MindBodyGreen published this article 5.29.13.
The problem with a “born again” vegan like me, is I expect to much. Selfishly, I became a vegan to save my own life and now I want everyone else to follow in my foot steps.
Mark Bittman from the New York Times wrote a piece recently; Why I’m Not a Vegan. The op-ed piece comes on the heels of his recent book release; VB6 – Vegan Before 6pm. In his book he outlines his fork in the road decision to adopt a strict vegan diet six years ago when he was facing obesity and diabetes. As he states, “the results…were swift and impressive.” However, after 6pm, Bittman adopts a more flexible diet, allowing non-vegan options in moderation.
I carefully reviewed the 500 plus comments posted on his article and found several recurring themes. The Vegans asking Bittman to clearly identify his position and raising morality issues regarding animal cruelty. The Omnivores proclaiming that millions of years of evolution cannot be wrong and “these teeth were meant for tearing”.
If you follow a Vegan diet before 6pm, but then eat meat & dairy at night are you a vegan?
Can you be an alcoholic half the day?
If you refrain from cigarettes while you sleep are you a non-smoker at night?
It is a confusing message. Bittman clearly enforces his support for a strict vegan diet to see impressive health benefits. He has consistently supported the theory that climate change can be attributed to raising livestock; in his op-ed We Could Be Heros. But he also craftily identifies with his readership and adds a degree of moderation to the regimen. Understanding that the majority of Americans are not going to adopt a pure vegan diet, even if the evidence supports the benefits.
Ultimately, Bittman is a powerhouse in Foodie circles. His readership is vast, so he presents a very middle-ground approach. And I completely agree with him. It’s about raising awareness, not forcing people into compliance. It is not about preaching from the highest mountain:
I grew up making my own mistakes. Tell me not to stick my hand in the fire, I would. And prior to my bypass surgery in 2011, at the age of 40, I would not have read an article regarding eating less meat or dairy. When lightning struck however, I was the first guy in line at the vegan outlet. Sign me up! I cannot understand the criminal who finds God after murdering an entire family but it happens. People are “born again” all the time.
The problem with the “born again” type, and I will stick to vegans here, is it presents a radical shift to an extreme position.
I was up late in bed last night attempting to put my finger on the causes of this sentiment and I am pretty confident that conflict is the root cause.
A good example of this conflict is political elections. They are a wonderful way to invite conflict into your serene environment. We understand that opposing viewpoints are the foundation of any democracy and any censorship is a direct violation of our free will. But we still have a hard time digesting the other guys take on things.
The problem with elections is it forces you into a non-compromising position. This is completely unnatural. Most of us weave through life making all kinds of compromises. We adjust our stance to fit with another’s opinion in order to move forward.
With food though, it seems there is no middle ground. Perhaps, being flexible is the power position. The ultimate goal, the nirvana for any strict vegan, is a world devoid of any product derived from animals. With vegans numbering 700 million people, 6 billion would need to convert. However, if 6 billion people decided not to eat meat before 6pm everyday, what an enormous achievement that would be for the vegan cause.
Last Presidential election I had numerous arguments, with friends and family, that typically would have resulted in a compromised position but ended up in “civil war” type outcomes. Most of the arguments involved issues I normally would never argue about! But I was forced to take a side; Republican or Democrat.
Elections present no middle ground. Unfortunately we are forced to take sides. Taking sides prevents you from compromising.
I am guilty of promoting my agenda post-bypass surgery. I have written endlessly on the benefits of a lifestyle void of animal proteins and I have attracted a group of like-minded people who support my opinions. Where the message is lost is the group of individuals with no health issues. Two-thirds of Americans are not obese. Most of us, regardless of the beatings we give our bodies, will live to be 60 and 70 years old. This group of healthy Americans is asking; “why are you telling me what to eat?”
There is a middle ground, a Flexitarian (Bittman’s definition) approach to food that can have vast consequences to the health millions of people and billions of animals.
Vegans should consider the middle as a win. The mere fact that someone might consider not eating meat a portion of the day is a huge success and raises Awareness.
An Awareness that Animals are a source of protein. They are not the only source.
If millions of people can simply open their palates to this concept, progress will occur. A dampening of emotional testimony on each side of the meat argument will produce results.
Mr. Bittman is raising awareness and by choosing a more moderate approach to veganism will attract a broader audience. Remember, not so long ago, over 50% of Americans smoked cigarettes. It has taken 20 years to lower that number to less than 20%. It started with Awareness and eventually resulted in a drastic reduction of smokers.
Finally, to defend the “born again” vegans. Sometimes its hard to compromise when the message is so clear. Progress is sometimes measured in inches not miles. We need to continue the effort, but promote understanding and always look to the middle to make a handshake. It is going to take time.