Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Two Week Vegan

For the next two weeks I am going vegan...completely vegan. No animal products will touch my lips; no animals will have to be harmed to fill my belly.

This two week trial period started out as a little wager in my Ethics class. I had come to the part in the class in which I discuss ethical issues related to animals and had just finished explaining about the horrors of factory farming and the benefits of a vegetarian diet, but was not really making much of an impact with the students (just wait until I show them PETA’s “Meat Your Meat”). As a wager, I told them that, if a few of them would agree to reduce their meat consumption even slightly for the next two weeks, I would adopt a vegan diet during that same period. I had only a few takers, but that was enough to compel me to follow through with my end of the bargain.

I had toyed with vegetarian and vegan diets on and off for the past few years and had always liked the feeling that I got from eating a more sustainable diet. The thing that did me in, believe it or not, was my three-month teaching gig at Rangsit University in Thailand last summer. Although Tai food is usually a good option for vegetarians, I found it very difficult to find a variety of food in the local restaurants to satisfy me; so I reverted to eating meat again and have continued to do so since then. Now it’s time to return to a heart-healthy, planet-loving, animal-friendly diet!

On Saturday night—the night before I had to begin my new vegan diet—I went to Pathmark, my depressing, overcrowded local supermarket, and began to scour the store for products that were animal-free. Although this supermarket chain is definitely not known for its alternative food options, I found a few items that would do the trick: pita and hummus, veggie burgers and buns, assorted fruits and vegetables, oatmeal (Irish Steel Cut), soymilk, veggie bouillon. Sometime this week, I also plan to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, two stores specializing in organic, locally grown, vegetarian, and vegan food items. When I go to these stores I will probably pick up some items that are more difficult to find in regular supermarkets: organic produce, beans, rice and other grains, tofu (firm only), some more vegan veggie burgers, and soy crumbles (great for making chili or “meat” sauce).

Although I recognize that a vegan diet is the most optimal one for personal and planetary health, I don’t plan to continue with it beyond the two-week period agreed upon with my students. Instead, I would like to revert to a mainly low-fat, vegetarian diet, such as the one recommended by Dr. Dean Ornish. I am well aware that, from an ecological perspective, vegetarianism is inferior to veganism and that it doesn’t completely resolve the issue of animal cruelty. It is a starting point to more sustainable living, however.

At the end of the two weeks, I will assess how well I was able to maintain a vegan diet and the benefits—if any—that I experienced as a result of this temporary change in my eating habits. It is my intention to show that, although it requires some thought and planning, it is neither overly difficult nor terribly onerous to live a vegan lifestyle.

The Vegan Food Pyramid


  1. Now you are finally beginning to make some sense, although, as usual, you are far too extreme in your position. If people voluntarily chose to reduce their meat consumption even slightly, that would have huge positive benefits for the planet. No need to go the radical, and possibly unhealthy, extreme of veganism. Leave that for the animal rights fanatics at PETA.

  2. I have been a vegan for about two years and have had never felt better physically or mentally. If Americans would just get over their fetish for the carcasses of dead animals, we would all be much healthier and there would be much less unnecessary cruelty in the world. There is nothing of nutritional value that you can get from a piece of dead cow or chicken that you can get just as easily from a plate of rice and beans or pita and hummus.

    "Live free, make love, eat plants!" I know that it's a stupid motto, but it seems to work for me.

  3. Since Sara brought up the issue of making love in the context of veganism, I wonder if she would consider oral sex to be vegan, especially if it involves the swallowing of bodily fluids (I assume you know what I am referring to here!). To make matters even more complicated, I have been informed that many condoms are made with casein, an animal product. So, with protection or without, you still seem to be in sticky (excuse the pun) territory.

    As a gay vegan who has no plans to become celibate any time soon, I have been struggling with this question for some time, and would love to hear what other people think.

  4. If no one is hurt in the process, I don't think that you will get any complaints about your recreational activities from the vegans that I know.

    And, just for your information, they do make casein-free condoms. So either way you won't have to compromise your vegan principles at all!!!!


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