My Vegan Convictions
My Vegan Convictions
by Laura Beaulne-Stuebing, February 28, 2008
What do you do when you, and your fundamental values, are called into question? Do you fight back, explain yourself and your beliefs with intelligence, or stammer and look at your feet?
I’m used to questions about veganism. “Why are you vegan? What do you eat? Where do you get your protein?” Those sorts of inquiries are expected – they come with the territory. I’m accustomed to questions, but I’m not accustomed to being questioned. I’m not used to, and apparently not able to handle, being told that veganism is WRONG.
Last week, I was at an environment-focused event. I took part in a group discussion and, because I’m me, I brought up the environment/diet connection – I mentioned that a vegan diet is the healthiest thing for the planet. People agreed, people asked questions, and we discussed the issue of food more deeply.
When the event was over, I was approached by a woman who had taken part in the discussion. I was standing just inside the exit, buttoning up my coat, when she came up to me and began her lecture. Yes, her lecture.
Apparently, we vegans are “misguided.” Such a diet, although healthy for the planet, is not healthy for people. Apparently, she had also been misguided too, was vegan for about ten years, and was ridiculously sick because of it. And apparently, throughout her lifetime, she has met many people who, after twenty years or so as vegans, were also ridiculously sick.
She claimed that today’s diet and nutrition information, from The China Study to Canada’s Food Guide, is “propaganda.” That all the research and literature we base our diets on are skewed. That scientists, doctors, and researchers are funded and influenced by the food industry. And that they’re pushing vegetable protein over animal protein because it makes them more money.
And the healthiest diet? One based on animal protein and animal fat.
She seems nutty, doesn’t she? But for some reason, her lecture shook me up and I began to question things. Am I weak in my vegan convictions?
Why did I question myself and why was I shaken? Maybe because she seemed to take an interest in me, something I’m not used to. Maybe because she knew about The China Study, John Robbins, and vegan founders Drs. Kellogg and Graham, and argued against them with a level head. Or maybe it was the single part of her lecture that I agreed with – that we have to be aware of everything we eat and not fall prey to food industries. Either way, I had to read a few chapters of Becoming Vegan to settle my mind.
I’m frustrated – even ashamed – that I felt so shaken. And all the while, as she espoused her superior nutritional knowledge, I tried to defend myself.
But I shouldn’t have to defend myself. Sure, I can explain my choices to whoever is interested, but I do not have to defend this lifestyle. And even though I feel secure again in what I believe, the scene continues to play out in my head. I’m frustrated and ashamed that I didn’t handle it differently – that I stood there trying to speak but mostly nodded my head, that I couldn’t form strong or coherent rebuttals, and that I didn’t just stick my tongue out at her.
I don’t know if this will ever happen to me again, but if it does, I have a game plan. In such a situation, they’re not interested in what I have to say. So, hand on hip and with eyes strong and piercing, I’ll simply announce, “Thanks for your concern, but no thanks,” and walk away.
I’ve done my research. If The China Study is propaganda, then let it be. It supports my values and convictions. The woman who approached me the other week, the one who shook me up with her anti-vegan lecture, had her reasons.
And so do I.
Laura is a university student in London, Ontario.