A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

How to Start on a Plant-Based Diet

And the big difference you can make by doing this

Third in a series of conversations with Dr. Michael Klaper. (See also the first and second parts.)

M.M.: What do you say to people who are interested in maybe getting into a vegan or vegetarian way of life, but aren’t in a position to come to your office for a personal consultation?

M.K.: There are some excellent websites and books. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a vegan starter kit. Dr. Joel Fuhrman wrote a beautiful book called Eat to Live, and he makes a simple, plant-based diet really nutritious and delicious. Or just Google “vegan meals” and they’ll get lots of recipes.

Just start simply, maybe just one day a week. Like on Thursday just have granola and soy milk for breakfast, a tofu sandwich for lunch and spaghetti for dinner just to show yourself that you can make it for one day without animal products. Then make it two days, then three days. Instead of having meat three times a day, make it one meal a day.

Make two out of your three meals vegan meals every day. Just have people put their toe in the water, and they’ll find out that it’s pretty good food.

M.M.: Let’s talk a moment about vivisection. If you had your druthers, would you just say shut the whole thing down, the labs, all of it?

M.K.: If it’s hurting the animals we simply shouldn’t do it. But then you say what about the potential cures for some cancers or whatever? I couldn’t say that we’ve learned nothing from animal experimentation. We probably have, but the wholesale callousness of it … it’s such a huge industry at this point.

When it comes to animal research, white mice are pulled out of cages like tissues out of a box. And the thought for the individual animal’s life never even enters the equation.

There comes a point when you have to say stop or you know you’re going to lose your soul. You have to say “Stop, I’m making a stand on behalf of compassion – on behalf of my humanity, on behalf of common sense.”

“Get serious about healthy living and the need for animal experimentation for truly life-saving drugs will drop down to a thimble of what it is now.”

We could certainly do away with 95 percent of animal experimentation, but I would say first adopt a plant-based diet and a healthy lifestyle. Start subsidizing the fruit and vegetable growers, make produce freely available through the schools and government food programs and really get serious about getting people healthier, and your need for all this huge animal experimentation will diminish to almost zero.

I mean, what are we killing all these animals for except to find another magic pill so we can go eat our cheese burgers and pizzas. That is really what it’s all about. Health comes from healthy living. Get serious about that and the need for animal experimentation for truly life-saving drugs will drop down to a thimble of what it is now. Get serious about that and the need for vivisection will essentially disappear.

M.M.: We now have seven billion people on the planet. The climate is changing. Lots of things are changing. What’s your prognosis for our collective future?

M.K.: I grew up in Chicago, and I was a long-suffering Chicago sports fan watching the Cubs, the White Socks and the Bears lose every year. I feel like I’m in a long drawn out Chicago Cubs game, and we’re in the bottom of the ninth and the prognosis is not good. You’d have to be an idiot to not see these terrible signs: the animals are disappearing, the ice caps are melting, the oceans are going acidic, these are huge destructive forces.

If the Earth was a medical patient, I would put it in the intensive care unit. It needs intensive care.

So, yes, I’m extremely concerned. Can we still turn it around? Yes, but it’s going to take a huge awakening. And there are a lot of forces against that, seducing us into somnolence. “Feed them food and entertain them and distract them so they don’t see what’s happening.” We have to wake up from that somnolence. There’s still time. We can turn it around, and I’m going to keep working to help people wake up. I used to do anesthesia to put people to sleep; now it’s much more fun to wake them up!

M.M.: What can anyone do to help the planet?

You empower yourself through the choices you make and what you spend your money on. I try to make my life a statement of compassion and integrity. I’ve stopped eating animals and I’ve stopped wearing animals. I try to stand up when animals are being cruelly exploited. In my practice, I do simple things like trying to avoid prescribing medicines in capsules that are gelatin-based. I would rather use tablets.

“I’m going to keep working to help people wake up. I used to do anesthesia to put people to sleep; now it’s much more fun to wake them up!”

When you have enough people making individual statements, that makes a movement. And so I’m proud to be a part of that movement. And because I happen to be a physician, I will make that stand in my medical circles.

Once you know how the animals are suffering, and once you understand how connected it is, you can’t ignore it.

We each have power for good or for evil. Every cheeseburger we eat creates destruction in the forest, in the waters, and in the soils. But if you eat vegetable stir-fry, you help the world a bit, and you support the farmers growing the vegetables, too.

What we do really does make a difference. Everything on this planet is a miracle when you look at it. When you understand the biology, the chemistry, and the physics involved, life is so improbable; it’s so precious.

So have reverence for life, and let your example be the message to make the world good around you. That’s all we can do.

Next: Part Four – Helping Others to Start on a Plant-Based Diet.