OPINION: Embrace world vegan month

November welcomes World Vegan Month, and with it comes a new perspective on a lifestyle that holds individuals accountable for what they eat.

Vegans have to dodge relentless stereotypes — but these people are not the grass-eating hippies many make them out to be. Veganism promotes a healthier and sustainable lifestyle that seeks to eliminate a dependency on animals, and instead supplement meat with plant-based protein. This protein comes in many forms, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.

While this may seem extreme to some, vegan products have expanded greatly to fit the need of the market. Milk, meat and cheese substitutes are found on grocery store shelves everywhere, and vegetarians and vegan consumers are able to find food sections dedicated to fit their needs.

Five percent of Americans identify as vegetarians and about half of these individuals follow a vegan-based diet, according to most recent data published by The Vegetarian Resource Group.

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Cook-off
Piles of vegetables were cooked for the after cook-off festivities on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Erin O. Smith, eosmit8@uga.edu)

Erin O. Smith

Though many vegans adopt their eating habits to enjoy a diet that is free from guilt in regards to animals, it is not the only reason to quit frequenting Chick-Fil-A and the like.

The desire to go vegan can stem from a number of reasons — including wanting to become healthier and more energized, lessening one’s carbon footprint and also eliminating one’s part in the tons of crops and water it takes to raise farm animals, according to PETA.

Vegan or not-vegan, the decision to cut out animals from a diet raises important questions about the apparent disconnect between humans and the food on their dinner plate. Before we pull into the drive through of the nearest fast food joint, we don’t stop to think about how the meat we are about to consume was produced, and whether there was malpractice involved.

Overwhelmingly, 79 percent of American consumers believe producing healthy choices is important for farmers and ranchers to consider when planning their production practices, yet 72 percent of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching, according to research conducted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

With a nation uninformed, fast-food industries and major corporate chains are able to get away with mass producing meat products while cutting corners. Seventy percent of all antibiotics important to human medicine in the United States are sold for use in animal agriculture, according to a report by Friends of the Earth, an environmental and consumer advocacy organization.

These drugs are used unnaturally to stimulate growth in animals, fed routinely and misused to stimulate an industry that overlooks the process of how a chicken sandwich became a chicken sandwich. The money we spend on a lunch break doesn’t just feed us, it feeds an industry of neglect.

The same fast food restaurants frequented by the masses are receiving failing grades on their use of antibiotic policies, according to the same report by Friends of the Earth. Olive Garden, Starbucks, Chilis and Burger King are just a few on a long list of companies that are less than transparent about how they feed their customers — receiving an F on the 2016 scorecard by FOE.

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Basil
According to Mother Earth Living, this fabulous herb has been spicing up our lives for centuries, but did you know that basil can be used to treat arthritis thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties? Basil is also proven to help slow the process of aging and contains a vast array of antioxidants. For non-vegetable lovers, basil can be added to any soup, salad or pasta dish.

Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

While these facts are alarming, and prove the overwhelming detachment between consumers and their meals, it does not mean that one has to jump on the vegan bandwagon to take a stand. Companies like FOE enact several petitions towards companies that engage in this malpractice in order to spread the word, and encourage many to be apart of the movement.

NPR also lists a number of apps available to consumers that provide information on food and products that are produced through sustainable practices.

While veganism is not for everyone, it sheds a light on how we see our food, and quite frankly — what we don’t see.

Next time someone hands you a flyer in tate that advocates for Meatless Mondays, think twice before throwing it away. Do research on the companies you frequent and become informed about better choices, because until we do, it is those without a voice that bear the burden.

2 thoughts on “OPINION: Embrace world vegan month

  1. VEGANISM SHOULD BE AWARDED RELIGIOUS PROTECTION
    by Marcia Mueller

    A group in Canada named Animal Justice has been working to have veganism declared a “creed” and thus be closer to various protections under Ontario Human Rights law.

    In 2011 the Ontario Human Rights Commission was updating some of its official policies. They questioned whether “creed” should include “secular, moral, or ethical belief systems” that are nonreligious in nature. They refer to the idea that beliefs such as animal rights can be more important to some people than organized religion.

    Members of the Animal Justice group assembled to convince the Commission that ethical veganism deserves protection as a creed. The new policy states that a creed does not have to be limited to organized religion: “Creed may also include non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity.” Noted was that this would include a belief based on avoiding harm to animals, the foundation of ethical veganism.

    Since many in the animal rights movement already live in this manner, what would be the advantages to declaring veganism a creed or religion?

    For one thing it would give vegans some protections, as well as legitimacy. The Commission’s policy would provide guidance to employers, service providers, hospitals, etc., to accommodate requirements based on creed. The following are examples:

    1. A university or school would have an obligation to accommodate a biology student who refuses to perform animal dissection because of her creed.
    2. An employer would have an obligation to accommodate an employee who cannot wear an animal-based component of a uniform, like leather or fur, based on his creed.
    3. An employer must ensure corporate culture does not exclude a vegetarian or vegan employee, such as holding regular company networking events at a steakhouse, instead of providing additional, inclusive opportunities.

    A court in Ohio recently heard the case of a hospital customer service representative who refused to get a flu shot because the vaccine requires eggs to produce. The judge refused to dismiss the case, saying it was possible the plaintiff’s veganism could be a moral or ethical belief. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it would treat veganism as a belief that entitles it to reasonable accommodation.

    Some argue that veganism is not a religion because it does not have a comprehensive theology, specific deity, and or established place of worship.

    However, there are counterarguments. Veganism functions as a religion in the way it guides moral behavior. Ethical vegans adhere to a lifestyle that avoids all harm to living beings, and most ethical vegans care about the environment. Many vegans have abandoned organized religion because of its failure to give animals moral standing or condemn harming them
    Veganism has a prominent place in the history of religion, particularly in Jainism and in some Buddhist and Hindu sects in the doctrine of “ahimsa.”

    In Defense of animals suggests that the progression from “shallow” to “deep” veganism corresponds to other religions’ stages of spiritual growth.

    Veganism is developing its own literature in the works of Father Andrew Lindzey (an Anglican priest), for example: “Animal Theology,” and “Creatures of the Same God.” Books by other authors include “Animals Are Not Ours (No, Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology,” and “The Souls of Animals.”

    There are also prayers books for animals: “Blessing the Animals,” “Earth Prayers,” “Animal Prayer Guide,” “Peace to All Beings,” and “Prayers for Animals.

    (Yes, some people who have left organized religion have become atheists. Others believe we got it wrong when we developed our conception of a deity who didn’t care about nonhuman animals and thus figure praying can’t hurt.)

    There may not be any specific church services for vegans, but the group In Defense of Animals has a vegan spirituality network. In some places people get together personally. The rest of us have teleconferences on the second Thursday of the month.

    So a case can be made for the movement to be declared a religion or a creed. There may be a number of reasons it would be helpful, including giving it a legitimacy and protection to live our beliefs involving food, dress, and academic coursework without fear of retaliation.

    It may be an idea whose time has come.

  2. I wrote the above for another blog. I think it makes sense because most people are not long-time vegans for health or diet reasons but because of ethical values and the refusal to cause suffering and death to nonhuman animals. Veganism as a religion should stop some of the harassment (at work and school, etc.) from those who resent the lifestyle. I would allow us to refuse to use leather and who ask for substitutes. There are numerous other advantages.

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