Sandy Winterbotom: Plant-based diet helps us, animals and the planet

Last month I was down in Nottingham for the second annual Vegan Camp Out; a gathering of around 5,000 vegans of all ages.

There is some effort involved, but the rewards of veganism are huge
There is some effort involved, but the rewards of veganism are huge

Make all the jokes you want about vegans, but the reality is that they are a group of caring, engaged, intelligent and above all, radiantly healthy people. There are families with vegan kids exploding with energy and vitality, vegan athletes and even Germany’s strongest man flexing his muscles and dispelling the myth that you need meat to build muscle.

The whole event has been organised by three youngsters; I’m guessing late teens or early twenties. They are wandering around on their phones directing security, organising the speakers and making sure everything runs smoothly. I am in awe! Oh, to have that drive and confidence at such a young age.

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I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years and went fully vegan two years ago after being inspired by friends who had already converted to plant-based diets and were fantastically healthy for it. I learned about the dairy industry which I had mistakenly thought was a by-product of meat. Actually, it’s a fully-fledged killing machine in its own right. Vegan activists have recently won a case with the Advertising Standards Agency allowing them to call milk inhumane. Think about that for a minute.

Factory farming reduces our animals to commodities and divorces us from the abject cruelty that exists throughout the industry even in the UK where our standards are amongst the highest. They encourage our ignorance. It’s easier not to know but if you’re brave enough to find out, the information is all there.

Aside from the cruelty, the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire world’s transport system. This message is one that seems to be lost on governments. It’s not exactly a vote winner and yet this one change would make a significant difference in our battle against catastrophic climate change.

Meat and dairy consumption is not even good for our health, with links to heart disease and cancer. The animals are pumped full of antibiotics so that they can be kept in larger numbers with ever-decreasing amounts of space.

Meanwhile, it’s never been easier to follow a plant-based diet. Veganism is now the fastest growing dietary choice. The ever burgeoning ‘Free From’ aisles in the supermarkets cater to every taste. It does of course take some effort to transition and learn new ways to cook but the rewards are huge. Personally, my energy levels, health and immune system have never felt better.

At the Camp Out, we are amongst the last to leave and unlike the devastation left after Glastonbury or T in the Park, the site is spotless. All rubbish has been put carefully into the bins or taken home. I often hear my contemporaries moan about Millennials but my faith in this future generation has been greatly restored. I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe. Just maybe 30 years too late.

Sandy Winterbottom teaches mindful movement in Stirling