People go plant based for lots of different reasons- for their health, for the environment, to save the animals, because it’s trendy, for religious reasons… and sometimes a mixture of the above.

I went vegan a few years ago because I couldn’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for my food, which was the most common reason back then. There wasn’t much available literature around the environmental impacts and health benefits, and most people assumed that if you didn’t eat meat you were lacking nutritionally.

As more information comes out about the negative impact that animal agriculture has on our bodies and the environment, going vegan has become a well-rounded lifestyle choice, and has increased in popularity because of this.

What the Health, Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy are all some really great documentaries highlighting the impacts of eating meat and animal products, which has sparked a rise veganism and vegetarianism.  

For some, veganism is more of a dietary decision, either for losing weight or to lower cholesterol, and is often referred to as “plant-based”. While for others, it is a way of life and perhaps even a moral compass. Veganism means to avoid animal flesh and products, but also includes by-products like dairy, honey, leather and wool. To me it also means to live life with love for all creatures.

Personally, veganism is a lifestyle. People often ask me if veganism is my religion, and I guess you could say that in a way it is. I wouldn't consider myself religious, but veganism is similar to a religion as they’re both a way of life, lived to a certain set of beliefs. My veganism is less a diet and more a religion, due to how I apply it to everyday life.

I believe that when you go vegan or vegetarian (for whatever reason) it broadens your mind and you begin to think of the ramifications of all your actions. For example, going vegan for the animals makes you eliminate your predisposition to speciesism and carnism, engrained in us from a young age by our habit of loving some animals and eating others.

(Speciesism: the assumption of human superiority to other living things, leading to the exploitation of animals... Carnism: the belief that some animals are superior to others, the reason why we believe it's ok to eat cows but not dogs).

Once you realise this way of thinking is wrong, you also eliminate all kinds of preferential or discriminatory thinking and extend compassion and love to all living creatures. It’s not a direct link, but I think there is definitely a more open-minded and accepting community within vegans and vegetarians with issues like racism, sexism, religion and sexuality.

Veganism teaches that all living creatures deserve respect and happiness. Not only that, those who openly practice a plant-based lifestyle have probably been subject to some scornful comments from those who don’t share their beliefs.

With plant-based, veganism and vegetarianism being a minority in the western world, mainstream society doesn’t share the same views- opening us up to criticism and discrimination in some situations. This also broadens our mind and allows us to experience what it is like for other minority groups around the world, and the negative way society can treat those small groups.

Due to these reasons, I do believe those who engage in a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle are more likely to show open-mindedness, empathy and compassion to all living creatures, no matter their race, sexual orientation or species.