Wooff asks: I’m thinking of going vegan. My family is not on board with this idea mainly owing to the fact they think this life style is damaging. I’ve completely cut off beef from my diet and I don’t consume pork anyway. I really want to study abroad for my university and I’ll be living alone then. I think I’ll try going vegan then. What do you think about the vegan life style? I’m willing to wait 2 more years before I can go vegan because of my parents but what do you think I should do?
Hi Wooff –
You are so sweet to always refer to me as a person, but of course you know I’m not. And we dogs are very carnivorous. In the wild, we and our wolf ancestors pretty much live exclusively on animals we catch or find. That’s the way our systems work best. Yes, you’ll see exceptions all the time – most dogs love carrots, and of course you’ll see us eat grasses a lot when we’re feeling nauseous – but in general, we are hunters.
You humans are much more complex in this area. Over the millennia you’ve been around, you’ve developed very complex and varied diets, largely dependent on your locations and your cultures. The hunter-gatherer peoples ate somewhat the way we dogs do, though bringing more fruits and vegetables in than we tend to. The agrarian peoples developed brilliant and insightful farming skills, not only raising grains and such but even using animals in ways other than for meat, such as eggs and milk products.
These systems worked just fine in their times and in their places. But today, everything has shifted.
First of all, of course, as long as one has the economic means, they can eat pretty much any diet they like anywhere. Living in northern Europe doesn’t mean you’re stuck with what you can find or hunt, and living in Russia no longer means you must eat a potato-based menu every day. Grocery stores everywhere sell oranges and tuna and chocolate chip treats. You can eat what you like. It’s just fantastic!
On the other hand, these advances have also created lots of problems. The changes in wheat in numerous parts of the world (such as the United States, where I live) have made it far cheaper, more plentiful, and longer-lasting, but also resulted in many allergies and illnesses that we didn’t see before (Some even see a tie between wheat gluten and Autism, which, if ever proven, could really change things a lot). And while we’ve eliminated a lot of the problems people used to have with meats going bad, our factory farms have also created all sorts of horrible health issues from hormones and antibiotics in the food to Mad Cow disease.
What’s the answer?!
Well, there’s no absolute one. But I do know two things. And those are the only advice I can really give you.
One is that scientists have found that the easiest way for people to stay healthy is to eat a balanced diet, but to also pay attention to their ancestry (or their blood type, which tends to reflect that ancestry). So if your family’s distant background was of seafarers, you’ll probably do well to have a certain amount of fish in your diet. And if your people were farmers, you might not want to give up dairy. This can particularly show up in the form of allergies. I do recommend to people suffering from rashes or lots of sneezing to try to stick to the things their kin ate over a thousand years ago – and it often does a good job of relieving the symptoms.
But second, your wish is the future. The meat and dairy industries are doing a terrible job in terms of sustainability; too many cattle are bad for the ozone layer, meats use enormously more water than vegetables and fruits do, and, these days, the industrial farms are often astoundingly cruel and inhumane.
So I’m going to recommend two ideas, based on these two facts. First, that you absolutely 100% no question should try out veganism. You won’t be doing anything wrong. Millions of people live without consuming any animal products and are vibrantly healthy. You’ll feel great about yourself, you’ll save tons of money, and you’ll probably look terrific.
But secondly, I do want you to look at your family’s background (or, if you’re not sure of that, find out your blood type and research those Eat Right For Your Type books). And see what they did. And allow yourself the possibility that you might bring in just a little of their diet, if you find yourself feeling bad in any way from your vegan choices. Maybe you allow one piece of fish every week or month for its proteins or oils, or some occasional cheese for calcium (and because it’s SOOOOO yummy!).
I do want you to put your health first, and in that I agree with your parents. But I don’t want you denying your wonderful thoughts and feelings! So I’m saying to go for it – but to watch yourself at the same time. In fact, a great thing would be to go to a doctor before you start the diet, and have them do a blood test on you. Then, go vegan for six months, and get checked again. And if you’re fine, you’re fine.
But if you’re not, please allow yourself some way to keep fully healthy.
Believe me, the fact that you’re not eating processed hamburgers and drinking milkshakes every day will be reward enough already!
Congratulations! And, in the name of all us four-legged folks (even the ones I chase and those I have in my food), THANK YOU!