Friday, July 23, 2010

My Comment on The Voracious Vegan

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Voracious Vegan. I like her stand on a lot of issues, she really gets me thinking, and I enjoy the glimpses of life in another part of the world. Today she posted about some issues that were raised with a fellow vegan who accused her of not being vegan enough. (Go figure.) Stop reading now and go read her post, all you have to do is click here, then come back and you can read my response. (Which is also posted there; comment #38.)

Hi Tasha:
Wow, what a post! I read an article in Mother Earth News recently that raised some of the same issues. It’s the kind of stuff that hurts to think about.

As for myself, I'm a newly minted vegetarian. I'm leaning towards veganism but I’m not there yet. I understand the arguments for giving up eggs and dairy, the cruelty involved with veal calves and caged chickens, but although I've cut back on those products a lot, I haven’t been able to give them up entirely yet. Your post has me thinking about my reasons for giving up meat in the first place. Like a lot of people, my head was stuck in the sand about how animals are raised and slaughtered. I thought they had decent lives then were killed quickly and painlessly. I knew about the terrible way veal calves and geese were treated so I NEVER ate veal (not realizing it was a by product of the dairy industry) or pâté. I only bought cage free brown eggs; my kids would ask why and I told them it's because farmers were mean to the chickens that made the white eggs. Food, Inc. and a lot of reading after I watched the movie taught me better. I can't support companies that practice factory farming; it's just too horrific.

Having said that, I’ll admit that the cruelty arguments, although very powerful, are not the main reason I gave up meat. After all, I can still get humanely raised, organic meat if I make an effort. (Which I did last Christmas for our final meal with meat.) The tipping point for me is the environmental and humanitarian impact of eating meat. The disproportionate amount of natural resources that meat production requires and the fact that every bite of meat we take in the “first world” is stealing food out of the mouths of people in the “third world”. Would we eat as much meat if we had to stand in front of a starving child and forcibly take the food from his or her plate? Not many people would, yet that is exactly what we are doing when we eat meat. I can’t do it anymore. Luckily I had the support of a good friend who took the journey with me (she jumped straight to veganism), sharing recipes, offering encouragement, suggesting more reading material, and so forth. That made it a lot easier to make the transition.

I still have many friends and family members who are not about to give up meat and I’m not going to judge them for that. I encourage them to eat less meat by telling them about the Meatless Monday movement, gently suggesting that they cut back on meat as much as they can, and by setting an example with my own choices. I’ve blogged about my reasons for giving up meat too, so maybe that will help. There’s also an argument I heard (I think it was part of a Ted Talk) that said 100 people giving up meat one day each week would have more of an impact that 10 people giving it up entirely. (Or something like that; I don’t have the numbers right, but that’s the gist of it.)

I think that’s where the movement has to go to be successful in the ultimate goals of reducing suffering, both human and animal. We have to be gentle with people who are not as enlightened, who are not eating with consciousness. The majority of the population is NOT going to give up meat, that’s just reality, so the goal should be to educate, encourage, and enlighten, not judge and make them all defensive and more entrenched in their positions. Getting more people to reduce their consumption of meat, to eat more mindfully, will be more effective and reach more people in the long run than trying to get everyone to go vegetarian or vegan. It’s important to be passionate about our own choices while still not judging others for making theirs, for drawing that line where they feel it needs to be. It’s also important to make the effort to get people thinking, so that when they do draw their own lines, it’s with an understanding and awareness of the issues and not because it’s the way they’ve always done things.

That line can be slippery, after all, as your post points out. Honey, for instance. Talk about a slippery line! The honey thing bothers me. If vegans don’t want to hurt bees, then you can extend that to not eating anything that bees are trucked around to pollinate, which is far more damaging to them than using their honey. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that point.) That means vegans should give up things like almonds and a lot of different kinds of fruit. See? You could go on forever with that line of thinking, until the only conclusion is just to commit suicide. But then burial can be a problem as well, or do you use the resources for a cremation?? You can make yourself crazy with all the what ifs and spooling out the arguments into infinity. You just do the best you can and acknowledge the fact that you exist and you have a right to consume a certain amount of resources because you are a special, amazing, wonderful living creature just like all of the other wonderful creatures on our planet, and go from there.