Vegan Athletes. Did Avoiding Meat Help Their Careers?

A Growing Trend

Veganism has been around throughout history, with a plethora of cultures and religions who have practiced the diet. Not eating meat has been traced back all the way to 3300-1300 BCE in the subcontinent of India, particularly in northern and western India as well as Pakistan. At the time there was less emphasis on avoiding eggs, honey, or milk. Early Indian Philosophers such as Mahavira, and Acharya Kandukondain, as well as “Tamil” poet Valluvar, stayed far away from meat. Greek Philosophers who shaped the world such as Empedocles, Theophrastus, and Plotinus all would have had a heart attack had they seen the way humans eat in 2019. But there is hope! The topic of vegan eating is trending again, and people world over are learning about the benefits of the most popular diet in the world. Some of the world’s most prominent athletes are at the tip of the spear, setting the healthy eating example to our youth for many years to come. We made a list of who they are and why they did It!

Carl Lewis – Olympian

Carl Lewis is considered to be one of the greatest track athletes in the world. In the course of four Olympic games, he won nine (count them!) nine Gold Medals for Track and Field.

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He very much credits his success to his vegetarian, and later on an entirely vegan diet. “I changed my diet to a vegan diet. … I set all my personal best records at 30 years old, as a vegetarian.” he said in an interview with Oprah.

Alexey Voevoda – Bobsledder/professional arm wrestler

Being vegan didn’t stop Alexey even for a second from fulfilling his dreams, not eating anything that is not plant-based, and still beating out other big-time arm wrestlers who thought they had the “advantage,” and more importantly competing in three Olympics, as well as winning two gold medals in the Sochi winter games for Bobsledding.

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Alexey is just another vegan who proved us wrong. Quoted by PETA UK saying; “At first, I approached [going vegan] from a scientific standpoint. However, I then came to have some ethical views about this diet. I love happy, living animals!”

Rhonda Rousey – UFC Icon

Mixed martial arts is arguably one of the most demanding sports of all time. Two people, who trained their whole life in a variety of fighting styles initially meant to fight wars with, pitted in a small octagon to fight to the teeth and see who taps out, or gets knocked out first. With the biggest talent’s in the world going to fight for the Vegas Based UFC. Before Rhonda came along, the UFC was considering dropping their female program altogether.

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The ratings for the female fights were low, and the organization was not reaching enough of a female demographic. Rousey came along on the heels of controversial male combatant from Ireland Conor McGregor and stole his spotlight! Putting out some of the most aggressive and exhilarating performances of the organization’s history. She also has the first Olympic Bronz Judo Medal in American history at the Bejing Games. For much of her exciting female career, she was a vegan. In 2013, she was quoted by the Washington Post as stating that she is no longer vegan and including dairy/ in her gluten-free, vegetarian diet.

Murray Rose – Swimmer Down Under

Australian swimmer Murray Rose has four Olympic gold medals under his belt. His nickname was “The Seaweed Streak” As at the time of his career the 1940s 50s and 60s being a vegan athlete was very controversial, to say the least, as he was breaking all the boundaries of a healthy vegan diet.

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His diet included “sunflower seeds, sesame, unpolished rice, dates, cashew nuts, carrot juice,” and nothing more! To me, this sounds less like a vegan diet more like an eating disorder, but you decide. In 2012 he would pass away leaving people wondering if the diet had anything to do with his death. The next star you for sure know! But let’s see if you had the hunch she’s vegan.

Venus Williams – Tennis God

The Williams sisters are the black American powerhouse tennis duo! Breaking every boundary ever imagined for women in the sport. Venus is an international pro, and has won four Olympic gold medals! In her website, she mentions going further than just vegan but eating only raw ( unprocessed foods ) after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.

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Since then she has gone back to being just vegan and also refers to herself as a “Cheagan” or “cheating vegan” saying “I’m not perfect, but I try” Venus has inspired girls from around the world to fight on and be strong. Showing them that it could even be done without consuming meat.

Cam Awesome – Proud Veg Boxer

Proud vegan advocate Cam Awesome represented the U.S. Olympics Boxing team in Rio. He was fast, healthy, and packed a big punch!

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Although many said a boxer couldn’t be vegan, Cam had inspiration from one of the most infamous names in the world of boxing, (you’ll find out later who that is!) and he knew he could do it. Still, think you can’t?

Meagan Duhamel – Figure Skater

According to the Huffington Post Canada. Meagan is quoted as saying; “I thought I was just going to do it until the (2010) Olympics, but then I didn’t go to the Olympics, I ended up liking it so much, I’ll be a vegan for the rest of my life,”

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Meagan Duhamel is another excellent example of following your heart, and sticking to the plot; even if you don’t get what you want at first. She went on to win the silver medal in the Sochi Olympics. Attributing much of her success to her vegan diet!

Walter “Killer” Kowalski – Professional “Wrestler”

Lets set the record straight! Professional wrestling is a sport, but its not real wrestling. It’s very obvious to the naked eye that every move is planned out and choreographed in advance. The scripts are written and acted out, and the “champion” is probably something the fan base data decided long before a “match.”

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Despite these facts, professional Wrestling is and was a huge hit. Especially among young children. Probably ordering pizza or eating burgers in front of the TV, not knowing that the “Killer” Kowalski didn’t like junk food, and preferred his vegan diet instead. Despite some criticism for his eating habit, he was still considered a “nutball” in the wrestling world and enjoyed a great fan base.

Bill Walton – NBA

Remembered on the court as one of the greatest athletes in NBA history. He has also won the college player of the year three times during his career with UCLA and continued to impress often the MVP throughout his career.

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The Hall Of Famer stayed true to his plant-based diet that he claims only added to his athleticism. Today as an NBA commentator he still brings it up every now and again.

Hannah Teter – Snowboarder

Two-time Olympic medalist, US snowboard Overall Grand Prix halfpipe champion, and an X Games superpipe champion who has an intense love for animals. Teter became extremely motivated to take the world of sports by storm as a vegetarian.

Source: http://tahoequarterly.com

She changed her regular diet habit in 2008 and pinned her many podium appearances to the mental and physical milestones she was able to achieve from eating vegan. Good eating habits are one of the only things this next athlete had in his prime. If you remember well reading earlier, you’ll know who he is! Want a hint? He will bite your arm off!

Mike Tyson – No Explanation Needed

I lost weight, I dropped over a hundred pounds” – Mike Tyson’s career is an article on its own, so let’s try to keep this simple. Both of his arms could hook you to oblivion! The Heavyweight boxer was explosive both in an out of the ring, often expressing controversial views and profanity on TV. Openly fighting and biting, yes…. biting in press conferences before a fight. He cursed all the time and struggled with substance abuse too. And here is another quote from Tyson: “I don’t know. I didn’t want to live anymore. So I said, that in order to go there, I had to change my life.”

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As he got older, he got his act together, putting his energy into doing good by his community, and practicing mindfulness and self-control. The former Champion boxer is today a health motivated vegan. Admitting “cheating” and trying a piece of meat only to feel “violently sick.”

Bill Pearl – Body Builder

“Anything you can find in a piece of meat, you can find in other foods as well.” Even if you disagree with him, you probably don’t have the cajones to tell him! Most people who are vegan and exercising to get fit, but they don’t get “Huge!”

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Bill Pearl is made of steel and did it all while maintaining veganism. It’s hard to believe this Former Mr. Universe winner has not touched meat for more than 35 years! Let’s just say if he can do it and become this big. Then what’s the danger of doing it at all?

Mac Danzig – UFC

Mac Danzig is a very accomplished octagon contender in the UFC; you would think meat eating is necessary when you spend years getting your body pummeled day after day in the gym, but what some call plant-based food, others call power food!

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You would think some gender stereotypes come into play as well, But after moving towards a vegan diet. He was actually commended and respected more by his fellow competitors. It looks like eating meat didn’t affect his time in the ring either.

Prince Fielder – Base Ball

Baseball is all about relaxation, and focus. Sixty thousand fans reign in on the diamond and put all the pressure on the moment the batter swings. Baseball players often are seen after a game chowing down at local bars, and making friends with fans. Eating wings, and singing songs with their city.

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Not Texas Ranger’s First baseman Prince Fielder! He’s no stranger to the pressures of baseball, but how hard can it be to be a vegan in a game where there are peanuts and sunflower seeds all over the stadium.

Ricky Williams – NFL

American Football is no joke; Three-hundred-pound men savage one another for every yard gained. Less than 1% of American football players make it to the NFL, of that small margin, less than half make it through the season. Athletes suffer some of the most extreme injuries known to man, with blood spilled in every minute of play.

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To make it into the NFL you must become superhuman. It’s hard to imagine that being a vegan makes it more accessible? An average football player eats more than twice the amount of calories a day a normal human eats, and saturated fats or sugars are not an option! Former NFL Running Back Ricky Williams fits the bill. Williams is quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t eat a chicken if it dropped dead in front of me, and held up a sign saying eat me.” Ricky Williams goes farther even to open his vegetarian restaurant attesting to his commitment to the vegan/vegetarian diet.

Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1

Many people argue that racing in a car is not a sport. Formula 1 will beg the differ. Every and any major car manufacturer pours millions of dollars a race. Formula-1 drivers experience G forces only comparable to that of a fighter pilot, and a fighter pilot will lose at least 5 pounds of body weight from one hour of flight! An F1 race lasts way north of an hour, so you need to be well fed. While committing to a strict animal-free diet, Lewis Hamilton exceeded the odds. He is considered the 10th highest paid athlete in the world by Forbes magazine, and has an approximate net worth of 172 million dollars; talk about a power diet! What’s his motive? In his words a “human” one.

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Addressing his diet to the BBC Hamilton says; “As the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution [in terms of emissions of global-warming gases] coming from the number of cows that are being produced is incredible. They say it is more than what we produce with our flights and our cars, which is kind of crazy to think. The cruelty is horrible, and I don’t necessarily want to support that.” As an outside perspective, he is representing the automotive industry, and they are no angels, but we can leave that for another article. Regardless of the details. Lewis Hamilton proves you can be more than great, with little more than beans, veggies, and tofu! Let’s move on…

Scott Jurek – Long-distance runner

I had an eighth-grade teacher growing up who signed up for every possible marathon in town. He would wake up every morning before the sun came up, and run for hours. He was a skinny guy too; he ate a healthy breakfast when he got to the school, cleaned himself up, and begin the school day at 7:30 in the morning! He then proceeded to keep training after school as well. My teacher never won a thing, so I’m surprised Scott Jurek was able to win 16 prestigious ultramarathon titles with a vegan diet, and live to talk about it!

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Jurek holds a personal record of 165.7 miles in 24 hours with an average of 8 minutes 42 seconds per mile. That’s the mile run of a Navy Seal expect doing it for 24 hours straight! Jurek started the diet gradually in college, and for short while eating only ate meat and potatoes before he made a full transition. He started eating differently after seeing his mother suffer from multiple sclerosis. He needed a solution to avoid the possible genetic risk of also acquiring the chronic disease. He seems to be doing just fine now, and fulfilling himself to the max!

Kendrick Yahcob Farris – Weight Lifting

Kendrick Yahcob Farris was going to lift more than half his body weight just as a warm-up, while only eating plant-based protein! It sounds crazy I know, but here is what he has to say about it.

“You can replace [meat with fruits and vegetables], and it can taste amazing, and be better for your body — it’ll help with recovery, reduce stress, and inflammation in the body.

Source: mensjournal.com

“We shouldn’t get so caught up with ‘protein, protein, protein.’ Because you can get an excess of protein, and most of it just gets passed through the body.” These are the words of an Olympic weightlifter who finished 11th in his weight class. He adopted his vegan diet based on religious reasons after the birth of his second son. I mean look at the guy! Let’s take him for his word.

Tia Blanco -Surfing

Professional surfing is no joke, and the sun takes a lot of energy from you. All your core muscles go into overdrive trying to balance yourself on a board that whisks the water at 30MPH; that’s faster than a great white on the attack!

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Tia Blanco can meet the challenges of her peers while maintaining a strictly vegan diet since 2013. She grew up in a vegetarian home so you can imagine it was not too hard to make the switch! She now is very active online to help others do it too.

Nate Diaz – UFC

Probably one of the most accomplished, and Infamous MMA Fighters in UFC history. Nate Diaz is only best described as an unbreakable monster! The man has not only to beat greats like two-division champion Conor Mcgregor, but he physically outperforms them too. As high tempered as Diaz is; often fighting and throwing verbal insults at fellow fighters, he seemed able to keep his cool in the octagon with Conor McGregor who is the most verbally abusing fighter in the MMA world.

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Nate Diaz has maintained his vegan diet since he was 18 years old! Nate told Men’s Journal “I think you’re a smarter and more intelligent fighter [when you go vegan]. My brother and I are at the top of the game and have been for a long time. We’re doing something right. Besides knowing how to kick somebody in the head, you should know feel-good how-to tomorrow.”

Morgan Mitchell – Olympic Sprinter

The 400 Meter Dash, is not for the faint-hearted. It’s one thing to be able to sprint, but competing against the fastest sprinters in the world is a different ball game on its own. With athletes working tirelessly to reach their top speed.

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Mitchell has competed in countless world championships and even the Rio Olympics! , she’s recent to the vegan diet and says “I have been vegan for a year and a half. That’s helped with everything: energy, health, the environment. I am one of those people who care. It’s what I chose to do.”

Vanessa Espinoza – Boxer

The women’s boxing world is in its respects probably even more competitive than men’s boxing. Vanessa Espinoza is a powerhouse of the sport, and the last girl you want to mess with! Espinoza is known to be one of the most feared female boxers in the world!

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She is a three-time Colorado Golden Glove State Champion, and also boasted a career in college basketball turning down an offer to play for the WNBA. Vanessa loves boxing, and she loves boxing vegan! Her diet is focused on sports nutrition, and you can see she’s getting results that exceed expectations.

Steph Davis – Rock Climber

Ever heard of El Capitan? It’s one of the highest summits in the Yosemite Valley. It stands at over 2,000 meters high and is probably a terrifying hike let alone a climb straight up the side of the mountain. Take away the rope holding you from falling to your death and its pure insanity. Professional Rock Climbing is now one of the most trending sports in the world today! Steph Davis one of its modern pioneers.

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She performed what’s known as a “free climb” on El Capitan and was the second woman to do so, and yes that’s exactly how it sounds. No ropes, no safety. To perform a free climb anywhere, a climber must have more than just years of experience, but also unmatched fearlessness of heights. Steph Davis was able to maintain the strength needed to hold your body up by your fingertips on just a vegan diet! She’s ideological in her reasoning saying; “factory farming is abhorrent and no one should add one more penny of their money into sustaining it.”

Claire Foreman – Muay Thai Fighter

Clair “Fury” Foreman is a Muay Thai Icon from down under. She has won 16 out of 18 fights, three of them by KO. Muay Thai is a sport of endurance, athletes are trained to take hits daily on the most vulnerable parts of their body!

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Power food for a power sport can only make sense if you got the chops for it? In an excerpt from her Facebook page, Clair says. “Nutrition is critical to me, and I predominantly base my diet off plant-based whole foods – i.e., lots of veggies, fruits, whole-grains, pulses, beans, sprouts, and nuts/seeds. I gave up meat years ago and dairy just recently for ethical reasons and but it’s also been beneficial for my fitness, recovery time and overall health. “

Laura Kline – Triathlete

Laura Kline is a vegan veteran boasting ten years with the diet, and still being able to keep up in the world of competitive triathlons.

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She puts her veganism in center stage and is not afraid to take the issue head-on she’s’ raised money for the cause, and proves to today’s youth that you can do it all with the love of animals in mind.

Tom Brady – NFL

Ask any Football fan, and he will tell you; “to have one Superbowl win in a lifetime is pure luck” That was true until Tom Brady came along took football to a whole new level. At 41 years old he’s at the top of his game as the oldest quarterback in the NFL. Despite allegations of cheating in the “deflated ball” scandal. The Patriots Quarterback was able to bring home six super bowls to New England!

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He is the center of the most feared team in the NFL, and when asked about retirement, his response does not seem to change; “I’m not going anywhere, I’m having fun” His Wife, Model Gisele Bundchen is an avid vegan health enthusiast, and you know what they say? “The wife is never wrong!” His Vegan diet did not stop him from being the best quarterback in NFL history, and he has even gone farther to partner with a plant-based meal delivery service called “Purple Carrot.”

Derrick Morgan – NFL

Tennessee Titans linebacker and his wife charity began their Plant-based diet in 2017 and even convinced a quarter of the team to ditch animal products altogether.

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Talk about power right? Making a whole team do it with you! Well, he was right, and the Titans have made it to the last two NFL playoffs. So, I guess veganism hasn’t stopped them either!

Colin Kaepernick – NFL

Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and says he is a “Social Justice Activist.” He was fired from the NFL following his famous National Anthem “Kneel” where he decided to take a knee during the national anthem before the game. Kneeling created great controversy, not just in the NFL, but all over America as well.

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His reason for the protest, he claims it was to protest white on black violence in America, as well as what he feels is police brutality. Despite the good intentions, and his clean record as an athlete. The 2016 vegan convert was not afforded another contract with the 49ers, or any other NFL team since. Was he right for kneeling or not? We can leave that up to you. Since Colin, many NFL players have joined in on taking the knee in solidarity. Including the next athlete…

Brandon Flowers -NFL

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers went vegan in 2015 stating;

“Just going vegan, I just got just the history of being a vegan, how to fix your body and everything like that, so I fell in love with it.

source: MarketWatch

I lost 12 pounds, a good 12 pounds coming into training camp so I feel good. I’ve got to keep building on it.” Seems to be that football is coming around to the diet huh?

Heather Mills – Skiing

Ever been out in the snow, or hitting the slopes? Personally, after a long day out in the cold, the first thing I can think of is a beef stew, burger or steak! For professional skier Heather Mills, that could not be farther from reality!

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The downhill skiing champ is not just an athlete but a well-accomplished entrepreneur and activists for many years! She has donated 1 million dollars worth of plant-based foods to the Hunts Point Alliance for children who assist in the provision of food in the Bronx, New York.

Kuntal Joisher – Mountaineer

Hiking up the tallest mountains in the world is no joke, and not for the faint of heart! Treacherous terrain, accompanied by various weather systems, temperatures, and grueling changes of air pressure takes a toll on the body. You need to eat a nutritional diet for months and be in peak conditioning to go big, or you may as well stay home.

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Kuntal Joisher has hiked notoriously challenging trails up including Mount Manaslu (8163 meters high), Mount Lhotse (8516 meters; 4th most massive mountain in the world), and after 3 two failed attempts due to natural causes, has conquered the south side of Mount Everest for a whopping 8850-meter peak! Can you believe all this was done without the help of animal-based proteins?

Kara Lang – Soccer

Women’s soccer is currently one of the most watched sports in the world, and Kara Lang is a big part of the movement to push women through the forefront of the competition. At 15 years old she was the youngest women to score an international goal for the Canadian national U-19 team.

Source: sportsnet.ca

Vegan since she was a teenager Kara is quoted saying “I decided to adopt a vegan diet when I learned about the cruelty and suffering involved in raising animals for food. As an elite athlete, I knew I had a responsibility to find a balance between a diet that aligned with my values and beliefs and still allowed me to train and compete at an optimal level.”

Ed Templeton – skateboarding

California was one of the breakthrough states when it came to the growth of the vegan movement. With the issue being voiced publicly since the early 1960s in the state. It would make sense that one of the first vegan skateboarders would come to the sunny there.

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He turned vegan in 1991 saying “At the time, it was the people I was skating with. Mike Valley and skate photographer Christian Kline were both vegetarians and would take me out to dinner as long as I didn’t order meat. They also gave me things to read.”

Torre Washington – Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is all about tone, and muscle mass. To even have a chance at competing let alone winning a show, the athlete needs to eat, breath, and live the gym. The diet of the average bodybuilder can be summed up by three words.

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Protein, Protein, Protein! Washington became vegan in 1998 “My sudden switch to “vegan” came out of wanting to not be a hypocrite as a Rasta who professes to live off the land. Some Rastas still consume fish and even chicken, I wanted no part of that and as such a new vegan arose not knowing that there was a term for this lifestyle back in 1998.”

David Meyer – Jiu Jitsu

David Meyer is 55 years of age and still a Jiu-jitsu animal! He was one of the first ten people outside of Brazil to receive a black belt in the martial art combat technique. He still competes against top athletes who are still in their 20s! Not touching meat since 1985 has not seemed to slow him down. If anything it did the opposite.

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David recalls; “I was vegetarian since 1985 and experimented eating mostly vegan, and have been entirely vegan since 2000. My motivation is entirely not to harm animals. I have experienced that it’s an extremely healthy way to eat; it gives me more energy, it’s better for the environment. I’m morally committed to not harming animals.”

Michael Zigomanis – Ice Hockey

In the golden age of hockey, many parents kept their kids away from the screen if a hockey game was on. Players would pummel into one another at full speed with the intent of breaking teeth. Michael Zigomanis came when the sport started to clean up its act and began his NHL career as a forward for the Toronto Maple Leaves in 2001.

Source: buffalohockeybeat.com

In 2011 after a body cleanse Michael went vegan with a couple of cheats here and there. He’s since been awarded the AHL Man of the Year Award and retired in 2014 after a 50-game season. His coaches and families were concerned about his diet, and he did not just prove them wrong, he got his mother to join him as well!

Conclusion

Yes, being an athlete requires a lot of work, dedication, and a healthy diet. This article proves to us that one of the most effective diets used by athletes across the board today is the vegan diet. It has been around for thousands of years, and will probably come and go in the future. It seems to be doing good things not just for our bodies, but for the environment well. We have one earth, and we have only been on it for a fraction of its existence. Vegan athletes are among the many people who are trying to point us in a direction for it all to last for thousands of years to come. Eat meat if you want, I do too. But try you’re best to follow their lead, and humankind will inch closer to a plant-based evolution that will serve the countless generations to come.