— Gene Baur (@genebaur) October 26, 2016
November is World Vegan Month and it also marks the beginning of the holiday season.
This is the season of family gatherings, football, feasting, and the death of over 300 million turkeys in the U.S. alone.
Doesn’t make you feel very merry or bright, does it?
Consuming animal products is a way of life for most people in the U.S. and the increased amount of food consumed during the holiday season makes the demand increase exponentially.
Think about it. Cheese at holiday parties, massive amounts of turkey and ham consumed, cheesecakes for desserts, not to mention the gallons of eggnog we drink this time of year. Storefronts lure shoppers in with signs advertising a free turkey with any purchase over $100 and we are encouraged to donate those turkeys to families in need if we’re not going to eat them.
I went vegan in July of 2013 and never looked back. That’s five holiday seasons I’ve had to figure out how to avoid uncooperative relatives, dead birds in the middle of the table, and eating way too many crudites for lack of something more substantial to eat.
For anyone who has considered going vegan but thinks it’s too difficult, I’m challenging you to do it this holiday season.
The holiday season? Why? Am I some sort of masochist? Isn’t that setting you up for failure?
I’m asking you to do it now because once you get through the hardest time to be a vegan, the rest of the year will seem simple by comparison. And here’s the good news: all the best foods on the table are either already vegan or easily veganizable.
Where I lived in the U.S., there was a group we lovingly referred to as The Vegan Mafia who got together every Thanksgiving for a potluck meal. Our first vegan Thanksgiving was spent with them eating all the usual Thanksgiving food but vegan-style.
I urge you to find a local group of vegans and ask if you can join them. You will enjoy creative and festive food, and as a bonus you will meet lots of great people. Be sure to ask for recipes before you leave.
The following year we decided to shake things up a bit. We invited six international students from our local university to dine with us. Since they had never attended an American Thanksgiving, they had no expectations and because most of the other students on campus had gone home for the holiday, they were happy to have a home-cooked meal.
Our Rotary Club has a canned food drive every year. It’s a noble effort but I’m always dismayed by the amount of unhealthy, non-vegan food that is donated—Spam, tuna fish, beef soup, canned stew, and chicken. The club members donate out of the kindness of their hearts without realizing the damage being done both to animals and human health.
My husband and I were able to easily find healthy and compassionate canned goods even during the week when the club asked us to focus on foods “with protein.” We donated boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter and nuts, cans of beans, fruit, and vegetables. Don’t forget the shelf-stable, plant-based milks which will last far beyond the holiday season. There are so many alternatives.
Many sanctuaries have a program where you can “adopt” a turkey for the holidays. Making this connection to a living, breathing creature makes your commitment more tangible. The first year I did this, I put “my” turkey’s picture on my office door to invite others to ask questions.
You don’t have to miss out on tasty food. There are several brands of vegan eggnog and various “celebration roasts.” Plant-based butters and milks make outstanding mashed potatoes, and simple mushrooms make a gravy even your Aunt Tilly would be proud of. It doesn’t take long to find thousands of vegan recipes just waiting to dazzle you and your guests.
The best bit of advice I can give is to not be hard on yourself and quit if you screw up. Every vegan has occasional screwups when they unintentionally consume something that isn’t vegan. Just pick up and begin again and think about making it your New Year’s resolution.
There are lots of resources out there on how to go and stay vegan. Be a part of the change that has to happen in order for our planet to survive and show some kindness to the animals.
We can use the holidays as an opportunity to make the world a better place for us and the animals.