"The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man."
—Charles Darwin, English naturalist (1809–1882)
One of the greatest pleasures in life is finding your passion. Harley-Davidson has its die-hard motorcycle followers, some people wear their hockey passion on their sleeves, and some people are passionate for a healthier planet and a clearer conscience.
Despite attempts to make veganism a food trend or fad (ever hear of the diets, Vegan Before 6 or The Crazy, Sexy Diet?), the vegan movement is a lifestyle that has slowly been gaining acceptance. Some celebrities have adopted the diet for health reasons (Bill Clinton for his heart health) or for love of animals (Alicia Silverstone). Meanwhile, non-celebrities are more educated and conscious about where their food came from and if it was ethically raised or factory farmed.
Americans are more aware of factory farms and our agriculture system via the work of author Michael Pollan and his book In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Other books like Tomatoland uncover the gory details of pesticides and migrant workers in Florida. Grocery chains and mega-marts have taken notice as well; you’ll see expanding organic sections, and “local” signs in the produce section.
The following quotes — from celebrities and regular folks — highlight the passion of the decision to go vegan. It's no longer just the hemp hippies; there are also equally passionate vegans who watch football and drink beer, and those who are just as physically fit as any carnivore.
- Rachel Yontz, an occupational therapist living in Ohio, told me: “I chose to live this way because I strongly oppose the exploitation of animals … I believe that, like my own, their lives have value. I cannot imagine living any other way. Also the effect of the meat industry on your health and the environment is downright frightening.”
- Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of former Ohio congressman (and two-time Presidential candidate) Dennis Kucinich reported to Eating Well that her husband was inspired by compassion for living things, health and food sustainability. "We're constantly traveling through different time zones. The vegan diet just gives us energy," she said. "We're not trying to convert anyone, but we do talk about the benefits of the choices we've made."
- The No Meat Athlete is a guy who “runs on plants” and provides resources for those interested in eating less meat and also fueling an active lifestyle (this guy runs marathons). He is definitely candid on his website, stating, “I’ll come right out and say that a plant-based diet might not be for you. But I’ll also say this: You won’t know until you try.”
Photo: The Veggie Pride Parade is an annual celebration of vegan and vegetarian diets in Lower Manhattan (iStockphoto)