Whenever I tell people I'm vegan, one of the most common responses I get is something like, Wow, good for you. I could never do that! I usually tell them that while I also used to think I could never be vegan, as it turned out, going vegan was much, much easier — and selfishly beneficial — than I ever would have imagined. I went vegan for ethical reasons, after I finally faced the video footage of the way animals are used and abused for our consumption. It wasn't until after I made the decision that I found out there were actually a bunch of selfish benefits to being vegan, too.
While I still think the humane and environmental reasons to go vegan are most important, going vegan for its health benefits is great, too — and had I known about some of these potential benefits earlier, I probably would have changed my diet sooner. Whether you're concerned about preventing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and death — or you'd simply like to feel more at home in your own body and in line with your values — there are so many reasons to give a plant-based diet a try.
It's hard to fit them all in one article, but this is my shot at listing what I think are some of the most selfish — and also totally valid — reasons to give going vegan a shot.
You'll Feel Slightly Less Helpless About Global Warming
Even the U.N. has said it: "a substantial reduction of [environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.” Animal agriculture is responsible for 91 percent of rainforest destruction, and depending on which measurements you go by, anywhere between 14 percent and 51 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. One hamburger takes as much water to make as you use in two months worth of showering, and animal waste is a leading cause of environmental pollution and fossil fuel use.
Simply put, in a world where we feel powerless to prevent global warming, one of the most powerful things we could collectively do would be to stop using animals for food.
It's A Giant F-U To Trump
Related to the item above, if you feel like President Trump doesn't speak for you, one simple way to protest him and his policies every day is to opt out of animal products. You'll be doing your part to prevent global warming, and you will also be fighting against the exploitation of migrant workers and people in low-income communities, who suffer most at the hands of an industry that profits off their labor and land. While plant-agriculture can also certainly exploit migrant workers, the factory farming industry is ranked one of the most dangerous jobs for worker injury, illness, and trauma. Working in a slaughterhouse is one of the most traumatizing jobs you could possibly have — and it is immigrants and the poorest among us who are left to do our dirty work.
You Might Feel Like Less Of A Hypocrite
This is a less tangible benefit, perhaps, but it is real. While being vegan is by no means a get-out-of-jail-free card for caring about all of the world's many problems, it is a simple thing that you can do every day to reduce your carbon footprint and live more humanely.
I didn't even know I was carrying around the weight of my disconnect between my values and the way I was eating — until they were finally in line, and I felt lighter.
You'll Probably Have More Love For All Animals
Before I became vegan, I actually didn't even consider myself much of an "animal person." Once I stopped eating them, however, I felt my heart open up completely. I visited animal sanctuaries and met the animals rescued from slaughterhouses. I was forever changed looking into a cow's big, kind eyes; realizing pigs loved their tummies rubbed, just like dogs. As Franz Kafka said of looking at a fish after he became a vegetarian, "Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore." Because I see all animals as equally worthy of freedom and life now, we are friends.
... And Maybe More Love For Human Animals, Too
Human animals suffer too, that's for sure — and being vegan has only made me generally feel more compassion for that fact. Sure, things get frustrating sometimes when I see us perpetuating the cycle of violence as a society, but in general, I find I see the animal in all of us more clearly now. We all want the same things: love, freedom, food, shelter. The violence in the world, I believe, can be distilled to the fact that too many of us lack one or more of those basic needs.
Going vegan was so much easier than I thought it would be that it has empowered me to be more active about seeing what other everyday things I can do to help humans, animals, and the environment. I only buy ethically-made clothes and products now, and try to otherwise be a more responsible consumer and person every day. Realizing this was always possible — and that I myself had this much capacity to change the way I see the world and behave — gives me hope for all of our capacities to live in peace one day. And selfishly, that feels nice.