Heroes

5 reasons why vegetarians can feel great about their meat-free lives

With help from a friend, here's a not-at-all-definitive list of reasons to say goodbye to bacon.

5 reasons why vegetarians can feel great about their meat-free lives

As a vegetarian, I'm told it's my duty to tell you that Oct. 1 is World Vegetarian Day! Salutations!

Hello, dear reader! Like billions of others on this pale blue dot of ours, I once ate meat. Lots and lots of meat.


My kingdom for a boneless chicken wing. *sigh* Photo by Parker Molloy/Upworthy.

But a couple months back, that changed.

The why isn't really important because the decision to change your diet is a highly personal one. But there are loads of great reasons why people mix it up as I did. What kinds of reasons? Well...

I'm a relative newbie to being vegetarian, so I reached out to a friend for some tips.

His name is Jamie Kilstein. He's a comedian and musician from New York. You may have seen his videos about LGBT rights, religion, and sexism featured here at Upworthy.

Oh yeah, he's also really into mixed martial arts. And he's sick of people asking him where he gets his protein from. Photo by Jamie Kilstein.

He's also vegan, so ... like, a super-vegetarian, and therefore obviously better than me. I asked him for five reasons someone should go vegetarian that have nothing to do with health (because hey, your body, your health). Here's what he told me.

1. Do you like animals?

This one's pretty obvious. "You know when you are supposed to be working but you're watching weird videos on Facebook of pigs sneaking into swimming pools and and rabbits attacking muggers or whatever weird crap is on Facebook?" Jamie asks. "Don't eat them!"

Also, LOOK HOW CUTE THE TINY LITTLE BABY PIGS ARE PLAYING WITH KIDS. Photo via iStock.

"We love animals, we love our cats and pictures of cats and everything cat, but there is such a dissociation between the cute animals we see and what we eat," Jamie told me. "Once you see a pig and learn they are smarter than dogs and just as sweet, it's harder to want to eat them."

Got it. If you like animals, then maybe don't eat them.

2. Stopping climate change which omg omg omg is going to kill us all.

If you list what contributes the most to climate change, you probably picture smokestacks, factories, Hummers, and stuff like that, right?

Mmmm, smog. Photo via iStock.

But really, the livestock industry contributes massively to climate change. Welp.


"Factory farms are such a huge part of climate change and you get to give them the finger when you don't eat their cut-up dead animals," he said, pointing out that if the world gave up eating beef, it'd actually have a bigger impact on carbon emissions than if we abolished cars. "It's so hard to make a tangible difference in this world, but this is a way to!"

3. Dope-ass food! No one craves raw meat.

Vegetarian (and vegan) food can be pretty tasty! Here's a picture of some vegan goodness from Jamie's Instagram page.

Tomato basil almond ricotta and more goodness! #vegan #veganfood #veganfoodporn #veganfighter #bjj #jiujitsu #thisiswhereigetmyprotein
A photo posted by Jamie Kilstein (@veganmma) on

"Even the people who say, 'Yo I'm paleo bro; do you even crossfit?!' don't eat like cavemen because cavemen didn't get their food at Whole Foods! You crave texture and sauces and smells," he says. "Ever since going vegan I've eaten such amazing different types of food I would have never tried before, and I feel amazing. The world isn't what it used to be where if you ask for a vegan option they angrily throw a tomato at you. Jump on Instagram and check it out!"

4. Human rights! Ending world hunger!

This was something that I didn't even think about, but Jamie is totally right.

Not quite sure exactly what this photo is supposed to represent, but it seemed to work. Photo via iStock.

"People always go, 'Well, why do you care about animals more than people?' That's not true! (Except for cats, remember number 1?) We could feed so many more people with a veg diet instead of feeding all of the crops to fatten up animals to feed less people. Plus the conditions on the factory farms and the kill floors for the workers would make you drop that burger pretty fast," Jamie said.

5. Knowing you are a better person than everyone! (OK, not really.)


"Right, Morrissey?! (Kidding) ((Kinda)) (((Not really))) TRY IT!"

Not ready to give up meat cold turkey? No worries! There are other things you can do to help.

Consider cutting back on your meat consumption. One great idea that's been getting a lot of hype lately has been "Meatless Mondays," which is exactly what it sounds like. Giving your body one meat-free day a week has some health benefits, but it also helps reduce the carbon footprint that goes along with our meat-eating world. It doesn't have to be all or nothing to make a difference, and the choice is ultimately up to you! Good luck!

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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