What If We Were All Just Vegans?
Articles Reflecting a Vegan Lifestyle From All-Creatures.org

Vegan lifestyle articles that discuss ways of living in peace with humans, animals, and the environment.


Victoria Moran, MainStreetVegan.net
May 2018

And yet, it seems to me, we need some baseline, something that tells us – and the world — who we are: individuals who may disagree on many topics, dietary and otherwise, but who stand firm in one conviction: We do not consume death.

I went to dinner with a colleague after a vegfest. Another couple joined us and their enthusiasm about the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet was palpable. It had changed their lives.

This was a Middle Eastern restaurant with a section on the menu marked “Vegetarian” and listing ingredients. My friend and I ordered with only minimal tweaks. Then the other woman ordered a chicken dish, and the gentleman a dish with lamb. Probably because my jaw fell to the table, the man explained, “We’re not vegan. We’re plant-based.”

vegan defined

I’m aware that “plant-based” has no agreed-upon definition. It can mean vegan with no oil, or vegan with no processed foods, or vegan with no oil, processed foods, sugar, or salt. Or, without the “whole food” modifier, it can simply be a synonym for vegan. It can also mean mostly vegan with some grass-fed butter – “Come on, how can you live without butter?” — or eggs from backyard hens. Another interpretation is what we used to call “flexitarian” – eating largely, but not exclusively, from the plant kingdom, like the couple with whom I spent that surprising evening.

I’m not the vegan police. Anyone who moves in the direction of consuming more plants and fewer animals is helping to save both animals and the planet. Those who consume more plants, fewer animals, and less fragmented, highly processed food are also making tremendous strides toward improving their own health. And yet, it seems to me, we need some baseline, something that tells us – and the world — who we are: individuals who may disagree on many topics, dietary and otherwise, but who stand firm in one conviction: We do not consume death..

dried veggies

It’s pretty simple. We want the food that we eat to impart life to our bodies, so the first requirement for a food item’s passing muster needs to be that it is life-giving. This goes beyond its ability to provide certain nutrients. The lamb my tablemate consumed that evening provided nutrients — protein, fat, iron, vitamin B12. But if we’re about holistic health, we need to look at the whole picture, at foods that will nourish every part of us: body, mind, spirit, and planet. The planet part may sound like a stretch, but our physical bodies are made from elements of Mother Earth, so it follows that our health, in any true sense, depends on hers.

With these parameters in place, the only foods that can count as health-promoting are the offerings of the plant kingdom. These contain measurable nutritional components, including vitamins and antioxidant phytochemicals, and a powerful and positive psychological effect comes from eating plants instead of animals, too. Almost everyone who does this reports not just improvement in physical wellbeing, but also a sense of freedom, lightness, and peace.

beautiful salad

So, what would it mean if we accepted as a baseline, We do not consume death. This means that we would all be vegetarian and eventually vegan. People used to get stuck in vegetarianism (“You can’t expect me to give up cheese!”) but that rarely happens anymore. Men, women (and, increasingly, children) either go vegan overnight or in stages, but they go vegan. When we understand the nature of animal agriculture, eggs and dairy reek of death – male chicks killed mere minutes after hatching, boy calves slaughtered for veal, spent milk cows slaughtered for cheap meat.

By not consuming death, we enliven our bodies and minds, and we join with millions of others around the world who share this conviction. What if health people, animal people, environmentalists, yogis, Seventh Day Adventists, raw-food folks and everyone else seeing the light on this issue were willing to come together as vegans? There could be modifiers. We used to say “dietary vegan” or “health vegan” to show a distinction from “ethical vegan.” Even now we hear “gluten-free vegan” and “raw vegan.” Why not whole food vegan? It’s so clear.

When you think about it, it’s not so different from saying “I’m a reform Jew,” or “Yes, I am Christian – Lutheran.” This states one’s specific identity as far as religion, and also places the person within the context of a larger body of people carrying considerable political and economic clout. Don’t we want to have that level of influence in the sphere of food and agriculture? We can – if we stop sweating the small stuff (“I saw olive oil in her kitchen!”) and join forces with our allies. I can hear the arguments:

“But vegans eat junk food!” Some do. And some plumbers pad their bills, some soccer moms gossip, and some teenagers are out of control. To lump every member of these groups together beneath a negative umbrella is both unfair and inaccurate. And so what if someone eats something you don’t? They’re still an ally.

thirsty pigs

"But I’m not an animal rights activist!” Since 2014, the number of Americans who identify as ”vegan” has grown by 600%. This surge includes animal rights proponents, health seekers, eco-advocates, and more. If you’re not particularly interested in animals, don’t be interested. You’re contributing to their wellbeing simply by choices you’ve made for yourself. And if someone assumes that because you’re a vegan, you care about non-human animals, what’s the harm in that?

“But the book I read calls this diet ‘plant-based’!” I know. And another calls it “plant-strong.” And another has a different term. We’re creative people. We come up with variations on this theme. The problem with plant-based is, I contend, “based.” If I told you that my nephew attended a math-based school, you’d presume that its curriculum contained more math than a standard school’s – maybe 15% more, maybe 50% more. You wouldn’t think that it was math-exclusive – no English, no history, no art. It’s the same with a plant-based diet. There’s so much room for conjecture that those outside our community – the people we want most to reach – have no idea what we’re talking about.

I entered this movement back in the days when ethical veganism, in the U.S. anyway, came curated via the American Vegan Society and its powerful voice, the late H. Jay Dinshah. He said that Natural Hygiene, a healthy living movement, was the flip side of veganism, enabling vegans to stay healthy and strong. I learned from Natural Hygiene concepts that are more valuable to me now, in my sixties, than they were in my twenties: to eat lots of colorful produce, much of it raw, and to sustain a host of non-dietary health practices, too. This background makes being a health-embracing and ethical vegan seem entirely natural to me.

On my weekly Main Street Vegan radio show/podcast, I interview health authorities, animal rights rock stars, environmental crusaders, and chefs, cookbook authors, and entrepreneurs. Many of these produce or promote vegan foods that I myself choose not to eat, but I can still be grateful that these products exist, because changing the marketplace changes the world.

And Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators, is a virtual laboratory of vegan diversity. Five times a year, twenty women and men come together from across the U.S. and from twenty-three other countries so far. Their eating style may be WFPB, raw, macrobiotic, Ayurvedic, Nutritarian, Starchitarian, gluten-free, oil-free, or I-eat-anything-as-long-as-no-animals-were-harmed. And we get along. We even eat together. Our instructors teach every aspect of vegan living and vegan outreach. No one is expected to abandon what they came with, but simply to leave with an understanding that there are myriad ways to craft a vegan life. Everybody wins when we respect them all.

Victoria Moran is the author of thirteen books including Main Street Vegan, The Love-Powered Diet, The Good Karma Diet and, with JL Fields, The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook. She is the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, host of the Main Street Vegan podcast, and producer of the upcoming documentary, A Prayer for Compassion, to introduce vegan living to people of faith.

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