Thursday, April 09, 2009

Foodie Fads: Trying on and Discounting "Veganism"

There are two major themes that are playing themselves out ad nauseum in confessional-like foodie articles in mainstream media today. One, of course, is the trend towards the purportedly sexy hands-on involvement in the slaughter of animals that some foodies seem to think leaves them holding the ethical equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card with regards to their embracing their more carnivorous urges (and they sure as heck like to harp on the "c" word). Another trend popularized by some folks like Oprah Winfrey (and no, this isn't going to be an Oprah rant, for those of you who've expressed concern over my dissing her in the past for her cleanse last year), where for one reason or another, veganism -- more often, a strict vegetarian diet -- is tried out temporarily for its short term benefits, or sometimes merely to assess its merits outside of any sort of ethical context.

One article I stumbled across this morning was written by someone in the latter camp -- and to be fair, this person is more of a general "writer" than an actual foodie. Tulsa World's Cary Aspinwall's five day stint eschewing animal products reads like a disgruntled teenager talking on the phone to a friend about having been forced to participate in a family outing. Plus, it includes all of the customary (obligatory?) jabs at veganism and the ethics inherent in it. For instance, she starts off the article mentioning her long-time curiosity about veganism, but qualifies that it's

curious, with a mild disdain. Good for vegans if they don't want to eat any cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and fish. In my view, those animals died for the sake of deliciousness.
Yes, we get it, Cary: Savouring the taste of animals is hip. Mark Bittman loves you. And since most of your five days were spent trying to find identical substitutes for animal products instead of really exploring all of the other things that you could have tried eating -- and since you've stated outright that you walked into this with your nose wrinkled, you were disappointed.

So? The article ends with a bunch of regurgitated information about the potential health benefits of lowering one's consumption of animal products somewhat, and touts the John Hopkins Institute's "Meatless Mondays" as being an ideal path to follow in lieu of veganism (and by "meatless", this means "abstaining from red meat, poultry and high-fat dairy products" and that "fish and seafood, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, are encouraged"). I remember getting a lot of spammy comments on my blog from one of their people sometime before Xmas, more or less saying the same thing over and over again as leavers of spammy comments are wont to do. But I digress... It's a shame that in writing an article about the possible benefits of reducing one's consumption of animals that Aspinwall felt the need to both misrepresent and undermine the lifestyle that's most conducive to reducing one's consumption; it's also a shame that she did so without even once taking a fair and serious look at the ethics behind that lifestyle. Ultimately, though, presenting eating animals as sexy is what's selling in mainstream media today, so this article was just yet another feeble manifestation of this trend.


Although it's not worthy of its own post, I thought I'd also tack on this link to an article by a vegetarian of eight years who decided to try to go vegan for a week, but who -- while avoiding any real discussion of the ethics behind veganism -- failed to reproduce what she deemed a tasty vegan mac and "cheese" dish, and so decided that veganism is too time-consuming and expensive to bother. She asserts that she envies those with enough willpower to be compassionate, but that she feels that merely focusing on being a "conscious" consumer is the better way to go.


Steve said...

As soon as people delve into the ethics of veganism/how we treat animals, they do one of two things.

1. Change their ways cause they see what they are doing is terrible.
Or the 2nd and much easier one,
2. Excuse themselves/make excuses/skirt around the issue.

I was always taught vegans are fucking strange people. I never even considered their argument or for that matter cared-- I had this notion they were nuts. I even thought this way when I was a vegetarian! I think a lot of people feel that way(they may feel that way about vegetarians too!)

I hope this perception changes.

Unknown said...

Ugh...those articles were terrible.

It's not mainstream, just on my personal blog, but I recently completed an 8-part series about adopting a vegan diet. The links are on the sidebar at, if you are interested to see it. A woman wrote to me yesterday to say that it convinced her to switch from semi-vegetarian to vegan. That made me really happy.

M said...

Steve, I hope that it changes, too.

Chandelle, that sounds fabulous (and congratulations, by the way). I'll defnitely have a look when I get home this evening.