New Mexican Bodybuilder Gives Insights into the New Norm of Veganism

By Will Tafoya

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Tafoya is a bonafide vegan and is currently studying Exercise Physiology and Health Education.

When most people hear the word vegan, it can uproot a number of emotions, opinions and statements. And rightfully so. Just like with religion or politics, veganism is a subject that some people are very passionate about and emotionally invested in. In this article, I’d like to explain: veganism, why I adopted the lifestyle, obstacles/benefits and to provide some thought provoking insight that can be pondered on. I want to provide anecdotal knowledge on the subject to hopefully spark some healthy questions and thought processes.

First and Foremost. Why I’m Vegan:

One day, I asked myself, “why cause unnecessary harm and suffering to animals if I don’t need too? If I can still eat all of the amazing foods I want to without contributing to the death and suffering of animals, why not? If I can decrease the amount of suffering in the world, become healthier, and aid in protecting the environment, why not choose to do so?”

I eventually found out how ironic and paradoxical it is that as a society, we cherish and love certain animals like dogs and cats. Yet, we enslave, exploit and slaughter others. It didn’t make sense to me. I came to the realization that we can argue an animal’s ability to communicate, but what is not debatable is an animal’s propensity to experience pain and suffering, just like us.

Veganism is a trend that has been gaining some significant traction over the past few years. According to foodrevolution.org, there’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. in the last three years. That’s quite the increase from the  reported one percent of U.S. consumers that claimed to be vegan in 2014, according to the research firm, GlobalData.

“Veganism is the lifestyle choice to not participate or support unnecessary harm to other sentient beings.”

Veganism is nothing new, but I’d like to share my take on it. Veganism is the lifestyle choice to not participate or support unnecessary harm to other sentient beings. Simply put, it’s the notion to not eat or use animal products. Vegans do not eat meat, drink dairy or consume eggs. While most people assume this only encompasses food choices, it also includes not purchasing animal products such as leather, wool, or products that come from animals.

I lived 25 years of my life not really giving much thought as to where my food came from or the processes it took to get to the supermarket. Granted, I knew about atrocities committed in slaughterhouses and farms, but I truly was not aware of how these animal products are processed from source to market. This all changed when I began watching numerous documentaries and doing research on animal agriculture. What I saw was shocking. There’s a reason why I find so much relevance in the famous quote by Sir Paul McCartney, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. Animals raised on modern factory farms and killed in slaughterhouses endure almost unimaginable suffering.” Once I saw hours of footage, I knew I wanted to make a change.

Will Tafoya, BLA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education, National Academy of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer. Instagram: tafoya_fitness

Let’s look at the health risks of eating animal products.

Not only did this alter my ethical compass, but I found out that the consumption of animal products can be detrimental to human health as well as that animal agriculture is extremely damaging to the environment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), consumption of red meat is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer. The WHO also classifies processed meats as a group 1 carcinogen to humans. Dairy products such as cheese, yogurts, ice cream and butter contain substantial amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. These can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and other serious health issues. As humans, we can obtain all vital nutrients from plant sources.

Environmental Impacts

In terms of the environment, animal agriculture contributes to climate change, deforestation, pollution, ocean dead zones and the list goes on. According to The Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) Initiative, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (cars, buses, planes, trains, etc.). A recent and comprehensive study published by Worldwatch Institute finds that livestock and their byproducts annually account for 51% of worldwide human-related greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Making the switch!

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One of Tafoya’s favorite vegan meals from Los Poblanos Farm in NM: Forbidden rice and steel cut oats with almond milk, fresh fruit, toasted coconut and almonds.

A common misconception is that it can be very difficult to sustain a vegan lifestyle, but I would like to challenge that. In all honestly it’s quite easy, it all comes down to how you shop and purchase goods. Let’s take dairy for example, it’s as simple as reaching for and purchasing other alternatives. For instance, instead of milk from cows, there are a plethora of other alternatives including: soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, pea milk, hemp milk, rice milk, etc. There’s also your favorite dairy products that have been veganized, like ice cream, butter and cheeses that taste delicious. There’s also a vast variety of meat alternatives from companies like Gardein and others that have products like burgers, chicken, meatballs, pizza, fish, etc. that are delicious and mimic the taste and texture of meat.

Albuquerque may not be the optimal place to be vegan . . .

. . . but it’s still very doable and easy. Local grocery stores like Whole Foods, Albertson’s, Sprouts and La Montañita Co-op have a variety of plant based foods that are sure to spark your interest. Larger supermarkets like Walmart are also starting to carry more and more options as well. There are some great local restaurants that cater to plant based living like Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café, Thai Vegan, An Hy Quan Vegetarian restaurant, and The Acre. I have also noticed an increase in options at restaurants around town like Blaze Pizza, Flying Star, Farina Pizzeria, Blue Agave Republic, Brixens among others. At these restaurants I’ve seen non-dairy cheeses, veggie burgers, cauliflower wings, and other options. As I’ve experienced, it’s not too difficult finding plant based alternatives around town. I can almost always find something to eat when I go out. Simple switches can be made like beans or tofu instead of meat or switching cream sauces for marinara.

If you made it to the end of this article, then I do appreciate your time and I hoped I have sparked some thought provoking questions in your mind in regards to plant-based living.

Will Tafoya is a Grey Wolf contributor and is currently getting a BLA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education and, is a certified National Academy of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer. Instagram: tafoya_fitness 

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