Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More vegan musings

I know I seem to be fixated on writing about vegans and veganism, but I've been discussing the lifestyle with quite a few people lately. I'm also having second thoughts about trying out the diet again, mostly because having my period every two weeks is kicking my ass. I have trouble keeping my blood iron in the low end of the normal range as it is, so I'm not sure I want to risk my health at this point. It's a terrible moral dilemma. I'm giving it quite a bit of thought, and in doing so, I'm getting all kinds of input from friends and family. I sometimes wish I could be as carefree as my friend who recently said, "I love cheese. It doesn't always agree with me, but I love it. No way would I ever give it up!" My dietary considerations aside, the whole vegan world, which can be somewhat of a cult here in Boulder, has obviously caught my attention, and I'm starting to see that it's not unlike some religions in which people who practice have differing opinions on what's acceptable or not.

Obviously as humans, we disrupt the lives of animals simply by being on the planet. If you live in any kind of structure - a house, apartment, condo, hut or shack, you have infringed on the habitat of some animal, bug or creature. If you eat anything other than air, you are responsible for disturbing the environment in some way, probably indirectly killing mice and other small rodents in the way of farmers cultivating crops for your benefit. I'm sure there are people who live as closely to the earth as possible, but I'm assuming all produce at the store, organic or not, has been protected in some way from aphids, ants and other pests. The number one way to get rid of annoying insects in organic gardens is to kill them either with natural predators or with an organic pesticide. Nets and other methods of keeping bugs out only go so far. Oh, but those creepy crawly things aren't cute and fuzzy, so they don't count, right? Still, it's intentional killing. That's not very morally correct, is it? It's fine to kill them to get a nice looking head of cauliflower though. It's OK to do horrible experiments on rats too, as long as the study "proves" that milk products cause cancer. Oh, I get it. The double standard exists, because it's just the way society is. We put more value on larger, cuter beings. Who really cares if the home of a field mouse it destroyed if we get a pretty crop of soy in the process? Several years ago it was estimated that approximately 10 animals per hectare were killed in accidents and other incidents related to crop farming. Even if this number is exaggerated as some claim, there's no doubt that millions of animals are killed each year. I understand that many vegans are motivated by the general concept of making as little an impact on the earth as possible. However, there a few extremists who claim it's all about the animals, forgetting the smaller, less huggable creatures living here with us. Where do we draw that line and is it an all or nothing issue?

Something that confuses me are the people who call themselves vegans, yet wear leather or fur. I suppose there are people who are strictly dietary vegans who differ from lifestyle vegans. A friend of a friend who calls himself a vegan insists that his leather shoes were bought from a used clothing store, so it's all good. This brings up some interesting points. Some feel that wearing leather advertises and indirectly supports the leather industry. Does faux leather and faux fur do the same? Some may not realize that leather is actually not always a by-product of the meat industry. Many animals are killed specifically for their hides. Other people feel that since the animal is already dead, it would be a waste to not wear the leather. I see both sides, but I tend to agree that wearing it sends a message of support, whether that message is intentional or not. I'm not sure if the same message is sent with faux products, but it's possible. It's also possible that the message sent with faux leather and fur is that anyone can look as good without using the real stuff.

As far as choosing a vegan diet for environmental reasons, I'm not convinced one way or another that a plant-based diet is better for this rock in space than one that includes some meat. All farming contributes to the greenhouse effect, period. One has to consider what kind of diet supports the most people too, because crop farming may use less land but there's no guarantee that plant-based diets will sustain people as well as diets that include a small amount of meat. In this area, I have to wonder if the same people who complain about others not respecting the environment because of dietary choices are the same ones who strap their bikes to the top of their big cars and drive 35 miles to cycle for an hour or drive 45 minutes every weekend to run a 5K race. Yeah, good job on not leaving a monster carbon footprint.

I understand there are many reasons to choose a vegan diet. The reasons include but are not limited to: health concerns, environmental impact, moral issues, animal rights and spiritual benefits. My conclusions are that every BODY is different with different nutritional requirements and different capabilities of getting those nutrients, and I might not be cut out to be a vegan at this point. I see that there are varying degrees of veganism. It's important to note that I recognize that my lifestyle harms other beings on the planet, and I'm not exactly happy about that. I also see that even people who claim to be all about a compassionate lifestyle are not always tolerant of others and are not always aware of their own impact on this planet. So, until something really pulls me in one direction or another, I'm going to continue to sit here on the fence and gather information. There is quite a lot to consider. I haven't completely given up the idea of trying a vegan diet for a spell, but my gut is telling me that I need to be careful with these kinds of choices.


  1. Not sure what this means but I once had someone tell me that despite what I did to save the planet, reduce my footprint for an entire lifetime ... it was all cancelled out by one weekend of cars racing in Daytona.

  2. Here's my thoughts on matter what we try to do, someone or something will always counteract or negate the good that we try to do. Does that mean we should stop trying? Hell no! Why not make the changes that you can in your life, realizing that it will never be enough but it will be more than if you nothing. I am a vegetarian (since age 10), sometimes I am more Vegan but I would never label myself such because I would come under fire from the vegan police for slipping up somewhere ha ha. I just eat the best I can to reduce the harm to animals. But I get your dilemma about whether a plant based diet is any better. I think you just have to go with your gut on that (pun intended ):-)

  3. Your post is so apropos, as I've been eating more like a vegetarian recently, after several years of toying with the idea. I mean, I still eat meat, just a lot less of it. My motivations are mostly ethical and environmental but also somewhat health-driven. That said, I appreciate that you point out that it's not as simple as "plant-based = cruelty-free!" Another point I've seen made is that a lot of the people who work in the fields to raise the plant-based foods are undocumented migrants who are poor and vulnerable - what about their rights and the ethics of their lives? It's weird how people will get super self-righteous about not eating animals but they won't care so much about the people involved in food production.

    Anyway, your point about how it's all pretty complex and not at all cut and dry is something I agree with and have been thinking about a lot recently.

  4. I'm feeling the same way. I like what you all are saying, especially in pointing out the workers. I feel like I'm making efforts to eat less meat and the right kinds of meat. There's so much to consider!