BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 01 November '15

The Vegan Society’s Elena Orde on the benefits of going vegan

Interest in veganism is at an all-time high, with more people than ever switching to a plant-based diet.

Chances are you’ve heard of various celebrities going vegan, and almost everyone knows someone who has taken animal products out of their lives. So what has caused this upsurge in what was once a fringe movement?

Vegfest success – 1,700 people go vegan after 2015’s Vegfest Bristol and Brighton

Why go vegan?

Since The Vegan Society formed in 1944, animal rights has been the main reason its members have gone vegan – a fact that remains true to this day.

However, the society’s most recent member survey showed that other considerations, such as health and the environment, are becoming increasingly important.

For World Vegan Day, 1 November, I took the opportunity to speak to three people about their personal journeys to veganism, and why they could never go back.

Vegan for health

The misconception that vegans lack nutrition is fading fast, accelerated by the swathes of plant-based athletes excelling in every field – from long distance running to bodybuilding – in recent years.

Many cite veganism as the driver behind their success, speaking of reduced recovery times and improved endurance.

‘Going vegan often means enjoying numerous health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more.’

Dr Terri Holloway, qualified nutritionist

Vegans generally have a lower BMI than vegetarians and meat eaters, and can expect to live longer than other dietary groups.

Going vegan can also help to manage many existing health problems. Jess, for example, went vegan after a diagnosis of lupus, a condition which attacks the immune system.

‘I decided I had to pay more attention to my diet’, Jess said. ‘Alongside joint pain and general achiness, chronic fatigue was something that really affected me before I went vegan. Although I still have the occasional flare-up, my symptoms have reduced dramatically, and I now have so much more energy.’

Vegan for the planet

We are all encouraged to make environmentally conscious choices, like turning off unnecessary lights and taking reusable bags to the shops.

While these steps help, it is increasingly becoming clear that the impact of animal farming on the environment is a far more pressing concern – animal agriculture has a greater carbon footprint than all transport combined. It is in our diets, therefore, where we can make the biggest difference.

Amanda discovered veganism through a desire to protect the planet. ‘It was the huge environmental impact of animal farming that finally pushed me to fully commit to vegan living’, she said. ‘Despite always recycling and not owning a car, I found I was still using far more than my global share of natural resources because I was still consuming animal products.’

It takes enormous quantities of land, water and energy to grow crops to feed to the farmed animals we then eat. At a time of rapidly growing population and resource scarcity, it’s far more efficient to grow crops to eat ourselves.

Vegan for the animals

Animal rights remains a key reason to go vegan. Documentaries like Earthlings have informed and educated hundreds of thousands of people about the reality of animal farming, while social media continues to provide a popular platform for raising awareness around the treatment of animals.

Many choose to avoid eating meat because they want to avoid harming animals, but more people than ever are now realising that other animal products, like milk, cheese and eggs, also contribute to immense suffering.

Ian said, ‘I went vegan after discovering the cruelty behind the dairy industry. I couldn’t believe it. I used to think that cows naturally produced milk for humans, but this isn’t the case. Like humans, cows only produce milk after getting pregnant, which they become typically through artificial insemination.

‘Their calves are taken away from them moments after birth, and the males are killed. Although I liked the taste of dairy products, once I became aware I couldn’t justify contributing to an industry that causes so much pain and suffering.’

If you want to learn more about a vegan lifestyle, sign up to The Vegan Society’s 30-Day Vegan Pledge, a free service that sends daily emails with info, tips and advice with delicious recipes. It could be the best decision you ever make.

Click here to find out more about the Vegan Society.