jueves, 5 de marzo de 2009

Derribando diez mitos sobre los veganos

1. Vegans have no social life: Actually… vegans are hardly inhibited by their diet. Navigating the food world through a new lens is initially exhausting, and those who care about you might feel like they’re stepping on glass to accommodate your new dietary needs. Eventually, though, vegans can say to their present company, “take me wherever, I’ll find something.” Going vegan does not change one’s fundamental abilities to socialize: movies are just as funny, shopping is just as enjoyable, and most every activity remains unchanged despite a new diet. A new diet doesn’t have to mean a new you.

2. Vegans smell: I believe this myth originated due to a desire to conserve water and not wanting to lather the body with chemicals found in many bath products. But I speculate, because I don’t exactly know from where such a silly statement derived. Going vegan doesn’t require an overhaul of one’s bathroom. Keep the shampoo, use the toothpaste… and when those run out, look for vegan-friendly alternatives should you feel so inclined. The person who judges your toiletries is only you. And should only be you. Anyone who stalks your bathroom supplies and judges you for it is creepy. Fortunately, the market of organic, vegan products is expanding. In fact, even Victoria’s Secret offers a line of vegan beauty products.

3. Vegans eat nasty food: What vegans forgo isn’t much, especially in lieu of what they substitute for the meat products. Usually, they find foods they never knew existed. For example, I don’t know a single meat-eater who has tasted dragon fruit. Tofu has to be the most misunderstood stereotyped product ever. When I ask a person why they hate tofu, the general response is, “I bought a packet of the stuff and took a bite. It was slimy and gross.” Yeah, I suppose that would be pretty gross. I generally liken tofu to meat in terms of preparation: eating it raw is highly unappetizing, but everything that one does to meat can be done to tofu—broiled, baked, fried, etc. Aside from tofu, the other general assumption is that the diet is scarce or full of peculiar foods. Perhaps this used to be the case when no markets catered to vegans, but now, stores and restaurants take great pride that they can create dishes in likeness of old fashioned favorites, like cookies, cakes, pasta, chicken sandwiches, Mongolian beef, etc. Green, a vegan restaurant on the Tempe/Scottsdale border, has a menu full of such dishes. Chances are, if vegan food tastes bad it’s because it’s not being prepared correctly… not because all vegan food is bad. I actually spit out vegan curry chicken salad because I could’ve sworn it was actual chicken. Whole Foods assured me otherwise. Raw foods, as mentioned in my previous article, are becoming the same way in its great variety.

4. They are socialist commies or anarchists: not quite. Vegans might point the finger at large corporations as the root of animal cruelty, and thus appear to dislike them altogether. Similarly, the progressive style of vegans tends to attract more liberals than conservatives who value tradition (meat-eating tradition included). It’s true that I’ve met few vegan republicans. But, political beliefs do not always correspond to lifestyle choices. I, personally, am very fiscally conservative as is my vegetarian boyfriend. I work in accounting for a Fortune 500 company. Given this extensive list of (famous) vegan and vegetarians here, I can’t imagine there aren’t a few of different political leanings. As cliché as it sounds, vegans are incredibly multi-faceted.

5. They love animals more than people: No, vegans just happen to love animals to an extent that we don’t support killing them for food. Secondly, vegans support the same (human) causes as many others, like ending genocide in Darfur, breast cancer awareness and numerous other causes. Working towards one cause for animals doesn’t detract the efforts made by others for human rights.

6. They will try to convert you like it’s a religion: Hardly. Some organizations can be radical in their attempts to ‘spread the message’ but for the most part, many vegans simply don’t want meat eaters to judge them any more than they want to be judged for their dietary choices. Many blend in and you don’t even notice them. You won’t find vegans showing up at anyone’s doorstep handing out pamphlets here in Phoenix, anyway. Just Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. And even then, I always offer them water and wonder what cruel person decided to send them on this mission in 120-degree summer heat. The truth is, most people incorporate veganism into their lifestyle and focus on whatever they do best, like acting, number-crunching, marathon running, etc. Not all vegans are outspoken. Lastly, for those vegans that would like others to try a more plant-based diet, nagging just doesn’t work, it’s unattractive, and a huge turn-off. It’s like the government tactic of ‘stick-or-carrot.’ It behooves vegans to use the latter in both name and method.

7. Eating meat around vegans is strictly prohibited: No, not necessarily. Not all vegans get offended if meat is in their presence. I’d say most are not. I was genuinely surprised by this random article of a guy confessing he could never date a vegan because he’d feel too bad eating meat in front of her. While I won’t be taking a bite off their plate, I don’t express disdain for those who grab a burrito filled with meat. Should I do so, the result wouldn’t be my friend choosing a bean burrito to satisfy me; likely (and understandably) he’d probably stop having lunch with me, just like I’d stop having dinner with him should I be brought to a steakhouse 5 times in a row. As a fair warning, should a vegan be heckled about eating rabbit food, a retort along the lines of being a caveman carnivore is deserved.

8. Vegans are skinny and in poor health: Simply untrue. Vegans can achieve exceptional levels of health. Many athletes are vegetarian, vegan, and even raw foodists. So many myths surround vegans and an inability to get adequate levels of protein, calcium, B12, etc… but the vegan diet can adequately provide these sources of nutrients. Vegan athletes do exist, and many perform exceptionally well. A plant-based diet can be unhealthy just as a meat-based diet can go horribly wrong. Generally, a balanced plant-based diet can be incredibly successful, and when done correctly, is better for you and the planet than a balanced meat-based diet. For a few resources on these myths, see the ‘for more info’ box on how to obtain these nutrients on a vegan diet.

9. Vegans have no sense of humor: Yes, vegans can appear self-righteous and judgmental in their earnest fight for animal rights and sustainable eating. Sometimes, being the punch line of jokes grates on us a little (probably because we’ve heard the joke 20 times minimum and it stops being funny by repetition). But for the most part, vegans are a group comfortable in their beliefs and eating habits that we can roll with the best of em… just remember that respect is a two-way street. Humor extending outside diets is always well-received. Veganism doesn’t prevent me from finding The Office just as funny as everyone else. Including Dwight and his ridiculous affinity for hunting (hey, he has a beet farm too, right? I love the link on this and had to include it).

10. Veganism is too time-consuming: As stated in myth #6, most vegans are in jobs and specialize in things that have absolutely nothing to do with their diet. The only time they think about it is when preparing their food and even then, no affirmation is made along the lines of, ‘golly gee, this didn’t hurt a single animal!’ More so, it’s ‘what tastes good today?’ Some vegans, especially those that work in fields promoting a vegan lifestyle, do focus extensively on promoting the message to others, and those people will be the vegans in the spotlight making the name for the rest of us. Generally, what they do is amazing and their work is to be commended. But for many others, veganism is just one small facet of who they are and it isn’t given much more than a second thought. To what extent one takes it (ie, getting involved in animal rights movements, joining support groups, etc) is up to the individual. Veganism has no contract of terms and conditions.


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