Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watering Down 'Veganism'

Indianapolis' featured a surprisingly positive piece by Shari Rudavsky today on going meatless. She ends up focusing on the health aspects of eating a completely plant-based diet, touching upon how consuming substances like dairy can often aggravate allergies or other medical issues. Her piece also addresses some aspects of the protein myth by explaining that protein deficiency is far from being a concern for vegans, and that we don't need to worry about complementary proteins -- an erroneous belief that's still promoted in mainstream media.

The article's focus on health issues leaves it falling short a bit in terms of giving readers a glimpse at the full picture concerning veganism, unfortunately. Rudavsky reassures readers that "it's not necessary to go all the way to see a health benefit. Just forgoing meat one day a week or before 6 p.m. can have an impact." She's obviously been
reading Mark Bittman, the NY Times foodie who's been cashing in on veganism's rising popularity by attempting to co-opt the term.

One bit of the piece reflects precisely how people's misunderstanding of the philosophy behind it have led to attempts to water down the term 'veganism'. For instance, Rudavsky describes a man who managed to lose around 120 lbs over the course of a year and a half following a plant-based diet that was mostly raw. She then says that "more recently, the Indianapolis student has become more of a self-described 'flexitarian.' About 95 percent of his diet is vegetarian, and he is still largely vegan, mostly for health reasons." The thing is that you're no more "largely vegan" than you can be "largely celibate". Either you are, or you aren't.

It's contradictory to call someone both flexitarian (which, let's face it, is a kinder gentler term for 'omnivore')
and a vegan in the same sentence. People like Mark Bittman and others trying to label-drop by calling variations on meat-eating 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' are just confusing the issue. Furthermore, asserting that someone is vegan for health reasons ignores the fact that veganism involves eschewing all consumption of animals and animal-derived ingredients -- not just the ones we'd eat.

1 comment:

Adam Kochanowicz said...

Ugh, Mark Bitman got to 'em. How disappointing.

Excellent way to explain the "largely vegan" comment.