I identify as vegan, rather than plant-based. The term “plant-based” refers to one’s diet, and is often connected to a healthy living style described as “whole foods, plant-based”. Veganism pertains not just diet, but also the use of animals in clothing, entertainment and other aspects of life as well. Some plant-based people are vegan, some vegans are plant-based, but the terms aren’t really interchangeable, although they are often used that way (which is fine).
Why do vegans often call themselves plant-based?
It’s pretty common for ethical vegans to call themselves plant-based. One of the main reasons vegans call themselves plant-based is because the public has a negative perception of veganism. And I get it. But veganism isn’t really the problem – it often has to do with the way it’s presented.
The problem with accusations
Some organizations use an accusatory tone as part of the activism. And maybe that works as part of a public demonstration.But when you are talking with someone individually, it’s not very effective. If a person feels threatened, they respond defensively – which is not great if you’re trying to have a dialogue with someone.
Making people feel safe is important if you want to have a real conversation with them. Otherwise, you might as well save your breath. You won’t get very far in attack mode.
Learning effective communication
You may have noticed vegans focus a great deal on educating themselves about the cruelty of factory farms. And people who care about animal exploitation and animal rights often have a very emotionally charged approach to advocacy. The emotion is ok, but if you attack, you will put your audience on the defensive.
Vegans need to spend a lot more time learning about effective communication. We know what is wrong with factory farms and animal exploitation. The problem is that we don’t know how to communicate that message effectively.
So, if you practice effective advocacy – call yourself vegan! And if you don’t… just be aware that you’re the reason people aren’t that fond of vegans.
My vegan story started when I made the decision to go vegan just over a year ago, on August 14, 2016. But I’ve only been fully vegan since January 1, 2016. It’s been over a year now since I started transitioning to veganism. But, if I really think about it, my vegan journey really goes back quite a bit further.
A short-lived resolution
One evening in elementary school, I found a tree frog on my windowsill. I picked it up, and as it sat in the palm of my hand, I could feel its little heart beating. I was profoundly struck by the idea that this animal wanted to live, and had interests of his own. As he hopped back to the window sill, I made a little vow that I would not eat any living thing again, and I sat down and wrote an essay about it.
My newfound vegetarianism lasted until breakfast the next day, when I told my dad I wouldn’t eat sausage.
We had a little chat about eating animals. Dad worked in water rights with the Department of Ecology. He had a close relationship with many of the native reservations in the area, and he was quite taken with native spirituality. He explained that we needed to thank the spirits of the animals we ate, because they had sacrificed themselves for us. Even as a 7-year-old, I was seriously sceptical of this, but I agreed to eat my sausage, and I never stopped thinking about animals in my food.
That was the end of my attempts to become a vegetarian for a while. But every single time I ate meat, I couldn’t help but think about the animal that had died. Fortunately, as a family, we rarely ate meat in any sort of quantity. We definitely didn’t eat meat at every meal, or even every day.
In university I was a part-time vegan. I couldn’t get over the feeling that being vegan was somehow offensive, so I ate animal products when people served them in their homes.
My casual reducitarianism ended in graduate school. While studying Latin American history, I convinced myself veganism was selfish and there were bigger issues in the world. But I still never really felt completely comfortable eating animals or using the products made from them.
The tipping point in my vegan story
In fall of 2015 I was on a running vacation in Vancouver with a close friend who is vegetarian. We were at dinner one night and I ordered a duck dish. Having been vegetarian most of her life, she’s never eaten duck, and she asked me what it tasted like. I started to explain how delicious and nutty it was – and as I was talking something just snapped in my head. I felt strange the whole walk back to the hotel.
When I got back to my room, I spent most of the night watching YouTube videos about veganism, particularly vegan philosophy. I came across one particular interview with Peter Singer that somehow grabbed me. His rational approach resonated with me, and I found myself incapable of defending animal consumption.
A few videos later (I discovered Bite-Size-Vegan and Gary Yourofsky the same night), and I knew that being vegan was the moral choice. My vegan story had begun.
How I transitioned
The rest of the trip I ate vegetarian and decided to gradually transition to veganism. When I got home, I told my husband about my decision. We decided to stop buying animal products if I could find vegan replacements for them. We switched to soy milk gradually (by mixing it with cow’s milk until we got used to the flavour – it sounds weird, but it worked!). I stopped buying anything with leather or wool.
For the next couple of weeks I ate plant-based at home but mostly vegetarian at restaurants. By September I was not eating eggs, most milk products or meat, but I still had a wedge salad for dinner once a week with bacon and blue cheese dressing (I seriously need to make a vegan version of that!).
In October I figured out I could order the wedge salad with candied pecans instead of bacon. It was delicious and satisfied my salty/sweet tooth. I didn’t miss the bacon at all. I knew I was ready to delve a bit deeper into the vegan lifestyle.
Going “full vegan”
January 1 I decided I was ready to make the step of being a full-time ethical vegan.
I haven’t intentionally eaten animal products since, although there are the occasional slip ups. I’ve ordered veggie burgers that have come with mayo, even though I ask for no sauce. If it happens I just scrape it off and eat the burger anyway. Still, ritual purity is not interesting to me. I really have a problem wasting food. So if it’s just a trace of something, I’ll pick it out and move on. And before you call “hypocrite,” I’ll also eat a meal with human hair in it after I remove the hair. I’m not a purist regarding animal OR human products in my food, it’s just not my thing.
I also still own items that contain wool or leather. Getting rid of these things is an important part of many a vegan story, but I’m not there yet. I stopped buying animal byproducts like wool and leather a year ago, but the items I have are still useful and I can’t afford to replace them. But I look forward to doing so!
Why I’m vegan
I’m vegan because I know it’s the most consistent way for me compassionate and ethical.
The exploitation of animals needs to end, and I want to do whatever I can to make a difference.
I’ve been so grateful for the support of other vegans, particularly in the online community. In spite of the drama, vegan YouTube has been part of my vegan story since the beginning, and I’m so happy that I can actually be a part of it.
A big thank you to all of you! I wish you all the best on your vegan journeys!
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
As vegans we are accustomed to speaking out in support of other beings that cannot speak for themselves. But what about our fellow human beings?
Racism and veganism are diametrically opposed, but that sort of cognitive dissonance doesn’t prevent from vegans from expressing hateful racist views.
Cory McCarthy, a vegan bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast, became an example of this about a week ago when he published a video on his views about America being made “by whites for whites”. This repugnant view is also shared by the Golden One, an extreme right-wing nationalist YouTuber whose ravings are something to behold. The Golden one’s also vegan, so I think we can dispel the notion that racists vegans don’t exist. They do.
Vegans need to speak out against racism and hate speech within the vegan community
I don’t like to give these people attention, which is one reason why I barely mention them in my video, except to say why their views are so wrong, and to encourage other vegans to speak out about this. Like violence, racism has no place in the vegan community, and racists like Cory and the Golden One need to know they will not receive support or acceptance from vegans.
I believe this is a topic vegans need to be vocal about. Racism and speciesim are two sides of the same repulsive coin and they need to be clearly and openly rejected by good people everywhere.
Links: Eisel Mazard’s first video on Cory McCarthy “Racism exists within veganism; racist vegans exist; discuss” (there’s a second one, if this isn’t enough to make you ill):
The Fake Trump Focus Group (the video is from HULU, not Buzzfeed, sorry):
Alyse from Raw Alignment (her website and YouTube channel have the same name) is one of the most friendly and positive people I’ve seen within the vegan community. I’m not into raw food, but she certainly makes it sound amazing!
But Alyse recently released a video on her channel about how she cured her UTI (urinary tract infection) with a water fast. Most women know remaining well hydrated is an important aspect of UTI prevention. It can sometimes even help your body to fight a lower UTI in its earlier stages. And by the way, a water fast isn’t necessary – unless you dig that sort of thing).
But if you haven’t seen improvement within 2-3 days, you need to see your doctor and have your urine tested to see if you need antibiotics.
The problem is, Alyse doesn’t ever mention this in her video. She advises her Raw Alignment audience to “do their research” (whatever that means), but never gives the very basic advice that they should see a doctor if it has been more than a few days with no improvement.
My concern here is not over the water fast – like I said, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that fasting is any more effective than remaining well-hydrated. But if you are into fasting, I suppose it’s fine. I have never seen any evidence on her channel that Alyse is advocating disordered eating. Raw food is not my cup of tea, but a properly planned raw diet seems adequate for health.
So it’s not the water fast, or even the raw foodism that really bothers me. It’s the fact that she never once mentions that you need to see a doctor if things are getting worse.
Sadly, I don’t think that’s an oversight on her part. She mentions seeing a doctor if you have a broken bone – but she believes infections don’t require medical intervention.
There’s a place for antibiotics
Many infections don’t require medical intervention. Viral infections don’t require antibiotics, and taking antibiotics when you don’t need them contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Plus, it’s totally useless.
But serious bacterial infections demand antibiotics.
Antibiotics have saved millions – if not billions – of lives since penicillin was first introduced. Because infections can – and do – kill.
What happened before antibiotics?
Penicillin was first mass-produced in the early 1940s. Unfortunately, this was too late for many.
My grandfather has a heart-breaking story of how two of his cousins died from complications of what was likely acute glomerulonephritis.
The two boys had blood in their urine following a strep infection and they eventually couldn’t urinate. The local witch doctor/medicine woman told their mother not to allow the boys to drink water. They eventually managed to escape the house and retrieve water from the well. Both boys died within a couple of days.
The mother was heartbroken. She was convinced the boys died because they drank water! In reality, in the absence of antibiotics their kidneys had been totally destroyed by the infection. They would have died no matter what.
This story had a tremendous impact on me as a child. The idea of two 12-year-old boys dying because they didn’t have access to antibiotics was incredibly tragic. What contributions might they have made? We’ll never know, because their lives were needlessly cut short.
Antibiotics: the miracle of modern medicine
Alyse mentions at the beginning of her video that she had a UTI that led to a kidney infection in the past – landing her in the hospital on IV antibiotics.
She seems to think that a water fast could have prevented that from happening, but she’s wrong.
She likely would have died, like millions of women did before the advent antibiotics.
The two most important contributions in the history of medicine are likely antibiotics and vaccines.
It’s ironic that these two lifesaving discoveries are among the most demonized by advocates of “natural” living.
How many of us would be alive today without these things? We are unbelievably lucky to have been born in an era where we don’t live in fear of the annual summer plague of polio. Can you even imagine taking your kids to the playground and wondering if they’d be exposed to an illness that could paralyze them for life?
In the same vein, I’m grateful that if my children contract strep throat, I don’t need to fear they’ll die of sepsis or glomerul nephritis as a complication of scarlet fever.
My message for Raw Alignment: Share your experiences responsibly
I don’t want Alyse to stop making videos. I don’t even want her to stop sharing helpful home remedies.
What I do want is for her (and other natural health advocates) to recognize we can’t cure all illnesses at home. A water fast likely couldn’t have prevented her kidney infection any more than my grandfather’s cousins would have lived if they hadn’t drunk the well water!
Antibiotics are an incredible (if overused) resource that saves lives. If you have tried self-care and it isn’t working, you need to get yourself to a doctor, STAT. Raw Alignment can share natural health tips without pretending they are a substitute for medical care.
At a time when vegan diets are under intense scrutiny (there’s even a proposal before the Italian Parliament that would make feeding your children a vegan diet illegal), it is completely irresponsible for Raw Alignment to encourage pseudoscience as a legitimate alternative to evidence-based medicine.
The bottom line
Alyse is far from alone in advocating questionable medical advice. So many natural health gurus reject evidence-based medicine. They’re lucky – most have access to hospitals in case their self-cures go horribly wrong.
But what happens when a rural family takes their advice and refuses to take their child to the hospital? It happens, ever day. Most of the time the child survives. But sometimes they don’t. I know Alyse doesn’t want that on her conscience.
If you are in a position where you are providing advice, please consider the potential consequences. And if you’re a parent, know some illnesses will not resolve on their own. The average lifespan has doubled since 1900 because of antibiotics. They aren’t the answer to everything. But if it’s been a few days and you or your child are not getting better – go to the hospital. You can thank me later.