VEGANUARY: WHY I’M NOT DOING IT THIS JANUARY
As January comes around for another year, the topic of ‘veganism’ and taking part in ‘Veganuary’ is hot on the agenda (for those living in the UK at least) . For those who aren’t aware of it, the Veganuary movement encourages people to try not eating any animal-based products for a month, ie ‘Going Vegan’.
The last two years I’ve “done Veganuary”, even with much determination amongst testing and demanding skiing trips, in one of the most vegan-unfriendly places on the planet – the French Alps. With my strength and determination, I’ve persisted and congratulated myself for that. This year, however, I am not.
No Veganuary, What?
The simple reason I am not “doing Veganuary” is that I am prioritising my health. I’ve been told by my nutritionist that I need to eat more oily fish to raise the levels of ‘IG secretory’ (IgA) in my digestive system (the part of the digestive system that is responsible for immunity). I discovered that I was deficient in this important antibody after having my GI mapped using the latest DNA diagnostic techniques.
The topic of becoming vegan and doing Veganuary is a contentious one. More and more people in the UK are choosing a plant-based diet and most supermarkets, cafes and restaurants offer vegan options. I believe this is a positive step. I truly believe that in today’s modern society, the choice to become vegan (and to a lesser extent vegetarian), is the right conscious one. ‘Conscious’ because in a day where we live in a mass-produced, packaged environment where animals are broken down into their parts and distributed for food consumption, we have lost the connection with the land on which these animals are raised or on which they live. We are no longer ‘hunter-gatherers’ as we are famously told, but rather engaging in a quite indulgent form of consumerism. We all have choices to make, and we do not have to worry about finding, killing or transporting the animal that we wish to eat.
The ‘Buffalo Jumpers’!
Moreover, we do not honour those animals that are killed so that we can eat. The North American Indians did exactly that when slaughtering hundreds of buffalo through ‘buffalo jumps‘ or otherwise, whereby there would be an offering or a prayer given for the sacrifice the animals made. As one of the elders describes:
As the butchering of the first buffalo begins, Nick, the hunting party leader, reminds the hunters to be praying to themselves or out loud as they work. Tony, the elder of the group and Nick’s uncle, begins singing a song to honor the buffalo and thank it for providing sustenance to his family.
Roll forward to the modern day society of filthy animal factory farms, ghastly abattoirs and butchers doing our bloody work. The difference is confronting.
Are Humans Designed to Eat Meat?
I also do not believe we are designed to eat meat, given our very body (compared to other carnivores) does not have the necessary features to hunt or eat meat. Look at ourselves. We do not possess claws or sharp teeth which other carnivores possess. We need to cook meat more or less to eat it (or potentially suffer the hazardous consequences of food poisoning) whereas picking and grazing fruits and vegetables (cooked or uncooked) living off a plant-based diet is possible and indeed natural. We are of course ‘told’ that we need to eat meat because that’s what we are brought up to believe. A ‘balanced’ diet they cry and all these feel-good sayings. We know nothing else, until we start challenging those assumptions.
For this reason I choose not to eat meat. I could take the moral high ground and proudly proclaim that in general I lead a plant-based diet, without going into what that really means. But what I could also say is that I do not wish to participate in practices that are the product of death and suffering. I’m talking specifically about the dairy and egg industries.
I could tell you that I do not wish to have anything to do with an industry that aggressively artificially inseminates its cows, takes their babies away from sentient living beings (like you and I) who are their mothers, then drink their milk that is highly processed, and then after 4-5 years (well before their natural life), violently slaughters them. But hey, it is ‘Milk’. It goes into your Spanish ‘cafe con leche’ , or your French ‘cafe au lait’… You’ve been brought up with it. You buy it off the shelves. It’s ‘normal’. It’s fucking ‘milk’, ok? It is just another product for you to choose from as actors in the grand play called ‘Consumerism’.
I could also tell you that I do not wish to eat eggs, for the large part from chickens whose male offspring are gassed or ground up alive at birth (what good is a male chick to an ‘egg-producing’ industry?). But I also know you love your scrambled eggs.
Veganism is Ridiculous?
That said, I also take the view that living a strictly vegan diet (in itself) is ridiculous. In a world where ‘life feeds upon life’, which we as homo sapiensare just one part of, denying one’s right to also partake in the global feeding cycle on principles alone doesn’t feel right when I look at the overall picture. As in the case of the buffalos and North American Indian’s case, eating them was a matter of survival. In a natural world that offers no sympathy, taking the ‘moral high ground’ ain’t going to get you very far when it comes to living (or dying).
When I look at the actual picture though of what is really going on, choosing a plant-based diet makes perfect sense for those ethically-minded beings. By ethical (as opposed to ‘moral’), I mean the matter of personal choice and where your values lie. If at the end of the day, you have no problem knowing where your food comes from, are insensitive to other sentient beings suffering and generally don’t give a shit, then that’s fine too, it’s just that you are on the more sociopathic end when it comes to animal-based food consumption, which again is totally fine, it’s just a reminder of what it means to eat animal based products.
The Dark Truths of ‘Plant-Based’ Diets
That said, being vegan and doing ‘Veganuary’ is not all 100% rosy either. Some fruit and vegetables can be difficult to digest for certain individuals. Some have properties which affect the level of absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body, which means that for certain individuals, it can make the task harder.
In particular, I mean ‘lectins’ which are an abundant and diverse protein found in foods which have agglutinating (i.e. clumping) properties affecting blood and tissues. They bind to cell membranes and are not digested. Because there is a chemical reaction that occurs between your blood and the foods that you eat, eating certain foods that are high in lectins which is incompatible with your body, causes the inability of the body to digest that food, resulting in inflammation and other symptoms such as irritable bowel, dysbiosis, and anaemia. You can read more about lectins here.
Then there is the topic of phytic acid, which is a unique substance found in plant seeds. It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. For some people with an iron or other mineral deficiencies issue, this may be a problem. Living a vegan diet without this awareness means that your health could suffer unless you took preventative measures. You can find more about phytic acid here.
Where To From Here?
So you can see the topic of being ‘Vegan’ and liberally doing Veganuary is fine on one hand, but on the other, exercising some caution is also the right thing. It may not be right for everybody. The inevitable tension comes when one wants to eat a plant-based diet, but knows that certain foods aren’t particularly compatible with the body. I don’t really know what the solution is and after all, it’s your choice what you eat, not mine. What I do know is that being more grateful, eating less meat (or none at all) and generally being mindful of the modern day agricultural and food production methods is a helpful first step.
Switching to a ‘pescatarian’ based diet may be the first alternative, although noting that eating seafood also has its own issues from a health, ethical and environmental perspective. Overfishing, plastic nets killing turtles, micro-plastics in the food chain… I for one have trouble eating Octopus, knowing how intelligent these creatures are. Remember ‘Paul the Octopus‘?
Be a ‘Conscious Warrior’
At the end of the day, it comes down to your choice what food you decide to eat. Giving Veganuary a try may be a fun and principled thing to do, but please be wary of the modern day mantra of how to live your life. Rather live that life ‘consciously’ in everything you do. It’s a better way of connecting with your soul and working out the role you have to play in this very modern society we have created. For better or for worse.