Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Part of the reason I thought this blog worthwhile was to source out some of the fuss behind veganism. Like anyone defined an “ism,” there is always a corresponding stereotype, and vegans are no exception. Most people, if they have heard of veganism at all, almost immediately conjure up a distorted conception of its adherents, be it of a far leftist, tattooed punk on parole for liberating bunnies from a laboratory, or perhaps a Birkenstock-wearing, dreadlocked hippie who leaves a cloud of patchouli in their wake. 

Not so, or at least not really. Sure, many of the people I spoke to aligned themselves with a progressive ethos, but there were certainly a few that could be considered as regular folks who wanted to simply want to eat and live better, for themselves and their families. Here’s an interesting example. 

So. Forget what you’ve heard. And read, for that matter. Last week I spoke with a number of vegans from across the country, from the Gulf Islands to Cape Breton, employed in a variety of fields from farmers and teachers to accountants and dialysis technicians. 

To begin with, I wanted to know the most important reason these folks decided to go vegan. Most of the respondents indicated that the health benefits topped their list. “By the time I was 35, I was 30 pounds overweight, my blood sugar was skyrocketing and many of the people in my family had type-two diabetes,” says Darcy, a mother of two and human resources consultant in Sydney, Cape Breton. “I had to do something, so I went vegetarian to help address my health problems. A few years after my kids were born, I tried veganism as a bit of an experiment and my body just loved it. I’ve never felt better.”

Wendy, a healthcare worker and artist in Hamilton, points to the hefty load a carnivorous diet treads on our planet as her reason for going vegan. “I started coming across articles talking about the natural resources required to sustain the meat industry, and I just couldn’t see eating meat as a responsible choice anymore. If people gave up meat for just one day a week, it would have a huge impact. Megan, a farmer in North Battleford, Saskatchewan agrees: “Growing up in a rural area really opens your eyes to how much water, energy and land are required to keep the dairy and meat industries going.”

Still others cited humanitarian concerns in terms of animal welfare. Dennis Bayomi, the fortysomething founder of the Winnipeg Vegetarian Association, cited an airing of David Suzuki's “The Nature of Things” television special in 1991, entitled the “Sea of Slaughter” (based on Farley Mowat’s book of the same name) as a critical to his going vegan. Breanne, a primary school teacher in North Bay, Ontario, also considers our treatment of animals in the broader sense: “As a kindergarten teacher, we teach sharing and not hurting each other; we try to give these kids a basic understanding of the best of human nature. I can’t do that and think its okay to inflict harm on animals if I don’t need to, and you know what? I really don’t need to.”

One particularly jovial young hair stylist in Victoria, pointed to the fact that her town was simply teeming with “all these studly vegan men,” and felt that consideration entirely worthy of going vegan. 

I realized then it had been far too long since I had visited Victoria. 

Next on Gone Vegan... Sarah Kramer, Canada's doyenne of vegan cuisine and style, dishes on her first steps toward veganism.