By now I’m sure you’ve heard. Carrie Isaacson and I are going vegan for a week. As I sit here over my extremely non-vegan breakfast of two eggs, a sausage patty and key lime pie yogurt (my favorite), it’s beginning to dawn on me how difficult this whole “going vegan” thing is actually going to be. My only hope is that my digestive system does not decide to go on strike for the duration of this challenge.
When one decides to go vegan, it is a difficult (and emotionally challenging) time, full of research, substitutions and the horrible realization that the few items you thought might fit this lifestyle and make your life worth living are probably not vegan. Let’s perform an exercise, shall we? Pull out a pen and piece of paper. Now make a list of all the tasty things in your life you assume to be vegan. Now throw it away. Because you’re probably wrong.
Here is a very short list of the things I once assumed were vegan, but are not:
Starburst, heart-healthy orange juice (contains Omega-3s from animal sources), general anesthesia, non-dairy creamer, some refined sugar, many wines and beers (stemming from the filtration process)…. The depressing list goes on and on. And on.
As far as the “vegan lifestyle” is concerned, it’s pretty much impossible to pull off. Did you brush your teeth this morning? Do you wash your clothes? Do you enjoy those scented candles? Does your house contain sheet rock? If the answer was yes to any of these questions, you should thank Bessie the cow for her contributions to society (especially hygiene, no one likes that one guy on the bus who seemingly hates deodorant and shampoo). I guess the biggest question is, why shouldn’t animals be utilized to their fullest? It would be a waste to throw away parts we can get use out of, that’s just silly. This chart may be a bit extreme, but I’ve seen it floating around a lot lately. It highlights all the things in our lives that are not vegan:
Certainly you may argue that a lot of these products have vegan substitutes. That is true. But you’d go broke trying to replace everything in your life with things that are not vegan. Even your car is not vegan. Think about it folks, where did oil come from? How about all those plastic parts?
So why did Carrie and I decide to go vegan? Well I wish I could say this was a spur of the moment decision stemming from recent animal rights actions, but this idea has been in the works for months now. We’re not saying veganism is bad, certainly there are herbivores out there who support production agriculture practices and merely choose this diet as an attempt at a healthier lifestyle. It seems, however, a lot of vegans hold the thought that raising and eating animals is the cruelest thing in the world. As a dairyman myself, I can tell you that I care more about those girls on the dairy (and their comfort and health) than I do about just about anything else. I just happen to also care that their meat and milk are exceptionally tasty and full of nutrition, so sue me.
Probably, the biggest inspiration for our adventure into veganism is that so often we try to ask consumers to understand our perspectives as agriculturalists, when we don’t attempt to understand their choices. This week will be an exercise in “walking in someone else’s shoes,” if you will. So join us if you want, make your attempt at veganism. Try to understand why someone would want to engage in this lifestyle. If we can do this, maybe, just maybe, we can be a little closer to gaining some common ground with consumers, understanding perspectives and communicating our positive messages as agriculturalists.