Food journalist and blogger, Ori Shavit talks on Vegans on Top at TEDxHiriya conference. Here is the full transcript of the presentation.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Vegans on top by Ori Shavit at TEDxHiriya
What if I told you that you can change the world every time you go to the supermarket, prepare dinner, or visit a restaurant, and even enjoy every bite?
Well, if you said that to me only two years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Back then, if I went to a restaurant, I would order a big, red, juicy steak. If you say to me, like, whatever you want to choose to eat, I would prefer to sit on a bar and, with my bare hands, tear a crab apart, bit by bit.
I was a restaurant and bar critic, and food to me was an adventure, pleasure, passion, satisfaction, memories, and home. Changing the world was not on my plate.
But as I became a conscious eater, I discovered I can save lives, improve my health and contribute to protecting the environment. I put the world on my plate. So, I am changing it every time I go to the supermarket, prepare dinner or visit a restaurant.
And if you’re thinking, like I did, that conscious eating means giving up all the pleasures of food, I have good news for you. I took all these ingredients of tastes, flavors, aromas, textures, and added in values of helping, giving and protecting. So, food is still an adventure, still a pleasure, still a passion, and I still enjoy every bite.
We’re all eating from the moment we were born throughout our lives. It’s breakfast, it’s lunch, it’s dinner, and personally for me, it’s everything in between.
Before even I finish one meal, I’m already fantasizing about the next. But how do we choose what we eat? Based on advertising? Your mother’s cooking? Habits? Culture? Taste? Most of the time, we don’t make a conscious choice. We eat and eat, and never stop to think about all this food we put into our bodies. What’s in it? How it was made? Where it come from? Who suffered for it? Who died? What is its real cost?
Two years ago, although I was writing about food, I didn’t know everything about it. Maybe I didn’t want to. But then, as in any good story, I met a guy.
That guy was so different than me. He was actually thinking about what he eats. He made a conscious choice: he chose to take meat, cheese, milk, and eggs out of his plate. Why would anyone do something like that?
So, I was very curious, and as a good journalist, I immediately started asking him all kinds of questions: “What’s wrong with milk? Why don’t you eat eggs? Come on, you probably eat free-range eggs or organic eggs.” But, no.
Okay, so I asked a lot of questions and I got a lot of answers. And it was then that I knew that something had changed, that I will not be able to fantasize about this next meal, the same way I did before.
Who knows the cost of an egg? Who knows? Okay, but I didn’t ask for the price. I asked for its cost.
As a child, when I saw a little, tiny yellow chick, all I wanted to do was to pat him. They are so sweet with these tiny, little wings, and yellow feathers, tweeting. It would have never crossed my mind to crush or to choke this little yellow chick to death, but this is exactly what I was doing by eating eggs.
Every day, in Israel alone, 15,000 little chicks are being killed, just because they are males and cannot lay eggs. Their sisters are being killed only two years later, just because they don’t lay enough eggs. In other words, the egg industry, in Israel alone, kills 9 million chicks and chickens every single year and throw them to the garbage. This is the cost of an egg, an omelette and a cake.
I visited dairy farms many times, but I never really saw the cows. All I knew was that cow gives milk. We all know that. But wait a second, I’m a mother. I gave birth. I know that in order for my body to produce milk, I have to be pregnant, and give birth. So does a cow. A cow doesn’t give milk. She is impregnated, and when she gives birth, her baby is immediately taken away from her, in order to become your next steak. And mother cow is being milked over, and over, and over again, until her body collapses and she becomes your meatballs.
The dairy industry and the meat industry are the same industries that enslave and ultimately kill these innocent feeling beings. This is the cost of cheese, milk, and yoghurt.
So conscious eating is saving lives, but what’s in it for me? Well, my body thanks me every day for not putting into it cholesterol, saturated fats, toxics, hormones, drug residues, you name it. Some of the leading health and nutrition organizations in the world already declared that a well-planned plant-based diet will dramatically reduce your chance of having a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, kidney diseases.
So by stopping hurting others, I got the huge bonus of stopping hurting myself. By the way, you can stop hurting yourself and get the huge bonus of stop hurting others. It goes the same way.
So, conscious eating is saving lives and it’s good for our health, but it’s also the best thing you can do to protect the environment. Actually, you cannot be an environmentalist while eating meat. It’s like sitting on a branch, holding a hamburger in one hand and sawing it with the other.
You know, recently I just heard that Al Gore had become vegan. He probably knows that. The livestock industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries on earth. It’s polluting air more than all the vehicles in the world together. It’s wasting so much water that, just by going vegan, I’m saving 5 million liters of water every year. 5 million liters. Just me. Just one person.
The livestock industry uses 70% of agricultural lands to feed 60 billion land animals, that humanity eats every year. 60 billion animals! That’s a hell of a lot. If we take these lands and use them to grow food for people instead of all these animals that you eat, we would end world hunger.
So conscious eating is saving lives, it’s good for our health, and it’s very good for the environment.
4Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a win-win-win situation here. So, when I decided to become vegan, I wanted to do it with the same passion I had for food before. I opened up my food blog, vegansontop.com. Yeah, that’s the name. And I thought it would document my own personal, private journey to vegan land.
But, to my surprise, a chain reaction started right away. First, my chef friends had to cook for me. Then we had some amazing vegan tasty dinners in some of the best restaurants in Israel. Then, hundreds of hundreds of people, vegan-food loving people, came to eat.
I discovered a whole growing, vivid, involved community of people that wanted the same thing that I did: to make a change through their choice of food, but to keep enjoying life and stay the same people they used to be before. My journey had become their journey.
So, from being a food writer that crossed the lines, I became one of the voices calling for an important culinary change and making it happen. Together with others, we took this so-called extreme way of living, and put it into the Israeli mainstream conversation.
Two years ago, I had to explain myself to a waiter not knowing what veganism was all about. Today, when I say I’m vegan, the waiter immediately explains to me what are my menu options. And I have options, because today chefs enjoy preparing, and the creativity of making new vegan dishes to their menus.
Through my website, that today has more than 80,000 views a month, and my vegan workshops, I teach tens of thousands of people how to enjoy cooking with no animal products and look at their plates differently.