When I first became vegan it was purely an attempt to chase the well documented health benefits of plant based eating. It worked for me too but I quickly realized that most people were skeptical of health claims by vegans and there was plenty of industry sponsored research to back up beliefs that bacon and butter were health foods. It was an uphill battle so I just stayed quiet in my little word and reaped the benefits of personal change and health improvements.
It took a long time for me but eventually I came around to an ethical change of heart where animal rights became something I was aware of and began to feel strongly about. We all want to feel like we are good people (and most of us are) so the contradiction of keeping some animals for companions and eating other animals never occurs to us as a moral dilemma when we are omnivores. It came as quite a shock to me when I started to be disturbed by the slaughter of animals but time changed my opinion and made me a softer person. The big issue with ethical vegans though is they tend to be radical and judgemental creating a rift of tension with their meat eating community. That is hardly helpful in encouraging change. Plus I find most ethical first vegans lean toward being junk food vegans and don't lend themselves to being a good example of health and abundance. To generalize they treat veganism like a badge of honour and themselves as martyrs for the cause failing to realize most people don't wish to live at the extreme spectrum of opinion.
But there is a third reason people become interested in a plant based diet and that is the environment. I've always considered myself an environmentalist, I own a small fuel efficient car, I've made my home environmentally friendly and I buy things with the environment in mind. I'm also a believer that global warming is real and dangerous to our future as a thriving creature on our planet. But as an argument to go vegan I just never thought it would have much traction with people in general. A strange thing has happened though since Cowspiracy became widely available on the mainstream Netflix. People are talking about it. I've received several Facebook messages, and private comments from friends that know I'm vegan telling me how much it has impacted their opinion. Unlike the arguments for health and ethics the environmental movement has people paying attention in a way I've never seen.
All I can figure is that unlike nutrition which is hotly debated even among experts and ethics which are an individual thing the environmental argument is hard to refute. Even if you don't dig into the compelling science of how animal agriculture and fishing impact the environment common sense will tell you that simply raising crops to then feed to animals is wasteful. Then considering those animals poop, drink massive amounts of water and require vast areas of land to live on it is hard to believe anyone can say it's good for our world to continue on as we are. Even if we all went back to eating meat once or twice a week as all but the very rich did not so long ago it would massively improve our environmental issues. Heck even meatless Mondays or a Vegan Before 6 approach would have a greater impact on our environment than trading your SUV in for a Prius.
I'll admit I'm shocked at the reception the documentary has received. I guess I didn't have enough faith. Lets hope that those watching follow through to make changes, even small ones. There really isn't a need to jump into 100% perfect vegan living, modest changes can go a long way. Hopefully those that do make changes start noticing health benefits for themselves and become even more enthusiastic for plant based eating. Either way I've been feeling hopeful. This brings the vegan conversation into a positive light, one it richly deserves.