Don’t read Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book Eating Animals. You don’t want, or need, to hear the results of his extensive, hands-on research into factory farming. You don’t want to hear yet another reformed vegan tell you:
- The six main reasons to be vegan:
- to reduce the ghastly and endless suffering of billions of thinking, feeling creatures;
- to live healthier and longer;
- to reduce global air and water pollution, land degradation, water shortages and climate change impact;
- to reduce the risks of pandemic diseases carried by genetically identical, sick, mutilated, confined chemical-soaked animals;
- to eat (when the external costs and agribusiness subsidies are factored out) less expensively;
- to end the atrocities and human psychological damage that occur in industrial animal slaughterhouses;
- “Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
- “The controversy around PETA may have less to do with the organization [and its tactics] than with those of us who stand in judgment of it — that is, with the unpleasant realization that ‘those PETA people’ have stood up for the values we have been too cowardly or forgetful to defend ourselves.”
- “The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”
- It’s a myth that “free-range” or “organic” animal products are more humane than factory farmed products.
- [quote from a rancher of unmutilated, undrugged, un-genetically modified animals, one of the dwindling number who now collectively produce less than 0.5% of US animal products] “Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. Call him up and ask him. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference… KFC chickens are almost always killed in 39 days. They’re babies. That’s how rapidly they’re grown. Salatin’s organic free-range chicken is killed in 42 days. ‘Cause it’s still the same chicken. It can’t be allowed to live any longer because its genetics are so screwed up… These aren’t things, they’re animals, so we shouldn’t be talking about good enough. Either do it right or don’t do it.”
- Many of the workers in modern industrial slaughterhouses find the atrocities and suffering they witness every day so desensitizing that they become deranged sadists, and slaughterhouse owners ‘cover’ for the horrific acts they then routinely commit on animals.
- The American Dietary Association has repeatedly confirmed that “vegetarian [including vegan] diets are appropriate for all individuals during all stages of the life-cycle, including pregnancy, infancy, adolescence, and for athletes…[and such] diets tend to be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol and higher in fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals…[and] are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower risk of hypertension, lower risk of type 2 diabetes… and lower cancer rates.” In addition, they note that vegetarians and vegans have more optimal protein consumption than carnivores, since excess animal protein intake increases the risk of osteoporosis, kidney and urinary tract diseases and some cancers.
You don’t need to read the book. You know all this. There are reasons you still consume animal products, that are, inevitably, factory farmed. Eating is, after all, a social activity. It makes people really uncomfortable to tell them you’re vegan, and talking about it is hard. It’s even harder to replace all the animal products you use (especially eggs and dairy for baking and flavouring) with vegan alternatives, and to find replacements for the ‘processed’ products (sauces, desserts, breads) that you buy because it takes time to make them from scratch.
So here’s what you do. At least, here is what I’m going to do, as I take the last small step to being vegan, all the way, all the time:
- Learn the list of 5 reasons for being vegan in the diagram above. Partly to remind myself, partly to answer the “why” question that others always ask. My approach is not to debate, not to defend, but to be ready if someone is really ready to listen.
- Get a button that says, simply, vegan, and wear it on days when I am going to food stores or restaurants.
- Use the Veganomicon cookbook for all my meals. This book is wonderful, unintimidating, practical, easy, delicious and funny.
- Keep a copy of Eating Animals to give to anyone who is ready and wants the facts.
- Be prepared for dinner invitations. Let the host of dinner parties know in advance that I’m vegan and that I’m serious about it. Know which restaurants in the area I’m going to be eating in, have vegan options. If I know I’m going to be eating at a place with no vegan options, eat in advance.
- I don’t have non-vegan family members living with me anymore; if I did, I’d tell them of my choice and that I’m serious about it, but that I will never impose it on others.
- Become sufficiently proficient at vegan cooking that I don’t need to fret when I’m cooking for or hosting non-vegans. Tell them in advance that all meals will be vegan, and what the vegan alternatives will be for milk/cream (for coffee, cereal), eggs and cheese. There are alternatives.
Not so hard after all.