Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is A Vegetarian/Vegan Middle Way "Good" Enough?

Last fall, after watching Food Inc., and reading The Kind Diet and Eating Animals, I began reducing the amount of animal products I eat substantially. By January, or February I was practically vegan, until I started craving cheese, eggs, and fish. Now I eat them here and there, especially when I go to someone's house, or out to a restaurant, and I don't feel like making a big fuss by asking for something special, or if I'm really hungry and the vegetarian/vegan option is lame (e.g. a plate of vegetables).

I feel badly for falling off the vegetarian/vegan wagon, especially after watching videos like the one below of Emily Deschanel talking about factory farming, and the work of Farm Sanctuary (via Ecorazzi ):

But then I remember what Dr. Jane Goodall said on a Daily Show episode that aired around the time I started eating less meat and dairy that makes me feel like being somewhere in the middle is OK:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jane Goodall
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"There's an awful lot of extremists and fundamentalists, and you would agree, that's really what's gone wrong with the planet right now. It's the fundamentalists, whether they're right, left, center, whatever they are, if they're fundamentalists, they're dangerous."
At the moment, I'm wrestling with what is the best way for me to eat ethically and nutritionally. On the one hand, I feel like there is a lot wrong ethically, environmentally, and nutritionally about how we raise, kill, and process animals for food in the United States. On the other hand, anything that is too extreme one way, or the other sends up little warning flags for me. Plus, sometimes I just want some cheese, or a piece of bacon, or a California roll!

I was relieved to find that I wasn't the only one who is struggling with the best way to eat when I watched the video below of a TED Talk by TreeHugger founder, Graham Hill, about being a "weekday vegetarian," (also via Ecorazzi):

How do you decide what to eat?

Do you think it is it better to live from the middle, or is real progress only made through extreme action?

Cross-posted from

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  1. I went through this process around my birthday in March. I struggled with what vegan meant and if it was the right choice for me. What I decided is that I will be vegan in my own home. I will always make the vegan choice when available outside my home but if there isn't one, I will always make the vegetarian choice. I haven't eaten meat or fish in 16 years and don't intend to now.

    This article really helped me decide what I wanted to do. It is written by Matt Ball, "How Vegan"

    This are my primary philosophical "rules" for myself:

    As of right now, my choice moving forward is to live with compassion. I will lead by example and show that you don’t need to be militant to live as a v*gen.

    I will let go of my “list” of bad ingredients when necessary but still ask basic questions when in restaurants: Is the soup made from a vegetable broth? Can the meat be left off the salad?

    I will support restaurants that provide vegan options.

    I will no longer buy leather but I will not get rid of everything leather that I own. Nothing is accomplished by that. I will donate smaller items such as shoes I don’t wear and my cheaper jackets and purses. Baby steps.

    I will not purchase food for my home that an animal has died to create.

    I have ultimate control over what I spend my money on and will live as close to a dead animal bi-product free life as I can.

    I will explain my choice only when asked and not give others a hard time about their own choice.

    I will not force others to believe as I do.

    I don’t want living things to suffer. I also understand that I will leave a footprint on this earth and living things will suffer and die as a result. The difference in how I live my life and how others do is that I will not willingly participate in that suffering.

    That's me. I don't call myself a vegan to others but to myself, I do. I feel no need to explain to anyone the contradictions they will see in me so I let go of a label others have defined.

  2. I don't think being a vegan is "extreme". I think causing another sentient being to suffer for a few minutes of my pleasure is extreme. "Fundamentalism" isn't a problem if it means just sticking to your principles in your own life. That's a good thing. It's when people violently force others to adhere to their beliefs that we have a problem. There are definitely people in the animal rights movement that believe in such things, but that's not what veganism itself is about. Veganism is not "dangerous", but not being vegan is.

    I know it can be tough at times, but I don't see how anyone who believes that exploiting animals is wrong -- as I do -- can continue to intentionally and unnecessarily contribute to the suffering and exploitation of animals for their pleasure. If you believe something is wrong, then you do your best to avoid doing it. And it's not just "wrong" like leaving the faucet running while brushing one's teeth (though I try not to do that, either). We're talking about raising animals in captivity to suffer and die for our brief pleasure. (And if anyone needs a reminder as to what this is all about, please watch Earthlings:

    Am I perfect? No. I make mistakes. But I truly try to do my best and educate myself so that I learn from my mistakes instead of making excuses. I encourage others to do the same.

    I go over to people's houses and go out to eat, too. But if I don't know there'll be something there I can eat then I bring something or don't plan to eat there. It's not hard. I've learned where I can reliably find good vegan food in town and on the road. There are websites to help with that, like

    Sure, it's tough at first when you start telling people that you're vegan, because you don't know how everyone will react, but if they can't accept that then they aren't worth spending time with. And if you really do have to make a little fuss to get food, do. There are literally lives at stake. Don't feel guilty about making a little fuss.

    I encourage you to check out if you haven't already.

  3. I think that doing the most you can is okay. The vegan lifestyle is not for everyone because everyone is different. I choose to be vegan but I am not unreasonable in upholding my beleifs. For example, if someone brings me a birthday cake and it has eggs in it I will probably still eat a small piece. My fiance still eats meat therefore i still have to cook meat for his meals. Do what you can, becoming a 'less meatatarian' or just a vegetarian is better that living on an atkins kind of diet. It's all about baby steps and adapting it to your lifestyle.

  4. Anonymous7:13 AM

    First of all, plants are also living things. Having said that, killing plants and animals are not much different. Ever since human kind exists, we have been feeding ourselves with meat chicken, fish, etc. That is human nature, and there is nothing wrong with that.There is so much more wrongdoing in society other than eating animals.

  5. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Due to food allergies I cannot eat only vegan as I would miss too much protein. Instead while supplementing my diet with any animal products I eat ONLY organic products from farms/ranches I trust and know. It is a lot more expensive but it keeps my consumption very low - just enough to keep me healthy.

    Personally, I am really fed up with certain "vegetarian" people I know who give me a hard time for eating small amounts of animal products that have been certified organic, humanely raised and come from farms I trust when they are not following suit and slipping up with conventional cheeses and eggs.

    -Megan K.

  6. Hi Ultragrrl, Meg, and Lone Vegan Mom!

    Thanks so much for sharing how you choose what to eat, and your thoughts about whether being a middle way vegetarian/vegan is "good" enough.

    It is super helpful and interesting to hear how you have made and live your decisions.

  7. There's nothing about this issue that can result in a one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone has their own relationship with food, with their body, and with their nutritional needs and so there are as many versions of conscious eating as there are people. I do think the key is consciousness and awareness. If you choose not to eat meat, let it still be a conscious choice, and not just force of habit. Likewise, if you do eat meat, be conscious of where the meat has come from, if its been factory-farmed, if its organic etc and whether those are important factors for you when you make your choice.
    While I eat about 90% vegetarian these days, I don't like to use that label since it feels restrictive in some way. I just prefer to make my choices meal by meal, or purchase by purchase and I find that approach actually results in me being vegetarian the majority of the time.
    Great topic and blog post!!!

  8. Megan K.- No one should give you a hard time for putting your health first. It sounds like you are doing your best to help the animals without creating a health risk to yourself. I am a vegan but I don't judge anyone who decides to take a different path.


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