J500 Media and the Environment

A (Vegan) Fork in the Road by marybethw

Grilled cheese sandwiches; mac and cheese; ice cream. So many of my comfort foods were largely (if not entirely) dairy-based; could non-dairy substitutes really be as good? This was a dilemma when I found myself standing at the vegetarian/vegan crossroad. Why, then, would I choose the vegan fork rather than sticking with the vegetarian one? Well, first, I started reading and watching more about our diet and where the dairy part of my Cherry Garcia came from. As I began paying attention to the truth behind the “happy cow,” “food animal” curtain, I came to a point where I had seen as much as I could; being someone who didn’t lose that connection all children have with non-human animals, it was an emotionally tough road.

At that point I needed to step away from “where our food comes from” for a bit and started focusing more on its environmental and health impact. I read Silent Spring, The Food Revolution, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, and others. I always have been very aware of environmental issues (helping start an Earth Club in high school, when such issues were much more rarely discussed) and it really struck me just how my mac and cheese was affecting the environment. After learning more about how our food system is killing our home and ourselves, and delving more into the ethical arguments for veganism, I returned to the “animal question” and, since, have learned to be more vocal for changing our eating habits (for the earth and all its inhabitants, both human and non).

And the non-dairy, vegan versions of food comfort? I’d recommend Good Karma’s Rice Divine in Very Vanilla (on a warm homemade vegan cookie, of course).

~Mary Beth

Image from: Sweet Avenue Bake Shop’s blog


6 Comments so far
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It sounds like you made a tough decision, giving up your favorite foods for substitutes, but also that you don’t regret it at all. Have you been able to find substitutes for all of your favorites?
Why do you think some people are able to carry that connection to animals from childhood into adulthood, while others can’t or don’t?

Comment by mackenzies09

I’ve always wondered about veganism, but I think that picture just sold me…

Comment by Lauren Keith

I don’t tend to think of it as giving things up; more that I’m just switching things out (non-dairy, vegan cheeses, plant based sweeteners rather than honey, plant based materials such as hemp for things like belts rather than leather). So, yes, I’ve found substitutes and, realistically, I’ve found that some things just taste better vegan. Plus, you can make vegan versions of so many things — even incredibly decadent desserts!

I’ve seen a number of mentions relating to child/adult-non-human animal relations. I think it may partly have to do with the pet animal/other animal divide. While we would never dare eat Fido, experiment on Fluffy, or wear bits of Polly, society has relegated some animals to just those types of uses. I think it also has to do with what our society considers important. As small children we tend to care for many creatures; but, as we grow up, society tells us what we should stop trying to save the whales (“what can You do? you’re just a kid?”) and focus on making money and attaining material goods. I don’t know that either of those really answer the question and, unfortunately, at the moment I can’t come up with a good source to cite.

Comment by marybethw

It’s interesting, what you say about the child/adult-non-human animal divide. Peter Singer had some really controversial ideas about the ethical standards our society has set between human’s and animals; he claims that it’s wrong to always consider a human life to be more valuable than that of an animal, regardless of circumstances. It’s hard to agree with that, but he makes a tough case…

Comment by justinl7

Yeah, I’ve read Singer’s writing on non-human animals and in “In Defense of Animals: the Second Wave” he revisits that stance. He argues that because animals are sentient beings, with emotions, ability to feel pain, etc. they deserve no less consideration than lower functioning humans. While, yes, this may be hard grapple with, there are other authors who present the same base (non-human animals as sentient beings deserve to be treated humanely and with respect) but do not go to the same point as Singer (“Dominion” by M Scully [who was a speechwriter for Pres. Geo. W. Bush], “Farm Santuary” by G. Baur); even in “The Way We Eat” (http://www.amazon.com/Way-We-Eat-Choices-Matter/dp/B000RL9OCC/ref=reader_auth_dp#reader) he focuses more on other aspects of our food culture.

Comment by marybethw

Adam Gopnik has a beautiful essay published in Best American Essays about his daughter and the death of her goldfish. It is a beautiful portrayal of the sensitivity of children and their ability to perceive consciousness in, even!, a goldfish.

Comment by brennad87

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