Originally published as two individual pieces as separate letters to the editor and later were combined into a single article for The Free Press here: http://freepress.org/article/%E2%80%9Cno-option%E2%80%9D-not-option-vegans
If you have never heard of the word “vegan,” this is a definition: someone who has acknowledged the fact that animals are fully conscious individuals who desire freedom and as such, warrant the same fundamental right to be free, not to be treated as property or unnecessarily killed. Vegans, therefore, abstain from killing or using animals or their products as much as is possible or practicable in modern society (their products are in sidewalks, tires and many other foundational places you wouldn’t recognize).
However, people have often self-identified as “vegans” to simplify many needs: food allergies, doctor’s orders, plant-strong health (well planned whole foods, plant-based diets can prevent, arrest, reverse or otherwise positively impact 15 of the top16 causes of death), sustainable consumption, energy conservation, ecological preservation, food security etc. Demand for vegan, organic, non-GMO options are rapidly rising trends of the informed consumer, not a fad.
Those who require vegan options would be delighted to dine anywhere and not treated like an afterthought or discriminated against outright. What a wonderful thing it would be to walk into any restaurant and see clearly identified vegan options for every course of a meal. It feels very unwelcome when the server asks “Would you like dessert?” and after asking “Are there any vegan options?” the answer is “I’m sorry, no.”
I recently saw the film “Jobs” as in, Steve, not employment. I’ve been saying something for a while; “When your option is ‘no option’ it is not an option; it is a lack of consciousness or accommodation otherwise known as discrimination.”
Vegans are discriminated against almost everywhere: schools, employers, civic venues, churches and charities, sporting events, community events and virtually all social events, and especially around the holidays. Is it any wonder why the recidivism rates of people who go vegan and return to consuming animal products is so high? Especially when physicians aren’t trained in nutrition and any recommendations they give are based on the conventional, dubious and often unsustainable paradigm of the culture, not the available, nutritionally robust, plant-based alternatives.
Living vegan differs in commitment level among its adopters because it is a behavior that can be changed based on the motivation and discipline levels of the person doing it, unlike conventional bigotry and discrimination defining characteristics that cannot be so easily changed (gender, race, color, age, ability etc.). People are a lot more firm in their resolve to change unjust and discriminatory law when it applies to them and they can’t change who or what they are. Since the “skin in the game” is literally other species, it is easy to see why so few people really stick with it. Like any minority, it can be a challenge to thrive when the culture discriminates against you in every way.
The reason I brought up the film “Jobs” is because in it, he said something profound, and remarkably on target with what I’ve been trying to convey that is the heart of why our culture is not a vegan one when 95% of our population claims to love animals and does not think they should be harmed unnecessarily, yet 95% of the population continues to harm animals unnecessarily, so they can eat/use them and their products. What Steve Jobs was quoted as saying in the film that gave me goose bumps it was so good was this: “How do people know what they want if it doesn’t even exist yet?”
Deep down, people are vegan, but the culture they were born into never even gave them the option to live in alignment with their instinctual values of liberty, justice, happiness, respect, dignity, compassion and empathy for all earthlings.
Take us there, it is up to you to demand the world you wish to see. You have the power to demand what you want, not just accept what you are given as if it is impolite to expect an ethical and civilized society we claim to be when we distinguished ourselves from the natural world. We are natural herbivores who in this culture have been forced into the unnatural position of behavioral omnivores. Demand a better world. Love life, live vegan. The crazy ones.