Thursday, March 10, 2011

Veganism in the Media

I bookmarked an article from the Kansas City Star a few weeks ago. I had been attracted by its title ("The vegan way: Correcting myths about a growing trend"), but wasn't surprised to find myself wincing a few paragraphs in. I'm all for correcting myths about veganism, but it seems to me that whenever non-vegans in mainstream media take it upon themselves to do this, they invariably reinforce the same tired stereotypes and create further confusion. The article, unsurprisingly, focuses entirely on food. Most of it is in interview format, using a token vegan (a 21-year-old called Julie Wynn who's been vegan a little over a year) and a token "expert" (registered dietitian Denise Shmitz). So which myths about veganism get corrected? Funny you should wonder...

Myth #1: Vegans View Animal Use as Unethical
Myth #2: Vegans Don't Deliberately Consume Animal Products

Myth #3: Veganism Isn't Hard

When asked why she became vegan, Wynn cites concerns over eating processed food and the unnaturalness of the "stress [...] livestock goes through". When asked how veganism has changed her life, all she can muster is to say that she no longer feels heavy and bloated after she eats. Apparently, though, this amazing life-changing effect of having "gone vegan" isn't enough motivation for Wynn to actually be vegan:

"It’s hard, and I’m not perfect. There are still times I will have something that is baked into something, or I’ll have a little cheese over the holidays."
When questioned further about what she most wants to tell people about becoming a vegan (whatever her interpretation of the word may be), Wynn seizes a brilliant opportunity to educate the public and coughs up the following gem:
"The true fight of veganism dates back to the 1800s. It’s about the natural way of getting our food, and treating our animals well. Because if they are treated well, then the meat we receive will be the natural meat we are supposed to eat."
And when the confused-sounding reporter points out that vegans don't eat meat, Wynn clarifies (?) her statement by adding: "Well, that’s why. That’s what we’re fighting for." And then when asked if she would consider going back to eating meat, she weighs the possibility and leaves room for indeed doing so, responding that she is "going to cut everything out until it changes".

Myth #4: Eating Vegan Is as Affordable as Not Eating Vegan

Wynn clears up this myth by asserting at one point (after stressing her absolute love of takeout pizza) that one of the things that is difficult for her about being vegan is that it's "expensive". I guess that all those lentils she mentions she eats must be strictly black market.

Myth #5: Veganism Isn't Just a Personal Choice
Myth #6: Vegans Aren't Hateful Creatures Who Despise All Non-Vegans
Myth #7: Vegan Education Isn't Proselytizing

When asked the loaded question "Do you think that people who are not vegans are cruel or immoral", Wynn reassures the reporter that she "would never pass judgment" on others, like those nasty vegans who spend their days scowling at everyone while wagging their fingers at them: "I don’t like the vegans who assume people are bad just because they haven’t cut out meat and dairy." Wynn goes on to say that she wants to teach "by example" and would gladly share knowledge with others, if approached for it. The (I am assuming non-vegan) dietitian Shmitz weighs in about good vegans keeping their opinions about the morality of using animals to themselves by informing us that:
"Humans have been hunters and gatherers from the beginning of time. … If people think it’s unethical to eat meat, that’s their right. But it’s important for people not to impose their own views on others."
Who would have guessed that dietitians are also experts in ethics? Amazing!!111

Myth #8: Honey Isn't Vegan

The token expert in the article also helps to clear up the common misconception that honey isn't vegan:
Honey is one of those things that some vegans choose not to eat. That surprised me when I first saw that. I guess it’s because bees are involved.
I can guess, too. In fact, I'm guessing that she's never read any information on why it is that honey isn't vegan.

So there you have it! In one fell swoop, the Kansas City Star corrected these nasty pervasive myths and misconceptions about going vegan that have been plaguing us since the 1800s. I, for one, am so very relieved!

Aren't you?


Allysia said...

*sigh*. The title made it sound so promising, too.

Abby Bean said...

So funny, so pathetic!

Niilo John Van Steinburg said...

A prime example of why clear, reasoned vegan education is so important. The less confused "vegans" we have out there, the less confusion about veganism we'll have in general.

veganelder said...

Orthodoxy is likely unlikely in terms of clarity of thought or extent of fund of information for those identified as vegan.

While I can get big-eyed and amused (or irritated) when faced with something like the Kansas City Star article, I am trying to maintain a stance of...if someone is opting out of any of the horrific onslaught on other animals (and the planet) then that step must be applauded and recognized in some way or another.

I don't always achieve this stance but I do believe it to be an important one. Recognizing and applauding small (even tiny) steps prepares the way for larger and more meaningful ones. All change has to begin somewhere and usually that initial change is a small phenomenon.

To repeat, I don't always achieve this stance but I do think it to be important.

You wouldn't berate your child for not being able to walk, run, skip and dance immediately after taking their first step....perception modification or perspective changing or viewpoint shifting or looking at things anew...these are all difficult and incremental processes (even the aha moments have to have a groundwork in place for occurance).

By the way, when was the last time a 21 year old was perfectly articulate and clear thinking about much of anything...I know I was fairly incoherent at that age...probably still am oftentimes.

Vanilla Rose said...

But ... real vegans are such shy and retiring creatures! No wonder these poor publications can never find any to interview.

Love the remark about the black market lentils!

The Compassionate Hedonist said...

is that the best person they could get? how sad.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! *sigh*

That article made things worse :(. Ms. Dietitian might want to do some RESEARCH before spouting your two cents. You "guess" it's because bees are involved? *sigh* Also, Omni's have vitamin deficiencies too, but I don't see people going around telling Omni's to do research before they choose that lifestyle.

Vanilla Rose said...

I bet Ms Wynn will soon abandon every pretence of being vegan.

Ray said...

I had someone tell me avoiding honey is just too extreme, and "where do you draw the line? What about yeast?!"

Oh dear, the poor yeast and it's fungi brethren. I guess plants and rocks must also have feelings? ;) People are very confused. I'm never sure whether to be amused or terrified.

Amanda said...

HAHAHAHHA I love your sarcasm in this article. This would really be a fun read if it wasn't about this upsetting spread of misinformation... Thanks for making us all aware. Hopefully no one took her article seriously...

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

It is really one of the saddest things in the world that the people representing veganism to the mainstream are simply NOT representing veganism to the mainstream.