Challenge your perceptions on veganism and what you eat.
For those who find vegan a scary label or don't know what it means let us explain. Veganism, or following a plant based diet, is a way of living which seeks to exclude as much as possible any exploitation of animals for food. A plant based diet therefore consists mainly of leafy greens, veggies, roots, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts.
Veganism has been getting a lot of attention in the press in the Netherlands recently. However media outlets are mainly focussing on the negative, not highlighting any of the positive sides. And every yang has its yin. Surely.
And so I set about watching the vegan renowned documentary 101 Reasons to be Vegan. I'm a Kiwi working at the Juicery, coming at this from a non-vegan stance. I'm into the idea of eating mostly plants. I care about what I put into my body. I care about the environment. I like animals.
So, 101 reasons?
één. Just because something is a tradition doesn't mean it is morally acceptable, cultures evolve. Do we need to start evolving?
twee. Every second in the United States three hundred animals are killed for food. Imagine that on a global scale.
drie. You can get sufficient protein from plants. And sufficient calcium from plants. Are meat and dairy surplus to our requirements?
vier. We are willing to eat animals, but we do not want any part in the process of killing them. Is turning a blind eye to this hypocrisy?
vijf. A child does not see an animal as food, this is a learnt behaviour
zes. Cows and chickens are pumped with antibiotics, this transfers to humans and can cause a resistance to antibiotics. Was the animal you're eating sick?
zeven. Our closest genetic ancestors are vegan, they knew the buzz long before we did
Okay, you get the gist. I don't want to spoil the documentary. Luckily my Dutch counting skills are limited.
When James Wildman starts talking I'm slightly skeptical. It's not just that his name is Wildman (oh the irony!) It's also the dim backdrop and budget powerpoint - why wasn't this filmed in one of those on flek Hipster cafes? But as he talks, I can't help but like him. He's funny, his reasoning is sound and the images he presents are so vivid they stay etched in your mind.
The pictures below don't need a description, just look at them slowly, in their relation to each another. I think you'll find they evoke a feeling. It may make you feel uncomfortable.
Image source: "101 reasons to become vegan"
However one thing in Wildman's argument leaves questions lingering in my mind. He argues that our outlook on food is not intrinsic, but shaped by society - more specifically the meat and dairy industries. And yet, cavemen ate meat long before any such industries were around.
And so I did some more reading. Scientists say that human beings were in fact initially herbivores. But, the vegetarian cave men died out, and the meat eating ones survived them. Intriguing. I'm not sure what that says for us today. But it seems fairly obvious vegetarians aren't becoming extinct. We live in a very different world, there are no saber-toothed tigers chasing us, so maybe our survival needs are different.
When cutting specific food groups out of your diet it's important to make sure you are getting the nutrients and minerals you need from other sources. Be knowledgable of what you eat. A glass of milk has no more calcium than an array of plant based options: spinach, dried figs, sesame seeds, tahini and tofu. And these plants and seeds contain many more nutrients too.
Modern society is evolving. We are more aware, more self-reflective and making more informed decisions about what we eat and how it is produced.
Here's a fact to ponder, Hitler was a vegetarian and the Dalai Lama eats veal. Nothing in life is black and white, nor completely straight forward. It's the complexity, and navigating through the grey that makes life not only interesting but also meaningful.
This video talk provides an interesting starting point to re-evaluate your diet and lifestyle. Watch it with an open mind and see what reasonates with you. The most important thing is whatever decisions you make, you know what you believe and why.
Musings by Kesha.