what is baseline veganism? part 1

When it comes to food, whether eating out with friends or partaking in the product lunch presentation at work, the fact that I am vegan inevitably creates a bit of a problem. Not so much in a logistical sense, although of course there’s an issue there, but more in terms of labels. While I consider myself essentially vegan, I don’t think the word “vegan” as commonly understood is an accurate label. Reason the first; too many vegans have an insufferable self-righteous attitude, and I’m insufferably self-righteous as it is that I don’t need any more encouragement. I’m talking about folks who refer to people who eat meat as corpse-eaters, for example. I’m talking about PETA, who are otherwise commendable in their efforts for securing humane treatment for animals. Reason the second: the word “vegan” does connote an absolute stance – absolutely no meat, no animal products, never-ever – and I don’t think this is either philosophically justified or realistic in terms of living life.

I’ve resorted to using pragmatic vegan or non-absolute vegan as alternatives, but these are just weasel words, as Wikipedia might put it. After working the ol’ neurons for a long time, I’ve settled on the term “baseline vegan” to label my nutritional stance. Before explaining it, though, I’d like to get on the soapbox and answer the question, “why vegan?” The short answer is predicated on the principle of avoiding or minimizing death and suffering:
  1. It’s healthier for us.
  2. It’s good for animals.
  3. It’s good for the planet.
Nutritionally, it’s Dr. McDougall’s books that persuaded me of the science behind nutrition, along with stuff I’ve read by Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food) and others. Basically, to be healthy and reduce incidence of diseases like cancer, diabetes, what have you, it’s best to avoid processed food and “edible food-like products” and just eat food. Good ol’ natural food, straight from the planet – veggies, fruits, and grains – chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. But it’s also that excess meat and dairy, with high fat, underlies many diseases associated with the Western diet.

Beyond nutrition, the huge planetary population entails a large-scale meat industry, which comes with barbaric practices like debeaking, close confinement, electrocution deaths, and other abuses. I once rationalized these industrial processes as necessary for feeding a large population, but I can’t accept that anymore. Animals are sentient - to varying degrees, of course, but sentient nonetheless. They may not be “human,” but they feel pain; there’s more to animals than we think. To be consistent with acting with compassion, it’s necessary to treat animals humanely, with empathy - not just humans. Not eating meat means not treating animals with cruelty.

Then there’s the planet. The meat industry is one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gas that contribute to global warming. Yes, you can say cow farts – the methane of livestock is a greenhouse gas. Between that and the fertilizers, land use, transportation, and so on, the meat industry as it is now is bad for the environment. Other points of contention is how much grain goes to feed cattle (seven pounds of corn to one pound of beef, for example) when it could instead to feeling people directly. The excess consumption of meat, fast-food and otherwise, impacts not only the environment, but the quality of our human civilization.

To be continued...

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