Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Continuing Thoughts on Veganism

Yes, adopting a vegan diet can help save the planet, eliminate unnecessary cruelty to animals, aid in feeding the world’s hungry, and reduce the blobs of fat that currently hang on American’s guts and posteriors. The choice to eliminate all animal products from one’s diet is probably one of the most moral decisions that any human being can make in this age of planetary distress. I congratulate anyone able to forsake the flesh and by-products of the beast, whether they do so for moral, health, or aesthetic reasons.

My own little experiment with veganism, however, has convinced me that it is damn difficult to put into practice if you don’t have the luxury to live in more enlightened parts of the country like California, Oregon, or Vermont. Even here in New York—supposedly a bastion of progressivism in the United States—it is extremely difficult to find places to eat suitable for those practicing veganism (good luck trying to find anything even remotely vegan on the menus at Applebees, Friday’s, or Friendy’s!). Vegan meals are also much more labor intensive to prepare and require much more forethought than other kinds of food choices.

That having been said, we Americans can no longer afford to continue to eat the way we have since the 1960s with animal products and fast food making up the bulk of our food choices. In his provocative article in the New York Times, “Unhappy Meals,” Michael Pollen gives the most practical tip on how to eat a healthy—and fairly planet-sustaining—diet:

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Although this may sound a bit simplistic, if more Americans tried to put this advice into practice, the entire planet would ultimately benefit. The key to success seems to be to take incremental steps in reducing one's overall consumption of animal products. There is absolutely no reason why an ecologically conscious person couldn't limit his or her consumption of animal products (dairy, eggs, and cheese for example) to two or three times a week, and perhaps reserve the consumption of animal flesh to the odd special occasion or holiday. This compromise would probably not satisfy a hard-core vegan, but it would be a dramatic improvement to the typical American diet and would significantly reduce the amount of animal cruelty currently practiced.

Is this a reasonable compromise or a cop-out? Let me know what you

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