The 5 best vegan TED talks I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!)

TED talks have come a long way from their start as a conference for the Technology, Entertainment and Design that gave the acronym its initials. Now, they provide a platform for leaders and influential thinkers from all walks of life to educate and inspire- from Noam Chomsky to Arnold Schwarzenegger!

When I turned vegan and was going through my homework phase, I absolutely tore through the vegan TED talks. They gave me the motivation and the final push as I made my choice. As well as some handy titbits for the nay-sayers!

Here are five of my favourites, as well as links and some takeaway quotes from each…

1. “Every Argument Against Veganism”- Ed Winters 

Ed Winters is the animal rights activist, more commonly known as ‘Earthling Ed’.

His talk is a considered and passionate skewering of all those retorts you will likely have heard from friends and family- the “animals eat other animals” line, the personal choice arguments, cultural defences and assertions that we need meat, to name a few. 

Takeaway quote: 

“Our food chains are incredibly important. They symbolise part of the natural order and help maintain and form ecosystems. Fundamentally, they are there to ensure that populations sizes of animals are kept consistent and to ensure that the natural ecology is just as well balanced.

But what we do to animals when we selectively breed them, when we genetically modify them, when we artificially inseminate and forcibly impregnate them, when we take their babies away from them, when we mutilate them, when we exploit them for what they naturally produce for their own species, when we load them into trucks, take them to the slaughterhouse, where we hang them upside down, cut their throat and bleed them to death….has nothing to do with a natural order and, most importantly, it fits none of the criteria to be labelled as a food chain….

It overlooks our ability as moral beings who possess moral agency”

“We take a life for a moment that is fleeting- a meal that we forget about as soon as we have consumed it”.

2. “A plant-based diet changed my life”- Pat McAuley

Pat McAuley is a serial entrepreneur and public speaker. His talk was more of a personal story of the effects the vegan diet has had on his health, backed up with statistics from credible cancer research papers.

The ethical aspect of veganism is the driver for many, but this video hammers home the benefits our bodies get from our choice too.

Takeaway quote:

“90% of the deaths from our top two killers are actually a result of our diet and lifestyle. This means that whatever health situation you are in right now, it’s not a result (for 9 out of 10 of us; maybe more) of a bad genetic draw, or that it ‘runs in the family’ but rather of what we choose to eat or do on a daily basis”.

3. “What’s wrong with what we eat” – Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman is a New York Times food writer and admits he is not a vegan. But he gives a funny and feisty dissection of the lies that market our ‘convenience food’, the costs to our health and (in particular) the health of the planet that we call home. 

Takeaway quote:

“Only once before has the fate of individual people and the fate of all humanity been so intertwined… It’s a holocaust of a different kind. And hiding under the desk isn’t going to help”

4. “Towards Rational, Authentic Food Choices” – Dr. Melanie Joy

Doctor Melanie Joy’s talk gives the benefit of her two decades of research into the psychology behind our decision to eat animals- how a planet of pet-owners and animal-lovers can frame the decision to shovel other animals into our mouths. The cognitive distortion we use to justify it. Even drawing parallels with slavery, patriarchy and homophobia: “turning some-one into some-thing”.

Her aim was to change this framing; to provide a paradigm shift in the audience where minor changes could bring a major impact. It certainly worked for me, anyway; she’s a fantastic public speaker, and she has the science to back up the common sense.

Takeaway quote:

“Every day we participate in a behaviour that requires us to distort our thoughts, numb our feelings and act against our core values. And which enables a global atrocity…”

5. “What animals are thinking and feeling, and why it should matter” – Dr. Carl Safina

Dr Carl Safina has PhD in ecology and he gives a humorous talk about evolution and the parallel functioning of human and animal brains- “we cannot see minds, but we can see the logic of minds in behaviours”. He digs deep into examples of the emotional intelligence shown by a wide range of animals.

Okay, when I write it down like that it seems a bit heavy, but he tells it with great wit and authority, you won’t regret giving it a watch, I promise! 

 Takeaway quotes:

“The things that make us human are not what we think. What makes us human is that we are the most extreme. We are the most compassionate; we are the most violent. We are the most creative, and we are the most destructive animals ever to appear on this planet”.

I hope you enjoy these talks as much as I did. They gave me the education and inspiration I needed to follow through on my choice. I haven’t looked back since, and hopefully it’s the same for you!

If you’d like more info on Going Vegan, check out Going Vegan: Books and Info

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Qualified personal trainer, nutritionist and occasional guilty scoffer of family-size portions of vegan chocolate

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