A Vegan Life Philosophy

My vegan lifestyle has become about more than just food.  My approach and embrace of an animal-free diet is only part of what I see as a logical whole that defines a vision of what I have a right to and how much humility I really need to have in my consumption.

I turned to an animal-free diet largely for health reasons, but it really did fit me in many other ways.  I now see it as one part of how I’m trying to live responsibly in this world where, on my best day, I’m still emitting about 3 1/2 times more CO2 than the average global citizen (http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/), and consuming so many resources that it would take over 3 planets to sustain all the people of the world if they lived like I do (http://ecofoot.org/).

Thinking about what I consume to be healthy and to use as little of the earth’s resources is important to me.  When we think of “fair share,” we Americans tend to think of American culture and the norms that are only normal here.  By virtue of where we were born, we don’t have more of a right to natural resources than someone living in Sub-Saharan Africa.  And, I would argue, by virtue of the luck of our privileged place of birth, we have a responsibility to people who weren’t so lucky. We have a responsibility to help both with charity and justice.

Charity should be what we do when an urgent situation demands a response as in Haiti.  Justice is when structures–political, environmental, social, medical, etc.– are in place to ensure human rights.  We’re very good at charity.  The world struggles with justice.

But there are things we can do to work toward justice.

The choices we make everyday to purchase goods sends a message.  Do we accept clothes that were made by sweatshop labor because they’re cheap and we can afford lots of them?  Do we buy meats and produce from factory farms who exploit their contractors and enslave them into a cycle of debt?  Do we drive vehicles that suck fossil fuels, making us dependent on countries who might want to do us harm all the while polluting the air?

Our support of organizations, NGOs, and companies who are making a serious difference in the lives of the powerless in the world is a significant way to be active.  Amazing groups like Partners in Health and Oxfam work tirelessly to extend opportunity to people who have historically been ignored or exploited.  Companies like Toms Shoes exist to create awareness and provide where there is a serious need.

Yes, by definition, being a “Vegan” is about food.  But for me, it’s also a part of understanding the world as intricately interconnected, fragile, and volatile.  It seems that every thoughtful choice can only have positive repercussions.

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