A letter to the not-yet-vegan, the vegan-curious, the on-the-verge-of-vegan...
(all of which described me, too, at some point in my past)
by Meetup Organizer Jennifer GreeneA vegan Meetup, eh? Why do people go vegan, anyway? I could never do that.
People who decide to avoid consuming animals or products of their exploitation can come to that decision for different reasons. I know many
people who started out with a focus on their own health. Increased awareness about food then led to greater awareness of the creatures who are used for food. I know other people who feel motivated by environmental concerns, humanitarian concerns, or all of the above.
Interview a room full of vegans, and you will find that people can and do have different paths to vegan living. And there's nothing wrong with that. As a friend of mine says, "To the animals, it doesn't matter why
we don't exploit them, just that
we don't exploit them."
In my case, I went vegan for the same reasons I'd gone vegetarian, years earlier. As I learned more about the dairy and egg industries, I realized I could no longer consume those products in good conscience.
And I've found that vegan living is joyful and easier than ever before.
Can't imagine life without dairy cheese? Then you just haven't tried the newest vegan cheeses.But I love ice cream,
I hear you murmur. Well, then come to our next vegan ice cream social, and be amazed by today's (non-dairy) ice cream
Vegan living isn't about deprivation. It's about life and joy, peace and health. It's about seeking not to harm other animals who are no different, in any morally relevant way, from dogs and cats. I see vegan choices as a way to resolve a major contradiction in my life. Vegan choices let my actions be more in harmony with my values. And that's a joyful way of living.It's time to wake up to the reality
[<--caution, this link leads to "Farm to Fridge," which contains graphic footage] of where meat and products of animal exploitation come from.
(What's wrong with consuming eggs? "Farm to Fridge" shows you, at 2:21. What's wrong with consuming dairy? "Farm to Fridge" shows you, at 6:18.) Let's do what we can to boycott the violence inherent in these systems.
Dairy and egg businesses, even when "organic" or "free-range
," are not the harmless ventures one might imagine them to be. I wound up asking myself: if I wouldn't eat veal, should I be consuming calves' milk, and products made from it
? (Even backyard egg production is inescapably tied to violence. While the hens certainly lead better lives than their factory-farmed counterparts, this question remains: what happened to their brothers
People are waking up to the environmental impact of livestock--the TRULY inconvenient truth
about the diet-climate connection.
(Worldwide, animal agriculture is responsible for more
greenhouse gas than the entire
transportation sector.) The need to reduce our greenhouse gas contributions couldn't be more urgent.
What we're eating makes more difference than what we're driving.
What about eating aquatic animals? Overfishing—"which I call fishing" (to quote Richard Oppenlander)—is an ecological tragedy, and again, the need to let our aquatic ecosystems recover couldn't be more urgent. (Have you been told to eat more fish, for the heart-healthy omega-3 fats? Actually, it's no sweat to get your omega-3s and
let the fish live.) And check out this page
to learn more about fish behavior, emotion, and intelligence.
Even an industry executive admits (in this Frontline interview)
that slaughterhouse work is essentially dehumanizing work. It traumatizes people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says it's the most dangerous job in the U.S.
We need to recognize the inefficiency
of feeding grain to animals in order to feed people (as the linked-to NY Times
article explains; see especially the paragraph beginning "Though some 800 million people on the planet...").
To top it all off, a whole-food, plant-based diet may even improve your health
. Eating vegan can prevent the leading chronic diseases--heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes. Keep in mind, however, that a vegan diet does not, cannot
guarantee good health. Vegans can and do get sick. Our chances of staying healthy may get better when we quit consuming products of animal exploitation, but no one is invincible
What about raising plant crops? Stockfree-Organic agriculture techniques,
like "green manure," are proven. No need for slaughterhouse byproducts such as bonemeal and bloodmeal.
In other areas of our culture, we can support better choices, too. When it comes to fur, circus, rodeo, pet breeding, or bloodsports, there are more ethical alternatives to all of these. And really, vegan living is more than what one buys or eats.
I'd say that to live vegan means to show compassion for others. It means to expand our circle of justice. It means to practice the golden rule.
Still, it makes sense to put the spotlight on our food
choices because most animal abuse takes place in the context of our modern food systems. 99% of all animals who suffer at the hands of humans are animals being used for food.
If you're not already choosing vegan food, a question for you: what do you think is keeping you from making the move? Is it habit? Fear of the unknown? Are you worried that you could never give up your mom's famous something-or-other that she makes every year, especially for you? (Dr. Michael Greger
would say: Well, then give up all the other stuff except your mom's whatever, and think of the good you'll be doing.)
I hope you'll give vegan living a try. We're glad to give you support, and guide you to helpful resources. For instance, livevegan.org
is a good "one-stop-shopping" site for newbies. And I've listed more than a dozen other useful things for you to check out, on this page
Here's a short essay which presents a common-sense, results-oriented approach
by Matt Ball of Vegan Outreach. Here is a short biography of Donald Watson, the man who coined the term "vegan"
(he and his then-fiance, Dorothy Morgan, came up with it in 1944). Today, the society he founded in England provides this definition
. Lee Hall, in On Their Own Terms
, defines veganism as a movement of conscientious objection to the deliberate exploitation of aware beings. Here is a collection of several other people's views
about the meaning of "vegan." This page answers frequently-asked questions
such as "Will I get enough protein?" "How about B12?" "Is refined sugar vegan?" "Is honey vegan?" "Isn't it hard to go vegan?" (If you're really keen to learn more about bees and issues surrounding beekeeping and pollination, here's another site you can check out
I should also add this: I'm not under the illusion that vegan living causes *zero* harm to other animals. But it greatly reduces the harm I cause.
Why do I mention this? Because I've heard of people who thought that shunning flesh, dairy, and eggs meant they had reached a kind of perfection. The same people then became disillusioned when they found out that eating plant foods still caused some harm—when they learned, for instance, what can happen to field mice when a farmer uses machinery to harvest her crop.
This is why one friend of mine says, "I don't see veganism as the final or best standard for choosing what foods to eat. I've come to think in terms of a moral baseline—it's the least
I can do, when it comes to animals." Here's an essay which makes this case well: Veganism as a Minimum Standard of Decency
I find humane educator Zoe Weil's motto (and title of her wonderful book) to be a sound approach to consumer choices, and life in general: Most Good, Least Harm.
Thank you for visiting this page. Thank you for reading this far. Please don't feel bad or wrong for not being vegan already. It's the norm in this society
to be consuming animals and products of their exploitation. But I hold on to the belief that you share my values of justice, kindness, and compassion--and that once you have the information and support you need, you'll want to align your choices with your values
--and help build a better world.