Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Catching up. Vegan transitioning and real life.

We vegans and vegetarians are certainly a special breed.  We've altered the way we've done things since childhood, changed our shopping, changed our outlooks and changed out diets.  We are the "difficult" ones to our friends when we go out to a restaurant, (even though I have to question why speaking to the chef in the Indian restaurant was a "difficult" thing at all).

I've heard, "It's not hard to be a vegan, it's easy!"  Maybe it's not hard.  It's definitely hard-ER.  You know it's easier to point to a menu item then to ask 20 questions about what's in it.  It's easier to just pull things off the supermarket shelves than to look at the ingredient list of every product through a magnifying glass and to cross reference sodium benzoate with your list of approved vegan products.  It's easier to just pick out a restaurant than to do online research to make sure there will be at least one vegan option.  It's easier to just buy your shoes at a shoe store than to make 3 trips down to Moo Shoes and spend more because you "believe."  And lets not forget that when you go from vegetarian to vegan you can't just order the veggie burger in every single restaurant any more.  Many of them have eggs and cheese in them.  And the buns?  Maybe this IS difficult after all ... it definitely takes more effort!

We seem to come in all shapes and sizes and I don't mean inseam length and waist measurements.  I mean that we all are in different points on the vegan sphere.  I was going to say spectrum but that implies there is actually a range of values, a measurement, a scale.  What would that actually measure?  Veganism?  Being a better human?

How Vegan Are You?  Does it matter?

If you give up eating animals are you a vegan?  If you put on your leather shoes that you bought years ago are you a vegan?  If your shoes are vegetarian and yet you use and iPhone which contains animal products in the plastic parts are you excluded from the club?  If you put some coffee flavored lightener in your coffee in the morning and it has casein in it do you care?  Heck, you already paid for it so do you dump the stuff in your coffee cup or down the drain?

There are as many types of vegans as there are vegans.  Some differentiations are by practice.  Mark Bittman's, "Vegan until 6," idea is still a form of being a vegan.  The way I see it, it brings consciousness to food choices.  It means you're thinking about where your food came from.  It means you're eliminating eggs, cheese, bacon, ham, sausage and butter from your breakfast not because you're simply in the mood for the oatmeal today but because you made a conscious decision to NOT eat animals like usual.  It means you probably skipped the tuna sandwich or ham and cheese or Nuggets and junk on a McBun.  You decided its better for you, the earth, and oh yeah the animals, to not eat them.  Consciously, not serendipitously.

This might leave you with a changing criteria for food choices depending on how many seconds have ticked off the clock today.  Do I agree with those criteria?  Nope ... but I'm not excluding you from the vegan club.  Nope, you're not *as* vegan as others but you still have made a step in the right direction 66% of the time.  Using the old math that's still a lot better than those subscribing to a Meatless Monday.  That means only being vegan, if your definition of "meatless" is "animal-less," one seventh of the time.  I applaud both of you for the one thing that you have in common.  Making food choices with your brain.  You've added the caveat, "... from the foods I've concsiously decided I'm going to eat..." to the usual,
"What do I FEEL like eating today?"

If you've become a vegetarian who still eats egg, cheese and milk ... welcome to the tent.  You've made great strides in your conscious food choices.  I personally think you have a long way to go but I do ask my abolitionist friends and compatriots to welcome you and applaud your steps in the right direction.  Imagine, for a moment, that all the world went ovo, lacto vegetarian.  No more factory farmed beef.  No more cows raised for meat.  There of course would still be death and murder as the question of profit is always asked in a business.  If a milk cow stops producing then the economical thing to do is kill it.  Not a happy ending but think of the other side of the coin, billions of animals not being bred and slaughtered for food.  Still not where I'd like to see the world but come on, lets face it, it would be a lot better than where it is now.

I also believe that once someone starts to question their, "business as usual," food choices it's a slippery slope in our favor that they'll continue to ask questions and make more changes.

I think vegans and vegetarians, whether welfare-ists or abolitionists need to stop harping on OUR differences and start focusing on the other 97% of the population.  It doesn't make someone more or less righteous if they merely reduce their animal consumption or eliminate it.  It doesn't matter if someone cuts down or eliminates their animal consumption for personal health reasons or the environment or dare I say it, compassion for the animals ... the end result is less slaughter and less death and less diet induced disease and less strain on our earth's ecosystems.

Yeah, in my view, convincing a vegetarian to go vegan, convincing a part time vegetarian or vegan to go full time, are things that will occur naturally.  We have to go out there with our message of change, unified, that we must move away from the way we are to SOMETHING else right now.  We need to keep the light on the prize of a vegan world but lets face it, it's going to happen in baby steps, not giant leaps.  We have a half a billion eggs recalled and not once did I hear that the way to protect yourself from getting salmonella from eggs was to, (duh), stop eating eggs except in the vegan press.  No, you should boil them, cook them thouroughly, hold it in your hands over your head and jump around in a circle three times but you just gotta eat that egg.  We have mad cow outbreaks and not once do we hear, (duh), stop eating meat.

Here's my point.  We need to accept anyone who has made a move towards a more compassionate and healthier world as one of US and we need to turn our efforts to help others start to make small changes in their lives.  It's that simple.

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