Vegan Q&A: Common Questions, Part II

Vegan Q&A: Common Questions, Part II

Before I jump into my (ridiculously long) preamble and this week’s commonly asked questions, I just want to remind you all that the clearance sale is still running in our shop! While we’ll continue to sell a few select items (mostly to fund this blog space), several products are being discontinued and are thus drastically reduced in price (50% or more!). You might want to head on over before those treasures are all sold out!

And now, let’s get to the good stuff…

Complete Truth

In my last post, I told you that I’d been dragging my feet when it came to digging into these commonly asked questions. The reason I gave was that it’s because they’re the “eye roll” questions, meaning that they’re most often asked in either a mean tone or with a mean spirit (which I–with no remorse–dubbed stupid). And while that is all completely true, it isn’t the complete truth. There’s another very good reason I was reluctant to jump in, and it involves me, doing something that I explicitly told myself I was not going to do.

Some History

Back in 2004, I started making food changes that were, in the beginning, purely out of necessity. After a round of heavy antibiotics, I became lactose intolerant and could no longer enjoy the ice cream/cheese/dairy that I so adored. That first step may have been involuntary (and reluctant), but from then on, it was all me. And while losing my ability to digest dairy seemed at first tragic, I quickly came to see it as the blessing in disguise that it was. It became the catalyst to years of intensive learning, reading, and researching as I journeyed into better understanding of what my body needs (or doesn’t need) to thrive.

I jumped right in–with zero hesitations–and started applying all that I was learning. Not that this kind of behavior was anything new; it’s never really been my way to take a slow, let-myself-adjust pace. Hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, white flour, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors. The more I learned, the more I realized that there was so much more to learn, and I became rabid for the information. Like, tell me everything. I need to know. Right now.

One of the very first things that I tackled was learning how to read labels and, after a crash course in the basics, I made my way (with great resolve) to the pantry where I began studying those innocuous little ingredient lists with growing horror. One box after another had me shaking my head in disgust as I realized that many of the things we were eating couldn’t even technically be called food, and worse, I’d been unknowingly feeding this garbage to my growing girls. So what did I do? Well, obviously, I threw them out. Every last wretched box. They weren’t even good enough for the critters dining on my compost pile.

My discoveries didn’t stop in the kitchen, though; next they had me traveling to the household cleaners and personal care products. With increasing frustration, I saw ingredients that are known carcinogens and others that had already been banned–for years–in other countries. It was crazy, jarring, scary, eye-opening, and I quickly realized that no benevolent government agency had my back. The only one that I could trust to have my best interests at heart was me. And in my sweet naiveté, I thought everyone would want to hear about my discoveries. I thought everyone would care.

Shut Up Already

Well…let’s just say that things didn’t play out quite like I thought they would. People didn’t really want to know (about anything), and for the most part, they didn’t really care (about anything). Mostly they believed–erroneously–that if a product was being sold to the masses, then it had already been deemed safe. No one was interested in hearing that there are virtually no (you read that right) safety regulations on make-up. And no one wanted to know that those household cleaners are actually a toxic sludge of unnecessary (and dangerous) poisons.

All of this research inevitably led me to the threshold of vegetarianism, and Thanksgiving 2007 was the first official day of my meat-free journey. But if I quickly realized that people didn’t want to hear about the risks of parabens, toulene, and SLS, then I realized even more quickly that they really, really didn’t want to hear about the problems with our food. And, most especially, not about the gruesome secrets of the animal agriculture industry.

So what did I do? I shut up. I continued to learn and grow, assimilate and apply, but I kept my sharing limited to this household only. The information still felt crucial–and highly relevant to living a happy life–but my dissemination of it virtually stopped. Instead, I adopted the attitude of be the change. Be it–don’t talk it or preach it–just live it. Every day. And live it in such a bold, beautiful, and unapologetic way that if someone, someday, decided that this knowledge was pertinent to their health and happiness, perhaps maybe Melinda can help… would be one of their very first thoughts.

A Lot of Years

It’s been a lot of years. So many years that I was starting to doubt the efficacy of be the change. And maybe somewhere along the way I’ve been asked a question or two, but I found that people mostly prefer to stay in the dark. We (strangely enough) would rather look at things like cancer and chronic disease as monsters that strike without warning, rather than realize that we court them with our choices every day. Or we (again, strangely enough) willingly choose to turn a blind eye rather than make proactive changes in our lives and “deny” ourselves anything. This all sounds like I’m making a wild generalization (and I hate generalizations), but it’s what I’ve seen. For all of these years. Change is hard, so let’s pretend we don’t have to.

But then? 2020 happens. And if you follow me on Instagram then you’ve heard me talk, on multiple occasions, about the fact that it blew in with a bang. It caught me completely off guard, and it’s been wreaking havoc (in a welcome way) on every aspect of my life for weeks now. But as the pieces settle? Such blessed clarity and peace. One of the unexpected (and beautiful) things that arrived in this storm, however, was the realization that my “be the change” approach to life finally seems to be working.

Grow Together

First, a friend who I’ve known for probably twenty years needs to clean the chemicals out of her life for her health. Who did she think of asking for advice? Yours truly. And then another person who I’ve known since high school sends me a message that read something like this: The wife and I want to go vegan; can we talk?

Can we talk? Damn. I’ve been waiting twelve long years to hear those soul-warming words.

But you know what this means, right? This means I can’t shut up anymore; this means that I need (get?) to start talking again. And these commonly asked questions that I’m digging into here are just that: me saying some of the things that no one has wanted to hear from me for, well, ever. Am I actually getting the green light to do what I’ve been itching to do for years now? The go ahead to share, learn, and grow together? It almost seems too good to be true.

So I apologize for that crazy-long preamble, but life has my head spinning right now. And watching first one, two, and then three award shows serving plant-based meals? And seeing more and more people thinking realistically about their environmental impact? Honestly, it has me all heart-eyes over here and realizing that maybe now’s the time. It was likely no “accident” that I created this blog space to talk–finally, to talk–at just the moment when I’d be allowed to. It’s all about Divine timing, you know? It never fails.

But still, coaxing myself out of silence some days is hard, remembering all of the (sometimes furious) resistance. So I’m just going to keep on reminding myself that I don’t have you forcibly cornered, shoving hard-to-swallow facts down your throat–you’re here of your own volition, and you’re most welcome to leave at any time. Maybe this is all just a part of what I had to learn. Or maybe I just had to live more, know more, understand more. Love more. So without any more of my chatter, let’s get to today’s questions. As always, these answers reflect my opinions and beliefs only.

What would happen to the animals if we all chose vegan? Do you want extinction?

This answer might surprise you, animal lover that I am, but: Yes. Personally, I believe that extinction is preferable–a million times over–to the existence these animals are forced to endure every single day from the moment they’re born, right up until the moment we slaughter them. I would rather never see another beautiful, soft-eyed and gentle cow again, if it meant that they were finally free from the sufferings inflicted on them by humans every minute of their lives.

And that extinction question prompts this question–have you watched the documentaries? Do you know what those “lives” truly look like? I recently recommended Earthlings to the same someone who was looking to go vegan with his wife (I have not watched it myself and have no intention of doing so–ever). He told me, in his (self-proclaimed) tough-guy attitude, that he thought it would be no problem. After all, how bad could it really be? He lasted all of ten minutes before he and his wife had to shut it off. Ten. Minutes. It’s that bad; the animal industry is just that bad. The images I’ve seen haunt me even years later.

And I can’t, for even a second, agree that keeping a species alive is preferable to not being alive when it means enduring an entire lifetime of pain, grief, and suffering only to culminate in a violent death. That’s it. That’s their life–from start to finish. I mean, humans generally avoid even the slightest discomfort: I’m too hot/cold/hungry/tired–find a solution, and fast. We move to immediately remedy our slightest discomforts and yet we think nothing of asking another to live a life of constant and unending pain. For us. And our pleasure.

That thought aside, there’s also the fact that we’ve intentionally manipulated some species to such a horrifying degree that it would be a great act of compassion not to perpetuate the species. We’ve bred chickens and turkeys to grow so large, so quickly, that they often can’t support the weight of their own bodies. That kind of life is preferable to no life? An existence devoid of sunshine, fresh air, dirt, mates, mobility, offspring, freedom, happiness–it doesn’t sound like much of a life to me. These animals aren’t born to live, they’re born to die, and I think it’s shameful to pretend otherwise.

My official answer is: My hope (I’m not sure how realistic this truly is) would be that some species could revert to their former wild instincts (pigs, for example), and actually live the life they were intended. As for the others, the ones we’ve grossly modified? Yes, I would prefer extinction over the constant and unrelenting suffering of a fellow animal that will only know relief when its life prematurely ends.

I buy my meat from small farms where the animals led a good life. Isn’t this better?

I’ve written about this a bit before (here), but it bears repeating. I grew up on one of those idyllic small farms. We raised only enough animals for our food, and they were kept in clean and humane conditions. They were even loved (by me), and not all animals will know that simple kindness. But what it boils down to is this: they trusted me. They trusted me to feed them, to care for them, to doctor them. We put them in a position where they were forced to depend on us for everything. And as payment for that trust? We killed them.

So were their lives better than the lives of a factory-farmed animal? Of course they were. Unequivocally better. Especially when you factor in that the lives of our animals ended in a less horrific way. Instead of being shipped off to the same slaughterhouses as all the rest (including those humanely raised animals), where their lives end in a final wave of terror, panic, and confusion, ours were butchered by the very hands who cared for them. One day they woke up and waited for breakfast as usual, but instead of grain they got an ax to the neck, or a bullet to the brain.

Is that better? I guess maybe better depends on whether or not murder is more acceptable if the victim is treated kindly prior to their demise. (I’m going to give that a  big, fat no.) I imagine the factory-farmed animal would want to die much more than the compassionately raised one, but we take both of their lives, regardless of how they feel about it. A good life or a bad life, they’re both killed, almost always before the days of childhood are even over.

My official answer is: It may indeed be more comfortable for them while living (if the conditions are as stated, and most often they are not). But overall? Neither the factory farmed nor the compassionately-raised animal are asking to be killed. Neither one is asking to be enslaved or that their lives be reduced to something as insignificant as a tasty commodity. Both have instincts that compel them to live and in both situations, we deny them that. Basically, I feel like this question is asking me if murder is okay with a slight tweaking of the circumstances. No, my personal belief is that it is not.

Are vegan diets nutritionally sound?

Well, I think that all depends on what’s being eaten. There are tons of self-professed “junk-food vegans” out there who would be the first to admit their diet is neither healthy nor well-balanced. But if you do it right? If you eat real food, a wide variety of legumes and grains, tons of veggies? Fruits? Then yes, it’s nutritionally sound. (Although most doctors do advocate a vitamin B12 supplement; however, not all vegans require this.) Don’t believe that easy answer? (That’s good; always do your research!) Here’s what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has to say:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.

But what makes me really laugh at this question is what it implies. It implies that “our” current omnivorous diet is nutritionally sound and that those eating it must be in a wonderful state of health. Which is super easy to refute when all I have to do is take a quick look around me to know that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Obesity and chronic disease abound, and since the majority of humans are still eating meat, those are probably all omnivores I’m seeing.

Let’s face it: eating healthy requires effort, real effort, especially in today’s world of processed and fast foods. It means making conscious choices and exercising will power and self-control when it comes to eating those things that we want and crave, but that only serve to harm us. And just because a person is vegan, this doesn’t necessarily make them better at any of those things. Vegan or not, we need to make better choices if we want better health and better happiness.

My official answer is: Yes. If done right.

I’m blood type O; I have to eat meat.

I love this “question”; it cracks me up every time. I also love giving my answer, which is this: all three of my girls are type O. And all three of my girls are happy vegans.

I confess to having a bias against this whole Blood Type Diet. The only time I ever hear it being referenced is when someone is defending something that they “have” to eat (usually meat, but one time it was popcorn; true story). So when I started seeing a naturopath and found out that she was a proponent of the Blood Type Diet, I had very strong reservations. She didn’t let me down, and tried to repeatedly convince me that meat was a must. To which I repeatedly said, Yeah…not gonna happen. Ever. When she finally got around to asking me why I was a vegan–for the ethics or for the health–I told her both. But if I were forced to chose just one, it would definitely be for the ethics. She said she respected this, and finally (finally) let the subject drop.

Until she got to my girls. Who–in no uncertain terms–told her the same.

So after really pushing the meat on us all, I can’t tell you how surprised I was when she grudgingly admitted that it wasn’t so much the meat that type Os needed, but the protein. Lots and lots of protein. Which is…interesting. And just changes the whole story now, doesn’t it?

My official answer is: I didn’t technically phrase this as a question because it’s usually posed as an argument, but I’ll just say that having three vegan daughters who are all type Os has done nothing to convince me of the validity of the Blood Type Diet. If it’s protein they need, a vegan diet can (and does) easily provide that.

All For Today

And that, my friends, is all I have time for today. I’m hoping to be able to wrap this up in Part III, but I honestly hadn’t realized just how many miscellaneous questions have been tossed at us through the years. It’s actually kind of fun, being able to tackle each one, after having had years to ponder things. So thanks so much for reading along, and if there’s something you’ve always been dying to ask me but maybe never felt comfortable doing so, now’s your chance. You should definitely take it; I promise not to bite.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend. Many blessings ~ Melinda

Interested in more of my Vegan Q&A series? Then please visit here!

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