In 2016, eat like you mean it!

By Jennifer Bates
2016 is here, and if you’re like millions of others, you’re looking for a way to start the new year off right. You’re mulling over a diet to lose those holiday pounds or finally quitting a bad habit.

But what if your resolution were something life-changing and life-affirming? What if your resolution positively affected not just your life but the lives of millions? What if you finally went vegan in 2016?
You care how animals are treated. You may even have an animal in your life you love dearly. You hate the thought of dogs in China bludgeoned and skinned to make leather. You can’t stand hearing about cats who are tortured and killed by cruel people.
You likely already know that animals raised for their flesh, eggs and bodily secretions are intelligent and sensitive. Pigs can understand a simple language of symbols. Chickens can count and plan for the future, and cows play games with their friends.
And you probably also know that these animals are violently abused and traumatized from birth to death. Turkeys are bred to grow breasts so large that their legs often break under their own enormous weight. Farmed fish have to live in crowded, filthy enclosures full of their own waste. And each year, nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are still alive and conscious when they’re immersed in the scalding-hot water of feather-removal tanks.
But chances are, you still eat foods that come from animals. You tell yourself that it can’t be that bad.
For years I did this, too. I told myself that cows were happy as I downed their milk—milk that I had access to only because calves had been torn away from their mothers to be turned into veal or cheap beef. And, despite the fact that scientists have determined that fish do, in fact, feel pain, as all animals do, I told myself that they didn’t, even though I surely would’ve rushed to the aid of any fish who had washed up alive on the beach.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that animals should have legal protection, and nearly 75 percent of us believe that we should work to eliminate all forms of cruelty to animals and animal suffering. We’re a nation of people who “love” animals.
But we’re also a nation of people who pay others to slaughter animals. We’re a nation of people who devour our “loves” at every meal.
As the number of Americans who say they care about animals increases, so, too, does the number of animals we eat. More than 9 billion land animals are raised and slaughtered for food in the U.S. each year—and that figure doesn’t even include all the sea animals we eat. All told, we’re slaughtering billions more animals than we were 50 years ago.
What’s stopping us from bringing our dinner plates in line with our values? 
As shown by the countless compassionate people who have opted to say no to SeaWorld, bringing our actions in line with our values is nothing more than making a conscious decision to change.
We all make dozens of decisions every day, many of which give us the opportunity to choose kindness. In the grocery store, you already swing by the dairy aisle—try adding almond milk, nondairy coffee creamer and soy cheese to your cart instead of milk-based foods. In the frozen food section, pick up vegan chicken tenders and veggie burgers instead of animal-based ones. Try beans and tofu, squash and mushrooms, rice, pasta, fruit and salads. The animal-free options are endless, not to mention healthier—and delicious. 
Will 2016 be the year you start eating in line with your values? Your new beginning is just a grocery store away.