In an era of resource depletion, climate change and political instability, now more than ever is the time for us to rethink our relationship with animals.
Bobby Flay is on the NFL Live TV show on ESPN right now. He is standing with the hosts in front of a grill that is covered end-to-end with meat. Oh wait, he just threw a slice of cheese on one of the patties. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but the visual is enough.
Meat rules. Meat is the man. But why? I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the food we eat and how it relates to inclusion. Flay could include some roasted veggies on the grill in an attempt to include the growing plant-based population, but that wouldn’t be manly enough, right? They just threw a brioche bun on the grill and are preparing a few massive burgers. And now Bobby Flay is stuffing his face.
Grilling meat is so easy. It doesn’t take any thought, and in our society where the foundation of democracy is majority rules, there really is no incentive to be inclusive. Instead, this TV segment is an all too common example of exclusion.
I never cared about this sort of thing when I was a meat eater, because I was in the majority and always included. Now I find myself constantly worrying about whether or not the places I visit will have vegan options. This is even more problematic when making plans with friends. The last thing I want to do is hold them up or inconvenience them with my dietary “restrictions.” I have never really given much thought to what the people around me do or do not eat, but now it feels like everyone is concerned with what I am eating.
- “Sorry, you can’t eat anything here.”
- “This place has nothing for you.”
- “You can’t eat that.”
- “Hurry up and grab those veggies because they are the only vegan options here.”
If I had a dollar for every time someone commented on the food I eat since going vegan, I’d be rich.
As a meat eater I was included and people let me be. Now I feel like what I eat is under a microscope. If I accidentally eat something that may or may not have dairy or egg in it, people will comment. (The same thing happens with my zero waste lifestyle) After nearly three-quarters of a year into my vegan journey, I feel alienated and excluded far more than included.
Here are two great examples to illustrate both sides of the coin.
On Friday I attended a professional luncheon that was meant to be all-inclusive. I reached out in advance to see if there were be vegan options and was told that there would be vegetarian options. I, like I often do, had to explain the differences between vegan- and vegetarian-friendly meals. My contact said he would look into it and later got back to me saying there would be something vegan to eat. He was right. There was a plain mixed greens salad with olive oil dressing. While more than 100 people enjoyed their lunches, I ate the one vegan option: a bland salad. I left feeling hungry and left out, which are not two components of an inclusive meal.
On Saturday I attended a potluck at a friend’s house. She and her husband are both vegan and asked their guests to bring vegan or vegetarian dishes, but preferably vegan. Although most of the guests were not vegan or vegetarian, they respected the host’s wishes. I don’t think one person brought a meat-based item. As the day progressed and guests came and went, more plant-based food arrived. From what I could observe, all of the food was eaten. I was impressed with the number of guests whom prepared vegan dishes for the first time and/or tried vegan dishes for the first time. I left that party feeling sated and included, a 360 degree rotation from the previous day.
I never thought I would say something like this, but veganism is the only true way to inclusion. Everyone eats (or at least should eat) veggies and grains. I am yet to hear of a religion that recommends a meat-based diet. In fact, best I can tell the majority of religions respect animal life.
In a political climate filled with rhetoric that is meant to exclude and divide, we must fight back with peace, generosity and inclusion. I have had the best, deepest and most fulfilling conversations over homemade vegan meals. Plant-based meals (with the exception of heavily processed foods) are better for you and better for the planet. (I’ll have to discuss how eating meat impacts the environment another time, but please email me if you have questions.) I didn’t feel this way when I was eating meat, but that could have been the beef sweats.
I just read your email and I responded very quick. so there might be some Grammar issues, when I used my German brain instead of my English grammar brain;)
You speak my mind. Even though I am not following a 100 percent plant based diet (as I told you, I eat occasionally some cheese or have sushi 4 till 5 times a year) I totally support your view. It is so awkward that you always have to justify your diet. Perhaps I get more radical as I get older. I even don’t get why I need often explain myself why I am mostly plant based. (usually I say I am vegan). Most of our societies are so focused on their animal products, but if you tell them how it is produced they blame you that you do not let them enjoy their food. However when I am not angry I try to stay calm and explain them that we need to be more conscious. I even tell them that i would eat meat if I am on a farm and know how they slaughtered the animal. I argue that meat is a very expensive product and that people in the old days respected the animals way more, even though they ate them. Unfortunately today we lose all the connection to our surroundings (environment) and the majority don’t even know what kind of product they eat and how it was produced.
Regarding the party, funny enough my wife and I had a discussion before the party how to phrase our preferences.
My wife, even though she is 100 percent vegan, was more concerned that we put too much pressure on our friends and force them into our life style. I was arguing against it and said, if they are not willing to compromise, they are not respecting me as a friend. I used the example that I was once invited to a party and the host asked to leave my shoes on the front porch because they had the party in the house and the wooden floor was valuable for them and I did it, because I respected their wish and wanted to see them.
This is the house rule so I follow it, if people cannot accept this, then well, we can see each other another time. However in the end I understood also my wife’s argument and she understood me, so we found a compromise and agreed to write it so that everybody understood that we prefer that people bring vegan or vegetarian food and mentioned in the last sentence that if someone need to have meat that it has to be at least organic meat.
But as you mentioned – no-one brought meat and everyone left satisfied with the options that were available.
I will also mention that we will try on the next party to eliminate the plastic ware and ask people to bring their own cup and plate or at least have only plates and cutlery that is bioplastic or can be reused.
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