August 07, 2013
Are you scratching your head? Veganism beyond the plate? Veganism is more than just food, right? Well, yes. You may have picked up this book because you’re curious about the health benefits of a plant-based diet or are concerned about the environment. Perhaps you are already on the path to a totally animal- free diet or you have just started out with one vegan meal a day. Whatever your path, there is a key part of veganism that I want to talk about here: the animals. As Ginny reminded us in the introduction to this book, veganism—as defined by Donald Watson in 1944—is “a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.” My veganism, which began after I turned forty, grew from a connection with a goat in Africa (more on that in the recipe section), and once I started on this journey, there was no turning back. While some people may call this a fad diet, it is not so for me. Once I learned more about animal food production, animal testing, and animals in entertainment, my veganism shifted from dietary to ethical. That was a seismic shift for me, personally, and frankly it has made it easier for me to adhere to a plant-based diet. It’s not about me; it’s about the animals. That is my personal experience; whatever your reasons for picking up this book, I hope the information in this chapter, which stems from my own journey as a relatively new vegan, will help you take your own veganism beyond the plate. As a vegan lifestyle coach and educator, I work with clients on eating a plant-based diet, naturally, but I also work with them on taking veganism beyond the plate. We usually start with the closet, which is exactly where I started, because, let’s face it, we have some serious products of cruelty stored on our shelves and hangers. I am a shoe and handbag junkie. When I went vegan almost every- thing in my closet was leather. How could I possibly get rid of all of my shoes and bags? What would I wear? I would go broke replacing everything! But a funny thing happened. I started to feel uncomfortable when I espoused my veganism while wearing my favorite pair of pointy toe patent-leather boots. I got some really great advice from fellow vegans: do what you can, learn to do better, and consider this a process. I started slow, with one pair of vegan boots, which I ended up wearing every single day. The next season, spring, I picked up a new pair of shoes. Over time, my shoe and boot collection—as well as handbags—grew enough so that I was ready to get rid of the animal products in my closet. I didn’t want to waste the items, however, so I gave some items to friends and donated the rest. I actually considered it a bit of vegan activism because I always told the recipient why I was giving them away. It’s not just about leather, though. It’s about silk, wool, down, and fur. Fortunately, fur was never a part of my fashion sense, but I was once again surprised by the amount of down and silk I had in my closet. Wool was a real heartbreaker, as a knitter, but once I thought about the sheep holistically, not just as a being that was sheared but about what would happen to that sheep once she was spent, well, I couldn't do it. I started knitting with plant fibers, like bamboo, soy, and cotton. I had several coats with down—as well as a comforter and a few pillows—that I also thought couldn't be that bad. I mean ducks and geese weren't killed for their feathers right? Well, there’s death and there’s cruelty and when I learned that feathers are plucked in bunches, with bare hands, leaving the birds bloodied, I had to move on. Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet" by Virginia Messina and JL Fields (Da Capo Press).Want a copy of the book? Share this blog and comment below! We'll pick a winner August 20th to receive a copy of Vegan for Her: The Woman's Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet.