Our family is going vegan, well sort of. A recent mass e-mail from PETA caught my eye. It asked for people to pledge to be vegan for a month.
“Whatever the reason, there’s never been a better time to cut the meat and other animal-derived products out of your diet. Change your life for the better and save the lives of animals by pledging to be vegan!” The email reads.
“A vegan diet is truly a lifesaver: Vegans and vegetarians are less likely to suffer from heart disease, obesity, and several types of cancer, according to the American Dietetic Association. Plus, vegan foods are delicious!” PETA says in a follow-up email to those who accept the challenge.
People tend to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle for two overwhelming reasons, either for health or ethical reasons. Some do it for environmental reasons, as PETA points out on its website.
In our family, we are taking this challenge for all three reasons. Of course, the environment is important to us, and if eating fewer, or no, animal products means a healthier environment, I think we can comply. We also hope to improve the overall health of our family and become a bit more conscious of the foods we are eating, how they react in our bodies and hopefully learn to experiment with more wholesome, healthy recipes.
But do we want to go completely vegan or will simply adopting a vegetarian lifestyle suffice? The difference between vegan and vegetarian is big for our family.
Vegetarian. A vegetarian eliminates meats, poultry and usually fish from their diets but eggs and dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese and butter are usually acceptable, depending on the person.
Vegan. A vegan not only eliminates meat, poultry and fish from their diets but also includes all animal products including eggs, dairy and all foods made with any animal product. Some vegans also refrain from wearing clothing made from animal products such as leather, wool and of course fur.
We are meat-eaters in our family. I grew up eating meat and as someone who enjoys cooking and baking, some meat-based dishes are among my favorites. But over the years, I’ve sensed that our family needs a change, not just for health reasons, but for ethical reasons as well. As much as I enjoy a nice juicy steak from time to time, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy meat less and less as I am unable to separate the meal from the soul of the animal that I am eating. I hope that it was treated right and lived a pain-free life where it was respected by the farmer who raised it and the slaughter house who ended his life. I know that more often than not, that’s not the case, so simply put, I feel bad eating meat.
But perhaps because I know many dairy farmers, I have no ethical qualms about consuming dairy products. The dairy farmers I know truly care about the animals to whom they owe their livelihoods. They treat them with respect and make sure that they live a good life. So because we don’t have an ethical problem eating dairy, and as I can’t imagine life without cheese, we won’t go completely vegan, but we will include many vegan days into our vegetarian trial period, trying some dairy alternatives and eating animal-free meals to see if it impacts our health.
Our family plans a two week lead-in to our meatless month. We will gradually decrease our meat-based meals over the next two weeks and enjoy our regular Thanksgiving meal (featuring a humanely-raised, free-range turkey) then the next day, leftovers will be wrapped and frozen or given away. From Nov. 26 until Christmas day Dec. 25, we will abstain completely from all meat and poultry (my husband will probably still eat fish).
We intend to keep a diary of our recipes, how we are feeling and our experiences and hopefully, by New Year, we’ll either be vegetarian, vegan or full-fledged meat-eaters once again.
Readers who are interested in taking the PETA meat-free challenge can visit the organization’s website. Those who accept the PETA meat-free challenge will be directed to an online vegetarian starter kit guide and other resources that will help make the challenge easier.
PETA website, Go Vegan Challenge page, 11/15/2010 https://secure.peta.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2055