Eating ethically

The Plan documents the ongoing adventures that arise from living a truly alternative lifestyle: two people in love, no children, one works for an income, the other works to realize a vegan utopia, and the unifying force is a shared commitment to radical activism in all of its many forms.

The recent killing of 100 sled dogs in Whistler B.C. has resulted in a global outcry and a criminal investigation of those who performed the cull. The slaughter of tens of billions of animals every year for human consumption — including ten billion cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys in the United States alone — is met with deafening silence.

Why do we apply this double standard? Why should certain animals be treated with kindness and others be treated with callousness? They all have similar nervous systems and can all experience pain. It can’t be about intelligence because pigs are generally considered to be smarter than dogs. And it certainly can’t be about friendliness because everyone knows that cats are complete assholes.

I know you probably hate me right now for even bringing up the word vegan and trying to make you feel guilty about your eating habits. Believe me, I understand that feeling. I used to hate people like me too. Please bear with me. Getting upset will only aggravate your meat-induced high blood pressure.

If you didn’t already know, vegetarians don’t eat any meat and vegans don’t eat any meat, eggs or dairy products. While they used to be fringe ideas, vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more and more mainstream all the time. While only 2.3 per cent of the general U.S. population is vegetarian, approximately 18 per cent of college students are choosing to go meat-free.

Oprah recently jumped on the bandwagon by having her show’s staff take part in a one-week vegan challenge. Generally speaking, I would describe Oprah as a cult leader who encourages the most heinous sorts of conspicuous consumerism and is a shill for every kind bullshit pseudoscience you can imagine. I guess even the most completely mangled clock can be right once every few decades.

Because vegans are still a tiny minority — making up less than two per cent of the population in most Western countries — the evidence regarding the health effects of a vegan diet is not conclusive. This is especially true since vegans tend to smoke less, exercise more and have a higher socioeconomic status than the general population. These are all very strong factors for health, so it is hard to say how much of an influence diet has on overall health.

That being said, according to a 2009 American Dietetic Association article, “Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” These health benefits include a lowered risk of heart disease, lower rates of diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, lower overall cancer rates and a lower body mass index when compared to non-vegetarians.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “But where do you get your protein?” This is by far the most common questions that I get when I make my veganism apparent to someone for the first time. The answer is: food. Pretty much every food you can think of contains protein. Unless you are simply not eating enough calories, you are bound to get adequate amounts of protein. In fact, the average omnivore gets far too much protein. If you eat a few servings of whole grains, nuts, legumes and soy foods every day, you can avoid meat, dairy and eggs and will never ever have to worry about protein.

You may be surprised to learn that when it comes to the environment, whether you drive a Prius or a Hummer is far less important than whether you order the triple bacon lard burger or the broccoli cashew stir-fry. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gasses than everything else put together. If every Canadian ate one less serving of meat per week, it would be equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When it comes to describing the overwhelming cruelty inflicted upon animals in the factory farm system, where 99 per cent of our meat and animal by-products come from, words typed on a page simply cannot do the situation any justice. Watch the film Earthlings (2005). I dare you.

The most important idea that I want to get across to you is that we have a clear choice to make when it comes to what we eat. We have a choice between being less healthy or more healthy. We have a choice between harming the environment to a greater or lesser extent. We have a choice between causing more suffering or less suffering. This is not an all or nothing proposition. Eating less meat helps. If you try to become a vegetarian and find yourself desperately craving some steak one day, have some. It’s not the end of the world. If you want to make the change, do it gradually and carefully. Do your own research. Consult a registered dietician. Eat thoughtfully.

Rob McGregor is not an animal lover and has disliked every pet he has ever had, but milking a goat in kindergarten was pretty cool.

Winnipeg’s Top 8 vegan/vegetarian hot-spots!

  1. Mondragon (91 Albert Street): Everything they have to offer in both the restaurant and grocery store is 100 per cent vegan. Plus, they are a live music venue, hold radical lectures, sell books and are an anarchist workers co-op. What more could you ask for?

  2. Organic Planet (877 Westminister Avenue): Another workers co-op. This grocery store has a great selection of baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and packaged goods too.

  3. Boon Burger Cafe (79 Sherbrook Street): This restaurant has been getting a lot of mainstream buzz for their vegan burgers. This might be the best place to bring your non-veggie friends to show them that animal-free eating can be totally delicious.

  4. Kokeb (330 Ellice Avenue) and Harman’s (570 Sargent Avenue): Picking my favourite of these two Ethiopian restaurants is impossible. Just order the vegan injera platter at either one.

  5. Black Sheep Diner (540 Ellice Avenue): Cheap and delicious breakfast food. Try the tofu scramble and make sure to ask for vegan margarine on your toast and soy milk for your coffee.

  6. Lo Pub Bistro (330 Kennedy Street): The menu is all vegetarian and about two-thirds vegan. It’s a little bit pricier than the other restaurants on the list, so save it for a hot date with that special vegan someone.

  7. Cousins Deli and Bar (55 Sherbrook Street): The vegan chili is one of my all-time favourites for winter and eating their veggie burger on the patio in the summer is vegan heaven.

  8. Falafel Place (1101 Corydon Avenue): If you want falafels and tasty yam fries, this is the place to go.