Yesterday, I had an awesome conversation with a new friend, who has been living the vegan life for several years and is also raising a #vegbaby. I asked her what she thought one of the biggest misunderstandings was about veganism, especially in the family setting, and she reminded me of something very important:
Veganism is not about deprivation. It’s about abundance.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about living a plant-centric lifestyle – one being that all vegans are hippie minimalists with piercings and a fridge full of broccoli and tofu (okay, so maybe I’m one of them). But it’s true that when someone finds out that you’re vegan, the immediate response is often something like:
“How do you live without cheese?”
“I could never give up bacon.”
“But where do you get your protein?”
“I love ice cream too much to do that.”
When my family decided to go plant-based, it was initially a step from omnivore to vegetarian, at which time we still consumed ice cream, cheese, and milk chocolate. But something funny happens when you pivot in this direction – an intense amount of eye-opening information comes flooding toward you in a very short amount of time. And you have to decide what you want to do with it. When this happened for us, it became a no-brainer that using animals as food of any kind was not something that we wanted to support anymore. We quickly became cognizant of our family’s core values and figured out how we were going to further adjust our dietary habits to reflect them.
And when vegbaby was born, there was no question that he was going to be raised vegan.
Which raised even more inquiry from others:
“How could you make that choice for him?”
“What will you do when he asks to try bacon?”
“What about when he’s the only one not eating meat at school or a friend’s house?”
“How will he get his fat/calcium/protein/iron?”
“Isn’t a vegan diet unsafe/inadequate for growing children?”
There are of course some lengthy responses to all of those questions, so instead let’s reframe things for a second.
What if instead of talking about veganism as if it’s a fad diet that restricts us from everything delicious, we shifted our perception to understand what veganism is really about?
Veganism has the ability to:
- Save an average of 200 animals per year, per person, from being used as food or consumer objects.
- Save over 400,000 gallons of water, 14,000 lbs of grain, 11,000 square feet of forest, and 7,000 lbs of carbon dioxide from being used for industrial animal agriculture or released into the atmosphere.
- Reduce risk for (or even reverse) heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
- Increase life expectancy.
- Introduce kids (or adults!) to a wider variety of foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains) and expose them to more kitchen skills and nutrition knowledge that will serve them for their entire life.
- Give kids the confidence and resources to engage in intelligent and meaningful conversations with their peers, and become leaders in the plant-based movement for younger generations.
- Be a catalyst for awareness, exposing cruelty and combating oppression, changing policy and perception, and creating a more compassionate, ethical planet.
Vegbaby will grow up understanding that we choose not to eat animals because they are not ours to eat, to exploit, or to be anything but our friends. He will undoubtedly run into numerous social situations that will feel uncomfortable and challenging (for him and us both), but rather than support a system we don’t believe in, we will give him the tools to educate others about his choices and invite them to adopt a new perspective. Just as we continue to learn to do as adults.
You have the ability to positively impact the world with your personal, daily food choices.
How much more abundant does it get than that?
“Veganism is not about giving up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.” ~ Gary L. Francione