Friday, 20 April 2012

Myth Busting

This week the New York Times printed what ended up being a quite controversial article titled "The Challenge of Going Vegan".  A lot of people read it. In fact people in my office read it and asked if I had seen it too. Why was it controversial? Here are some of the articles main points:

Fact 1: "the switch from omnivore to herbivore is fraught with physical, social and economic challenge".  

Was I fraught with these challenges I thought as I read it? I certainly don't remember the transition being difficult.  Nor did I consider my shift to veganism to be "extreme", strict or hard-core. On the contrary, I often feel meat-eating is an extreme measure to get protein in ones diet.

Fact 2: Substitutes like almond milk and rice milk can shock the taste buds.

I suppose this is true. But that is like switching from coffee to tea, or from diet pop to perrier.  Sure there is an adjustment period, but I think all dietary changes will come with a period of getting used to new foods.  For example, my omnivore dad switching to 'skim' milk was a terrible shock to his tastebuds too.

Fact 3: vegan specialty and convenience foods can cost two to three times what their meat and dairy equivalents do.

I plan to do a follow-up post on this after a trip to the grocery store. I am assuming they mean meat analogs such as veggie burgers and tofu dogs.  I will admit that sometimes I pay more for a dark, vegan, fair trade chocolate bar, but in my mind that is paying a little extra to avoid the corruption associated with cocoa.

Fact 4: The people who want to shift to a more vegetarian diet find they face physical constraints and mental constraints. 

I don't think I have had physical constraints. I have run a marathon as a vegan and did just fine. I have co-instructed an entire clinic group to take them to their half-marathon goal. I think this is one of those broad-brush statements that unfortunately gets applied to all vegans. My best response is to follow a healthy vegan lifestyle and lead by example.

Fact 5: Vegan ingredients and cooking techniques can be overwhelming for beginners, even if the changes are relatively small.

This may be true in baking (goodness knows I have had my own mishaps), but is it more difficult than other methods of cooking?  I'm not sure. Vegan cookbooks are proliferating and it is easier than ever to find one to suit your needs be it the single college student, first time mom or weekend gourmet.

Concluding thoughts
Despite these so-called challenges, between 4% and 10% of Canadians are vegetarian or vegan (2003 Canadian-American dietetic association position paper).  This article on Fooducate discussed the article as well, and the comments section is particularly interesting. Here are my favourite quotes:

Being vegan is hard because of social ridicule? Seriously? Should we all change anything about ourselves others don't like?

Challenges? None dietarily.  Just getting past the misperceptions and misconceptions many people have of how hard it is, and trying to convince those who've been drinking the Kool-Aid all their lives that most people don't need all the protein the meat, dairy and egg industry have been brainwashing us about. 

Why do we have to be labeled? So we can be considered a statistic?

Feel free to share your thoughts. Did you find the transition to veganism as challenging as the article suggests? If so, what were (or remain to be) your biggest hurdles??


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