Monday, February 7, 2011

To Vegan or Not To Vegan

To build off of my last post, featuring a friend and fellow blogger that completed a 30-day vegan cleanse, I wanted to talk more about the vegan part of the equation.

I thought it was super timely that Oprah hosted a show focused on veganism and offered a week-long vegan challenge to her staff. One of her guests was Kathy Freston, known as The Veganist. I tuned in to learn more, as I've been mulling over trying my own vegan cleanse, after the baby is born. Why, I'm not so sure (and, neither is my Hubby), other than wanting to clean out my system in a healthy way...maybe to get on the vegan bandwagon for a bit...definitely to infuse our diets with more clean-food options!

The gist I got from the show, and I'm paraphrasing and summarizing all over the place here (for more details, go to http://www.oprah.com/showinfo/Oprah-and-378-Staffers-Go-Vegan-The-One-Week-Challenge) is that the goal was to get us, us being us people that consume about 10 billion animals per year, to be more concious about where our food comes from and what is in it. It was mentioned that we eat what we eat out of habit, cultural values and traditions...or, and I believe this to be frighteningly true, because we have become addicted to it. Obesity stats and its impact on our health system were brought up, as was our love of salty, sugary, and fried foods. Veganism and the idea of eating foods with clean ingredients flies in the face of that, for sure, but is an idea that I wish more of us would get on board with.

What I learned was that animal products are used everywhere, even in places I wouldn't expect. I had no idea how much we really relied on them, until I started reading labels on items in my own kitchen: cereals, salad dressings, pop tarts. I listened closely to Kathy's product substitutions for vegan versions of condiments like butter and mayo that I could try. I thought of ways to avoid eating meat or just eating seafood, so frantic was I to save the animals! And, then, she brought me back to reality with two very simple statements: veganism is a way to honor animals, instead of taking from them to feed our appetites, and, it offers us a higher experience, as humans. Um, okay? How much do dairy cows miss their milk? Do hens bond with their eggs to the point that they miss them, if we take them away?

I mulled all this over for a couple of days, trying to find an answer to what all this meant...how I could be a better consumer and more responsible member of the human race, if you will. After all, being that we happily own and drive two large SUVs and exclusively use disposable diapers, I am very aware of the extra-large carbon footprint my family is leaving, despite our almost obsessive recycling efforts. What I decided to take away from all of this was that eating meat is NOT a crime, but the process of our food being so processed is becoming one! What I CAN do is be more respectful of the process of getting it to my plate, by wielding my consumer might to support companies that invest in a clean and humane way of delivering it to the market. What I CAN do is get behind companies that support product integrity, instead of those that fluff their foods with additives and preservatives. What if we, as consumers and spenders of the almighty dollar, started to demand a little more? What if we became more aware and more vigilant? As Oprah, who readily admitted to not being ready to go vegan at all, noted...what would it look like if we just leaned a little...became veganish?

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