, Oh My Goodness which has some interesting things to try and a lot of vegan foods are becoming more widely available as veganism becomes more mainstream. I’ll let you know how I get on!