What if all the nutritional advice we’ve been told has been motivated more by politics than public health? What if the foods that we associate with living in a developed country and being a robust and strong people, are not only killing us but killing our planet? What if eating less meat could do as much for the environment than getting rid of your car?
Lately I’ve been a little preoccupied with questions of nutrition. In particular, I’ve been thinking about my levels of meat and dairy consumption.
Blogging for Oxfam about the impact of the meat industry on the environment, and reading lots of stuff from Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman about Western diets and the industrialised food chain have resulted in some interesting behavioural and culinary experiments in our household. These experiments constitute what my husband and I call ‘bad veganism.’
I want to test the claims that I’ve heard from vegans and vegetarians: that cutting out animal products from their diet has drastically improved their health. I am also currently reading The China Study, which presents some pretty compelling evidence that the answer to many of the Western world’s ‘diseases of affluence’ (including obesity, diabetes heart disease, and many cancers) can be prevented and even turned back by a wholefoods, plants-based diet.
So my reduction in animal products is largely motivated by health, rather than by animal rights. In essence, I do not believe consuming animals is morally wrong. However, in our current environment and in the context of our industrialised food system, I question whether the rate and methods by which we consume meat are sustainable, or constitute responsible stewardship of our earth.
So a growing awareness of a range of issues have culminated in my decision to more or less cut out animal products from my diet. That’s all well and good, but how on earth do you do this?
More specifically, how do you do this when:
- A well-crafted strong latte = one of life’s great joys
- You’re married to a man with a very fast metabolism, who loves meat
- Very few others in your immediate circle proscribe to the same health and sustainability theories, and:
- You eat with others pretty often.
So why ‘bad veganism’?
If I’m experimenting with going vegan, why not go all the way? What is a bad vegan?
Mark Bittman has recently released a book called Vegan Before Six. His approach is to avoid animal products for all meals except dinner, thereby reducing his fat intake, cholesterol, and risk of cancer, while still enjoying a balanced lifestyle and the occasional steak. I suspect he also takes this approach for very pragmatic reasons as well – by presenting as ‘moderate’ in his views, he is tolerated and perhaps more respected in mainstream debates about diet and nutrition. He probably also sells more books.
I’m kind of modelling my approach on Bittman’s. While I am pretty convinced of the health and environmental ramifications of our huge rates of meat consumption, I want to avoid becoming a militant vegan. So I am trying to implement a system that I call ‘vegan at home.’ My husband likes to call it as bad veganism.
Why just vegan at home? Firstly, that is the food we have direct control over. As involved members of a very community-based, active church, my husband and I love to spend time eating meals with friends and our church family. While I have the autonomy and right to make individual choices regarding my food practices and consumption, for me those choices come second to being able to easily share meals with friends. After all, sharing meals is about far more than the food we eat… or my health.
I am also very aware of the connotations of judgement that some people associate with veganism. My reasons for experimenting with veganism are entirely personal, and while I believe I’m not actually judging anyone else’s food choices, I also want to avoid even the appearance of judgement.
So my policy is: vegan at home, omnivore everywhere else. This includes having the freedom to cook meat for friends and family. It is very important to me that my food choices don’t dictate my whole life.
So stay tuned as we embark on this latest experiment. I’ll be updating the blog with pictures, recipes that I’ve loved, and things that have challenged us along the way. I might even try to convince my husband to contribute a guest post about how he’s finding it.
If there’s anything you’d like to hear about this process, or questions you’d like to ask, feel free to drop me a note.
These were amazing. It’s an easily modifiable recipe – basically blend up dates, cocoa powder, any kind of nuts and water. Feel free to add any flavour you like – we tried peanut butter and coconut in some batches and they were great!