Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'd say I have a bone to pick, but I'm a vegetarian...

Okay. While I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian and not a vegan, this article, "Death by Veganism" (via Fatfree Vegan Kitchen), bothers me.

Now, I'm not equipped to address Planck's nutrition data regarding veganism and infants (I defer to this article on veganism and pregnancy and the ADA's work on vegetarian diets--both links via this post at the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen); however, I am more than equipped to take issue with this paragraph:
Historically, diet honored tradition: we ate the foods that our mothers, and their mothers, ate. Now, your neighbor or sibling may be a meat-eater or vegetarian, may ferment his foods or eat them raw. This fragmentation of the American menu reflects admirable diversity and tolerance, but food is more important than fashion. Though it’s not politically correct to say so, all diets are not created equal. [Emphasis mine.]

In the penultimate sentence in the above quoted paragraph, Planck equates veganism with "fashion." To me this seems to be just another example of the dismissiveness with which vegetarians, vegans, and vegetarianism are treated by certain (large) sections of the meat-eating population.

Now, I don't want to turn this blog into my own veggie soapbox because I'm not out to convert people--vegetarianism isn't going to be right for everyone and far be it for me to try to force it on them!--and also because I respect the number of meat-eating friends and family members who are more than supportive of me and of my vegan sister (they're totally cool with my bringing vegetarian/vegan dishes to potlucks, and they're cool with eating those kinds of dishes when I invite them over to dinner at my place. Family members like my mother and my maternal grandmother are always on the lookout for new recipes that are veggie-friendly. With them my vegetarianism has never been an issue--one of my friends even jokes how she's friends with me only for my vegetarian cooking!) and who read this blog to keep tabs on me, not to be proselytized to. But lately I've encountered a lot of the kind of uneducated dismissiveness of my lifestyle exemplified by both Nina Planck's and Martin Booe's recent articles.

I am reminded of an instance that occurred at one of the campus pubs back at the beginning of April. After class, my professor/thesis supervisor, my colleagues and I had gone out for a couple pints, and vegetarianism--and, tangentially, macrobiotic diets--came up in conversation. Well, my professor--fully knowing that I was a vegetarian--went off on a rant about how stupid/naive it was to choose those kinds of lifestyles, how it doesn't really make a difference (I had said how my primary motivation for adopting my lifestyle was on account of my concerns for environmental sustainability.) His attitude--whether he intended to come off that way or not--suggested that he thought people following vegetarian or macrobiotic diets were misguided or flaky. I couldn't help, but feel both hurt and insulted.

The vast majority of vegetarians I know--myself included--took the time to educate themselves about all aspects of vegetarianism, going beyond the animal rights and environmental arguments for adopting such a lifestyle to the nutritional requirements and benefits for vegetarians; for the vast majority of vegetarians, vegetarianism was not entered into lightly. In order to ensure that I didn't become malnourished, I adopted a vegetarian diet gradually, reducing my meat intake as I incorporated more and more meat alternatives, all the while learning what I need to eat to sustain the levels of iron and B-vitamins (and if the blood work I had done during my physical in January--the first blood work I had done as a vegetarian--is any indication, this approach was a success.)

My point? Most vegetarians adopt the lifestyle not only because it conforms to their beliefs, but because they've done their research. It is thus both ignorant and disrespectful to suggest that we're uneducated, flighty trend-hoppers.

EDIT: Here's an excellent response to Planck's article that I found via the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen.


cristy said...

Hi, I just tried to add you to my bloglines feed reader, but it says that you don't have an RSS feed. Would you consider clicking that box in blogger?

Natalie said...

Hey, Cristy. I had no idea it wasn't checked! It's done now. :) Thanks for stopping by!

cristy said...

Excellent. Thanks for that.