Bridging the Gap, Part I

If you’re a vegan, do articles like this annoy you? You know the ones by environmentalists who talk at length about the hardships of a vegan diet despite the fact that choosing a plant-based diet is one of the best choices for the planet? Before I read, What I Learned from a Month of Eating Vegan, back in April, I had been thinking about the gap between the animal welfare and environmental movements. From what I know about both, the gap is wide, although, in my mind, they are complimentary. If you believe in one, then shouldn’t you embrace the other as well? Taking care of animals and the planet is necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Photo: Joel Makower

Photo: Joel Makower

Let me back up and explain how I got to this point. My first recollection of the environmental movement was my senior year in college back in 1991. It sounded like a good idea. “Count me in” I said, but I never considered myself a tree hugger. Over the years, I moved in that direction at the speed of a turtle. I tote my re-useable water bottle and shopping bag with me everywhere I go. I take public transportation. This is the easy stuff. There are some things—the harder stuff—I have not been willing to change, such as long, hot showers and air conditioning, to name a few. I never even gave these comforts a second thought until I met my environmentalist, vegetarian boyfriend, who is now my husband.

When we met, I naively thought our values were similar enough that we would complement each other. This will be great, I thought.  And yet, these values have been the subject of many heated debates and disagreements over the past three years.

How can you feed your cats meat and call yourself a vegan?

I’m not giving up air conditioning. I’m burning up!

We can’t buy apples from New Zealand.
But I want apples!!!!

I don’t want to bring my own containers to Whole Foods. What a pain!

I have come to the conclusion that even though I have chosen to be vegan (and it is good for the environment), it’s not the only thing I can do. I have heard other vegans say things like “It’s okay if you take long showers, you’re vegan!” I’m not sure that it is and I certainly can’t complain about environmental meat eaters like in the article above if I’m not willing to do more myself. It’s easy to throw stones. It’s much harder to look at my own actions and see where I can improve. Because ethically speaking, I know that taking care of the environment is just as important as taking care of the animals.

Earlier this year I changed the header on my blog from simply It’s Easy Being Vegan to It’s Easy Being Vegan and Green. It’s a step in the right direction, even if I don’t yet believe it. In terms of change, I’m in the early stages of Action, just not entirely committed. As for the long showers and air conditioning? I still take long showers but not nearly as many, and we live where we no longer need air conditioning (lucky break!). I also no longer buy produce from the other side of the world. I sometimes bring my own containers to the grocery to buy bulk foods, and when I don’t, I use paper bags instead of plastic.

The more I move in the direction of being an environmentalist, the more I understand how we are all connected and how my actions affect others, including the environment.

Do you think there is a gap between the animal welfare and environmental movements?

8 Responses to Bridging the Gap, Part I

  1. Dazzle59 August 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Amen, Christine. There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Real Environmentalists Don’t Eat Meat” and I totally agree! I have a friend who worked for an environmental action group years ago, and she was the only vegan (actually, the only vegetarian) in a staff of 20 people. She finally quit after one too many summer barbecues with hotdogs and hamburgers.

    • admin August 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      I have that bumper sticker!

  2. Sally Bennett August 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Thank you for this, Christine. You’ve written a very thought-provoking message that I absolutely needed to read.

    • admin August 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Thanks, Sally. Hope you’re doing well!

  3. Lisa | LLworldtour August 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    It does seem complementary to me too. The same time I’ve been cutting out meat, I’ve been always bringing my own bag (and just throw loose produce into my backpack, not needing all those produce plastic bags!) and now have started to bring my own tupperware with me to restaurants for leftovers as I was really torn about those wasteful containers they use.

    And funny enough, I had been meaning to ask you what you feed your cats? When I foster, I’ve been feeling more badly about buying canned industrial ‘meat’ for them.

    • admin August 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Lisa,

      We started bringing our own containers for takeaway at restaurants also. We even created a “car kit” that has containers, thermal coffee mugs, utensils, etc. so we are prepared at all times. Half the time we forget it’s in the car, but we’re at least moving in the right direction.

      Unfortunately, Chelsea is showing very early signs of kidney disease. Her values are borderline and she appears to be in good health, but I’m giving her (and the others) prescription food now to help her. Bill can’t stand all the cans I use. It’s tough. Pets are not environmentally friendly! Think of all the plastic bags being thrown away with dog poop! It’s a conundrum I haven’t been able to reconcile.

      Love that we are on the journey together!
      Christine

      • Lisa | LLworldtour August 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

        Oh no. :( So sorry about sweet Chelsea. I was wondering if you normally by a special cat food (with humanely raised) meat or no meat? That is a tough one.

        • admin August 24, 2013 at 8:39 am #

          Before I switched foods, I was buying Wellness brand or other higher quality brands.