I was out running this morning with a small group and one of the people mentioned they had switched to purchasing meat from a local butcher shop rather than the big chain grocery stores. I noticed a sideways glance at me, the token vegan, and while I don't really feel the need to read into others dietary choices I suspect there was an expectation that I would be offended by someones meat purchase. Later in the warmup jog I made a point of telling the person I thought their choice of butcher shop was excellent as they are known for selling local meat usually fed better food before slaughter and without antibiotics or steroids. Before my family rid ourselves of meat that same shop was part of our journey toward exploring healthier and more ethical options. I'm not sure if he was surprised by my endorsement but for me, given that he chooses to eat meat I feel the place he buys it along with the manner in which the animal was cared for before slaughter is very important. The choice he's made for his family and their health is so much better than that of the person buying the slab of hormone laden slaughterhouse fodder on a styrofoam plate in the local supermarket.
So does this make me a bad vegan? I'd expect most vegans would say yes it does. It seems our crowd is often mired in black and white right or wrong belief systems which I would argue to be the main reason the rest of the world finds us to be intolerable snobs. Would I like it if as a species we stopped killing animals and embraced broccoli? You bet I would, but I'm a realist and I also care very much about the health of others. Having read about meat production I fully understand the horrible nature of slaughter and I embrace the notion that not eating animal products is right for me and brings me a sense of peace. Lets please be honest though, veganism isn't right for many people. In fact for most it's a path to poor health.
While I am meticulous about my nutrition and love to read about it and experiment with food, most people simply eat the same meals day in and day out and when eliminating animal products they fail to replace the nutrition in meat with adequate vegan foods. After a period of eating an inadequate vegan diet people will feel weak or lack in nutrients and argue they didn't get what they needed from spinach while rushing to their nearest McDonalds. I personally feel that a junk food vegan diet is a recipe for disaster and one based on whole foods requires some basic nutrition knowledge, a commitment to eat a variety of new foods and to eat enough food. It's a nice problem to have, but I notice that a lot of vegans simply don't eat enough food, particularly actual fruits. vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds relying instead on the fake processed foods they previously supplemented their meat eating diet with.
In the overall scheme of things life isn't black and white. Someone deciding to purchase meat from a local butcher or farmer that has better practices on farming is doing the environment, animals, their health and local economy much bigger favours than the typical McDonald's drive through patron. A person practicing meatless Mondays or trying the Vegan before 6 diet is helping even more. Are they to be damned by all "pure" vegans for anything less than a 100% commitment?
If it comes right down to it I'm not in a place to judge anyone. Talking to a few vegans I've found they can't agree on anything anyway. Soy or no soy? Raw or cooked food? Fruitarian maybe? Vegan but still wear leather? Or eat honey? It's really hard to pass the vegan sniff test and I've given up trying. For me it's about doing the best I can and while I don't consume any animal products or purchase leather products I certainly don't hold myself in high regard as perfect. I mess up all the time.
And so this brings me back to the big question of whether everyone should go vegan. As I type this right now I have to say no they shouldn't. While being vegan keeps getting easier as our world changes I feel that for the average person that just wants to be healthy and lower their impact on the environment the best course of action would be to live 90% vegan with occasional meat dishes of the highest quality possible. This would eliminate the worry they might have over iron, protein (even though we all know they don't need to worry about protein), B12 and calcium. Someone living with meat as an occasional side dish is probably living the highest quality nutritional life possible for them and that should be celebrated.
And all this doesn't signal my return to beef wellington and eggs. I sincerely believe that a well planned whole food plant based diet can't be beat nutritionally. I also feel it's the best way to protect our environment. Living as a vegan has brought me a sense of peace, living with as little impact as possible on other living beings in order to sustain myself. But I'm the 1% and to assume that others can or will want to follow my path would just be ignorant. For me I find much more comfort in someone taking steps toward more plant based options than someone that jumps in to being vegan for the wrong reason, fails and returns to being an omnivore and a passionate advocate against being vegan.
So if you are a person reading this that practices some version of partial plant based eating I say good for you. I encourage you to eat as close to fully plant based as you can manage. If you're a vegan and my words fall short of your expectations I apologize, but I'm really not trying to pass a test on ethics. I'm just doing the best I can. Namaste.