Why should I go Vegan in 2012? #NewYearsResolutions
I’m going vegan, maybe. And using the consideration over the next few days to inspire a respectful consideration for our whole mindful community. I’ll decide based on comments, on New Year’s Day. ~ ed.
Growing up, I ate meat—until I was four, or something, and I realized the cute pigs and other animals I was reading about in children’s books were what I was eating on my plate. That’s gross, and mean, and crazy, I thought!
I became vegetarian for two weeks.
Fast forward 10 years or so and my Buddhist practice of tonglen (compassion meditation, you could call it) and my newfound passion for environmental responsibility (started by the fun, simple book 50 Ways to Save the Planet) led me to eat and enjoy less and less meat. The changes in my diet weren’t particularly inspired by compassion for animals—it was more about eating mindfully, and appreciating what I was eating, and only eating meat when I knew where it was coming from. This was around 1995.
In 1999, I was barely eating meat, ever. My then-girlfriend, a lifelong vegetarian, moved in, and I casually offered to only eat meat out, since separating the pots and pans and cutting boards and all was a bit of a hassle. Overnight, I wound up, rather inadvertently, becoming a full-fledged vegetarian for the first time in my life. Why? Well, I’d been hardly eating any meat, anyways. I never got pepperoni or sausage on pizza, since I didn’t know where it hailed from (almost certainly a factory farm, and I wasn’t down with ordering torture for dinner). Most helpfully, my gf didn’t proselytize…she just ate healthfully, and showed me how (which is key: many folks who “try” veganism just take the meat out and then wonder why they feel weak). Instead of looking for meat substitutes, which rarely compared to the real thing, she ate a wonderful, delicious diet full of protein. At 185 pounds, very active (bicycling every day, etc) I felt just as good as always.
I’ve been vegetarian ever since, and it’s been easy. I don’t really think about it, and the few times I’ve been offered meat and accepted (once by my Buddhist teacher, as a sort of prank) it’s tasted like flesh, not the yummy meat I remembered. I no longer want it. Sure, bacon still smells good, but so might bbq’d human or dog or horse, and we wouldn’t eat that if it smelled nice, would we?
Day to day, I’m just about vegan. Have been for some time. I don’t eat meat, of course, and I don’t use milk for anything (I switched to Americanos or black coffee, leaving behind dry capuccinos, with the encouragement of some of my vegan frenemies a year ago). The only time I eat dairy is when cheese, for nachos, or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I’ve tried all the vegan ice creams, and they don’t cut it. Not nearly. At least, not yet.
So, I ask you: why should I go vegan in 2012?
I have slow food friends who’d rather see me eat meat again mindfully, and appreciate the best of foodie culture. I myself have been turned off by some of the aggression in the vegan community, and hesitate to join their ranks. But my conscience is more important to me than any of that. Why should I eat dairy? Does eating mindfully produced dairy or meat help change an industry more than abstention? Can conscious consumerism make the dairy and meat industries kinder than going vegan, where you’re removing any incentive for said industries to get more gentle and responsible?
Also, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and others (see here for my interviews with them) say that if everyone went vegan, there would be no domesticated animals left at all. If we didn’t have an incentive to keep cows and goats and chickens and even buffalo around, they’d be gone. Poof. Most vegans say, well, that’s fine. These are breeds not intended to live in the wild, anyways. Still, that seems complicated: vegans shrug shoulders at the prospect of losing millions of acres of farmland and millions of animals (though I understand they live miserable lives).
So I’m looking for comments, for or against, or middle of the road.
Whatever you think. Why should I go vegan? Why shouldn’t I? What’s a good (truly) vegan ice cream? What’s a good vegan cheese (I’ve been buying almond for some time, and am impressed—they work for nachos! Not so sure about pizza).
If we get to 500 comments (for and against both count, to aid the spirit of mutual respect and conversation)—our most-comments-on-one-blog-ever on elephant is 488—I’ll go vegan for a year. And write about the experience, which should involve many more readers in this vital contemplation. If all goes well, I’ll stay vegan.
Why so many comments? Because I’d like to use my path, here, as an instigator of conversation for as many of us as elephant’s diverse community can reach to figure out how to live responsibly, with joy, and with minimal aggression and prejudgment at others. Any disrespectful, personal comments to anyone will be deleted, and won’t count toward the total. Leave a comment. One word is enough.
Help this conversation get out there. Share this to your Facebook wall, or email it to your list, or tweet this (hashtag #mindful to share with other elephant readers).
The deadline is, of course, New Year’s Eve, at midnight, when I’ll be emceeing at BMOCA.
elephant’s 5 tips for making the Vegan transition.
PS: Pigs are cute. Pigs are also smart.