Why I'm not a vegan (or a vegetarian for that matter).
After my previous post about the Word of Wisdom, I felt I should write an additional post covering this topic.
First, the word "vegetarian" means nothing. There are so many levels, tangents, and offshoots of vegetarianism that applying the label to yourself or anyone only causes confusion. Some vegetarians eat dairy, some don't. Some eat fish, some don't. Some eat eggs, some don't. Some are weekday vegetarians, and some only honor meatless Monday. And the list goes on and on. Labeling yourself as a vegetarian is simply a label that brings on a confusing discussion. So, I don't use it.
I'm not a vegan either. You see, vegans typically fall into three categories:
- They are in it for their own good health
- They are doing it to be kind to animals, promote animal rights, avoid animal cruelty, etc.
- They are doing it do save the planet
The trouble with many vegans is that they tend to become fanatical about their particular version of veganism. Those who are into it for the health aspects tend to look down on those have any health issues because they are sure it is caused by their diet. Those that espouse animal rights can become downright belligerent in their treatment of people who have not joined their cause and berate anyone who puts a little honey on their toast. Those who want to save the planet by reducing the high environmental cost of a meat-based diet often join in with the global warming crowd and pile on all the guilt and baggage that comes with it.
If I had to put myself into a category, I would say that I eat the way I do to promote good health and to take care of my body. For me, it is more of a life-long quest than a label, club, or sub-culture. Don't get me wrong, all of the positive effects of a vegan diet are real and I support them. I just don't think vegans are very good at selling their message to the public. It almost always comes off as either condescending or fanatical.
Now let's look back at my previous post on this subject. Those who are trying to live both the "Do" and the "Don't" verses in the Word of Wisdom with faith rather than fanaticism are likely to end up in a spot that is neither defined by the word vegetarian, or vegan. So what are you? What do you say when you avoid the pile of chicken at the BBQ and someone asks if you are a some kind of vegetarian. My opinion is that if you use either of the "V" words that you immediately get labeled as some kind of Christmastime confection (fruit cake). It is not a great conversation starter because people immediately either take offense or get defensive about their diet. (Kind of like religion and politics.)
So, what are you to do if you have decided to truly live the principles in the Word of Wisdom? I have found that it is much better to focus on what you are eating rather than what you are not eating. So, when you skip the ham at Christmas dinner and someone asks you about it, you can simply respond positively with something like, "I am trying to eat things that are whole food and plant based". If pressed for more information you could continue by saying that in your personal experience this type of lifestyle has contributed to my weight loss, improved my overall health, and increased my personal feeling of well being. This approach is significantly less offensive and contentious than treating the ham like it is a cigarette and then going on to describe all of the negative effects of eating meat to a person who was simply curious about your diet.
Much of our difficulty with this topic comes when we lose focus. If we focus on revealed principles rather than man's interpretation, we are more likely to be standing on firm ground. Perhaps this difficulty comes when we forget or mis-understand these three things, our relationship to God, our purpose in life, and our responsibility to His creations.
A review of the definition of God in the LDS Bible Dictionary may help.
"Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through His Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to Him that differentiates man from all other created things: man is literally God’s offspring, made in His image, whereas all other things are but the work of His hands (Acts 17:28–29)."
I you understand your relationship with your Father in Heaven then you won't be sidetracked into the trap of believing that God's creations are more important to Him than His children. In the first chapter of the Bible he made it pretty clear what our responsibility is to His creations.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
This verse in 1 Nephi may also shed some light on this idea.
36 Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. (1 Nephi 17:36.)
While we may have been given dominion over the other creations we are also expected to take care of them. He didn't say to eat them, he said to have dominion over them. The question of eating them clearly answered in Doctrine and Covenants 89:12-13. If we follow those principles we will be standing on safe ground.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (D&C 89:12-13)
You get additional clarification of this subject in the 49th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. 20 But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. 21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need. (D&C 49:19-21)
Perhaps it would help us if we approached this from a different perspective. Rather than thinking of dominion in terms of authority or superiority, think of it in terms of being a steward over the earth who will be held accountable for how he or she treats it.
13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. (D&C 104:13-14)
Adding clarification to this idea that we have responsibility for this earth, Elder Russell M. Nelson said:
"The Creation, great as it is, is not an end in itself but a means to an end. We come to the earth for a brief period of time, endure our tests and trials, and prepare to move onward and upward to a glorious homecoming. Our thoughts and deeds while here will surely be more purposeful if we understand God’s plan and are thankful for and obedient to His commandments. "As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another." (Russell M Nelson, "The Creation", April 2000 LDS General Conference)
Finally, what do I believe? I believe that we should follow the principles contained in the Lord's law of health in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I believe that we should focus more on the "Do" part of that section and quit obsessing with the "Don't" portion. It is not about what you can't eat it is all about what you can and should be eating. If more clarification is needed, then I would suggest that you base your lifestyle on eating these four categories of food in their whole food (not processed) state if possible:
- All grains
- Vegetables of all kinds
- Fruit of all kinds
- Beans, Legumes, and nuts
Everything else should be eaten sparingly or should be abstained from. Particulalry you should abstain from those things that have been proven not promote good health. Is that too simple? Well, it is simple. For some reason we think that if it isn't a complicated micro-nutirent diet that takes 300 hard cover book pages to explain, that it can't possibly work.
If you approach the Lord's law of health in the same way you read His parables, you will come to know that it has to be so simple a child can understand, but with enough profound and deep meaning to hold the interest of the oldest and wisest sage.