This past week has been so much fun! It’s been such a delight to see the amount of you who reached out, legitimately interested in vegan options! Every time someone sincerely inquires about veganism, I can’t help but get excited! Going meatless once a week can have a really impressive impact on the globe. According to Compassion over Killing, participating in Meatless Mondays for a year:
- Reduces your carbon footprint by over 8 lbs a day
- Saves 1/2 gallon of gasoline per day
- Reduces your fat intake by 15% (per meatless meal)
- Reduces risk of breast, colon, prostate, kidney, and pancreatic cancer
- And, most importantly, saves 28 land animals and 175 aquatic animals per year
That means if I can convince even 3 people to eat meatless once a week, they’d collectively saved 609 animals from slaughter. I have a silly, stupid smile plastered all over my face just thinking about it. 🙂
Since so many of you asked really, really good questions, I thought I’d take the time to answer them here in case others have similar ones! Maybe this could even be a monthly feature – email me your questions about veganism to email@example.com, and I’ll be sure to post them here with my answers.
1. What made you go vegan instead of just vegetarian?
I was vegetarian before I was vegan. Up until last year, I had a pretty on-again off-again relationship with vegetarianism. The trend began in college. Several of my best friends were vegetarian, so I figured I’d look into it. One lent me Eating Animals, and I was devastated – not by the blatant animal rights violations outlined in the book, but by how disgusting factory farming is. Did you know that 97% of chicken breasts sold in the US are infected with harmful bacteria? The majority of this percentage is composed of enterococcus and E. coli, which come from fecal contamination. Even more upsetting was the fact that more than 11% of the chicken breasts tested had two or more types of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Yuck. No thanks.
After college I moved to Austin, and the horrors of what I had read faded into the background. I began to eat meat again, and continued to do so until last February when I decided to re-read Eating Animals. This time, the animal suffering really upset me, and it became harder and harder to ignore the fact that the egg and dairy industries are just as cruel as the meat industry. Around the same time, I found myself perusing the vegan subreddit, and a documentary called Earthlings kept popping up. People were calling it “the vegan maker,” and I naively thought, “challenge accepted.” Earthlings was the push I needed to get me to commit. It was like a switch flipped, and everything just kind of fell into place.
2. I was under the impression that free range/grass fed, etc. was OK. I mean ya, still eating animals, but ethically?
There are two things to consider about free range meat: the first is to be extremely skeptical of whether conditions are as idyllic as they are reported to be. After all, a farm’s ultimate purpose is to make money: there will always be trade-offs made between animal welfare and simple economics. Take Niman Ranch as a perfect example. Niman Ranch is typically seen in the food industry as the pinnacle of ethical meat. Despite this, Bill Niman, the orginial founder, abanadoned his namesake in 2006. He left after Natural Food Holdings took control of the company and made changes to the cattle-raising process because could no longer support the way the cattle were being treated.
The second thing to consider is this: supposing you did buy humane meat, how does one define humane slaughter? I don’t recommend watching videos of “kosher slaughter” or “humane slaughter,” but let me be clear: no matter how quick the process, no animal wants to die. A cow, left to its own devices, can live to be up to 25 years old. Cattle raised for beef are typically slaughtered before 3 years of age. Veal calves are slaughtered between 3 and 16 weeks. It shouldn’t come as a suprise that the act of killing hundreds of animals quickly isn’t pretty. Joby Warrick wrote an article in 2001 for the Washington Post called “They Die Piece by Piece.” Warrick interviews a veteran slaughterhouse worker named Ramon Moreno who was a “second-legger.” The cattle were supposed to already be dead before they got to his post. It was not rare for them to reach him still alive. “On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. ‘They die,’ said Moreno, ‘piece by piece.'”
I don’t need to eat meat to survive. I don’t need to be a part of the biggest scale of mechanized violence in the history of humanity. I don’t want to be responsible for the most horrific final moments of a life imaginable. For what? A hamburger? The ends do not justify the means.
3. Is JB vegan, too? If he is not vegan, how do you work that?
Yes, JB is also a vegan! I’m sure he’d have some interesting perspectives to share in regard to being a male vegan, as the general population associates empathy as a feminine trait… but the sexual politics of meat is a topic for a different day! JB has always been a step ahead of me on the animal rights train, so when I tearfully confessed that I wanted to go vegan, he whole-heartedly agreed. I am very lucky in that regard.
There are a lot of interesting posts on reddit.com/r/vegan about dating omnivores. I think the key is to set boundaries that you are both comfortable with. Whether that entails no animal products in the home, or simply cooking separate meals is purely up to you and your partner. I will say that relationships take compromise in order to remain healthy. It can be hard not to lambaste people, especially when you feel right, but at the end of the day, being vegan is a personal choice. Being in a relationship is all about mutual respect and the freedom to make your own decisions. Obviously, if JB wasn’t a vegan, things would be more difficult. But I’m sure we’d work things out, whether that meant him adding meat to his own dishes separately or us determining some other work around.
I will say this: I find that a lot of women are nervous about bringing up the idea of vegan food to their male partners, likely because there is this persistent cultural myth that says vegan food is dainty, feminine, and weak. Vegan athletes prove every day that you can eat a plant-based diet and still make mad gains within the traditional concept of masculinity (although I find it odd that as a culture we are so concerned about our men appearing “manly”). I think we need to give the dudes in our lives the benefit of the doubt and trust that they are capable of reaching educated conclusions about eating meat. Also, I don’t know any guy that would turn down a hearty serving of Nirvana Enchilada Casserole!
4. What about other household items (cleaning supplies, paper towels, dish soap, air fresheners, etc.) Is there a site or way to find those items as well?
I love Method cleaning products! I’ve found them both at Target and my local supermarket! They smell incredible. Seventh Generation is good as well. Here’s a list from the Leaping Bunny of certified cruelty free household products. Peta also has a ton of great resources about keeping a cruelty free home.
5. Is it not possible to believe that plant life has feelings too?
Sure, anything is possible. But even if plants were sentient (a hypothesis for which there is no scientific evidence), you’d still end up saving more plants eating vegan. The majority of crops today are grown to feed domesticated animals. That being said, most vegans use the presence of a central nervous system to distinguish whether or not an organism is acceptable to eat. Cows, pigs, cats, horses, chickens, fish, dolphins, sharks, you name it– all have central nervous systems, and all have the ability to feel pain. Some vegans consider it ethical to eat oysters and mussels because they lack central nervous systems. So does nutritional yeast, and that’s why I sprinkle it on my popcorn every night. So. good.
Speaking of “so good,” I made the lasagna verde from Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen tonight!
Here’s a before picture of the assembled lasagna:
And here it is, fresh out of the oven:
I also made the apricot barbecue sauce for the BBQ tofu recipe. Look how pretty these apricots were! I’ll let you know how that meal turns out tomorrow 🙂
I leave you with this. One of my favorite excerpts from Eating Animals is in the opening pages when Jonathan Safran Foer is speaking with his grandmother, who survived World War II Germany:
“The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”
“He saved your life.”
“I didn’t eat it.”
“You didn’t eat it?”
“It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”
“What do you mean why?”
“Why, because it wasn’t kosher?”
“But not even to save your life?”
“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”