I feel like no decision I’ve ever made — bearing in mind that I’m a Jewish Christian, divorced and a country music fan — has been as controversial or as subject to scrutiny as my recent choice to adopt a vegan diet.
And much of the protest has come from Christian friends and family.
Sometimes the criticism is couched as concern: “I’m worried you won’t get enough protein.”
(This statement is often uttered by people who’ve watched me down four vodka tonics and a handful of olives and call it ‘dinner’. Suddenly they’re anxious about my protein intake).
Sometimes it’s a chance for people to play ‘spot the hypocrisy’. ‘Is that belt/bag/shoe leather?’ I usually refrain from retorting things like, ‘would you eat your dog?’
I’ve also been accused of caring about animals more than people. As if it’s an either/or prospect.
It can be especially disheartening to hear these reactions from Christians, especially those who claim to be environmentalists or those committed to being counter-cultural.
I have a sense of humour about it. You have to when you’re the only vegan at the church hog roast, when life basically becomes BYOF (Bring Your Own Falafel).
But seriously, my question for Christians is, why *aren’t* you vegan?
Leo Tolstoy said: “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
I’m convinced that we can get all the nutrients we need from plants. (If you haven’t watched Forks Over Knives yet, do it. It’s on Netflix). Yes, yes, except stupid vitamin B12.
It’s hard for me to believe that people these days aren’t aware of the cruelty inherent in animal farming. If you can look at that and still say ‘this bacon on my plate tastes good and that’s more important than a sentient being’s suffering’ then there’s not much I can say to that. Except, have you really stared the cruelty in the face? And are you really comfortable with that order of priorities? Okay, then. Enjoy the flesh.
My journey to plant-based eating began just over three years ago, when I suddenly became convicted that I couldn’t eat anything I didn’t kill and I personally would have to be desperate to kill something that had a face or a family. So I became a vegetarian.
Four months ago, I decided vegetarianism wasn’t enough. There’s such widespread inhumanity in the egg and dairy industries, some would argue even more so than in meat production.
There was just one problem. Cheese. God help me, I love cheese. I’d rather have cheese than anything else food-wise. For my first month of veganism, I dreamt in cheese. And truthfully, there is no cheese facsimile that tastes like anything other than butt.
But I’ve gotten over it. I make a point to eat other delicious things instead. For the record, plants are tasty. Guacamole. I rest my case.
In the end, I don’t actually want my veganism to be the chief thing that defines me. But when it comes up in conversation, it would be nice if Christians took the matter seriously, since obviously we are all called to care for all creation. Adherents of other religions consider their diet a key part of demonstrating their faith. So going back to Tolstoy’s point, I think we should be starting with the question, ‘why do you eat animal products?’ rather than ‘why don’t you?’
Happy to chat over a plate of hummus and twigs anytime.