I recently watched an interesting documentary called Vegucated that followed a group of three people who accepted the filmmaker’s challenge to go vegan for six weeks. I have seen similar films, such as Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives, both of which are excellent. I’ve heard of another one called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, but haven’t had a chance to watch that yet. All advocate a plant-based diet not only in the interests of improving one’s own health, but also to help improve the health of our planet that is being relentlessly deforested, overgrazed, over-fished, over-harvested and polluted to provide human beings with cheap animal protein.
I do understand, too, that all animal-sourced foods are the result of sometimes unimaginably cruel practices, both on the farms and in the slaughterhouses. Even milk and egg production requires the animals to suffer. Most eggs come from battery hens with their beaks cut off stuffed into cages too small to allow them even to turn around, and most milk comes from cows that are continuously kept pregnant and that must watch their newborn calves be torn away from them year after year after year. When you see the footage of these animals struggling and screaming and dying in fear and pain, how can it not break your heart? And yet, like most of us, I suspect, I go to my local clean, brightly lit supermarket every week to buy these products in their tidy packages and I choose to ignore or simply forget what a horrible price the animals had to pay so that I can buy them so cheaply.
I can imagine giving up red meat and fish rather easily, chicken with somewhat more difficulty, but eggs, butter and cheese are the foundations of my diet. I have two eggs for breakfast nearly every single morning. On a rare day I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal instead, but I always regret that in about an hour.
Since I was feeling adventurous at the supermarket tonight, I decided to try a few vegan foods just to see what’s out there. I already have some almond milk in the fridge that I bought the other day, and I like that a lot on my Cheerios (which, by the way, I never eat for breakfast but do occasionally enjoy as an afternoon snack).
I picked up some vegan alternatives to chicken sausage, cheese, butter and yogurt.
Chicken Sausage: This product, which is wheat and potato based, has a slightly dry texture, but otherwise is a close approximation of meat and has a good flavor. Even the dogs liked it. I give it 4/5 stars and would buy it again for a specific recipe but probably wouldn’t pick it up just to eat.
Cheese: This is really good, both in flavor and texture. It even melts like cheese. I give it 5/5 stars and would buy it again.
Buttery Spread: This is the most pleasant surprise–I put some on a toasted English muffin and could not even tell the difference from real butter. Definitely 5/5 stars and this might be my new spread from now on.
Coconut Yogurt: This is supposed to be like yogurt, I think, but it has a runny consistency that I found quite unpleasant. And even though it is sweetened with cane sugar, it has a tang of artificial sweetener (to which I am exceptionally sensitive). Only 2/5 stars and will not buy again.
Going vegan is not for wimps–it takes a lot of imagination to eat well and creatively without animal products when that’s all you’ve ever known. It’s also more expensive if you choose manufactured alternatives to meat, cheese and so forth. For example, I paid $2.38 for a pound of butter (32 servings) and $5.79 for the tub of buttery spread (30 servings). Also, alternative foods seem to come in smaller packages but with a lot more packaging material than the equivalent animal food. And of course, there just is no vegan equivalent to a fried egg.
Really, though, it shouldn’t be so much about replacing animal-based foods with complex artificial concoctions that masquerade as those same foods, but rather about making healthier food choices altogether, starting with more leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit. I am very bad about getting enough of these two food groups because they don’t keep well, and I tend to not want to eat the same thing every day until it’s gone (unless it’s eggs and cheese, of course). I don’t even buy bananas anymore because I got tired of watching bunch after bunch after bunch turn brown and rot on my counter before I was interested in eating them.
I’m not sure 100% veganism is the lifestyle for me, but right now I am willing to replace my milk and butter with vegan alternatives, and that’s a good first step. I can probably find a farm stand somewhere in town that sells humanely sourced eggs. I definitely can give up eating meat–that would be the easiest part, actually.
One bite at a time, I can make a difference.
Veganism is about nonviolence. It is about not engaging in harm to other sentient beings, to oneself, and to the environment upon which all beings depend for life.
~ Gary L. Francione