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As a vegan, I go through a lot of hassles
with my dad. He has no sympathy for the torture and
suffering of animals. He does not believe that the vegan
or vegetarian diet is healthier than the meat-eater's
diet. He thinks that the brain can only function correctly
when it has animal protein. He also believes that we
need meat to be strong, have energy, and learn. If you
could direct me somewhere that I can show him proof
that he is wrong, I would greatly appreciate that.
people are misinformed about veganism or know very little
about it. What we don't know can seem frightening or
threatening and may cause us to be apprehensive, skeptical,
or defensive. This is especially true for issues related
In addition to the emotional attachment
that most people have to particular foods, there are
endless myths perpetuated about nutrition and health
that have permeated even our most highly regarded institutions
and medical establishments. Yet we have only touched
the tip of the iceberg in terms of nutrition science;
we know significantly less than what there is to know.
Information is changing almost daily, and what we are
discovering is that, at least for the time being, there
are no absolutes. Nevertheless, people tend to cling
to the patterns they believe are true, whether or not
science bears them out.
There is no point in trying to prove
that your father is wrong and you are right. This will
only result in a futile battle of the wills, endless
verbal sparring, and a lot of useless, potentially explosive
anger, none of which will draw you closer or make you
respect one another more. The vegan tenets of doing
the least harm and eliminating suffering include you
and your father as well.
You cannot change your father's mind
and force him to have sympathy for animals. Compassion
begins in the heart. If your father's heart is not open
to this notion, thrusting it upon him will only breed
indignation and resentment. Actually, it is not necessary
that you and your father agree on this issue as long
as you honor each other's right to have separate points
of view. Neither of you needs to acquiesce to the other's
position in order to maintain your individual convictions.
It is irrelevant whether a vegan or
omnivorous diet is more healthful. The truth is, a person
can be well or ill following either one. Many factors
are associated with physical fitness, and diet is only
one of them. A vegan can have very poor eating habits,
as can an omnivore. It is unfair to promote the belief
that vegans are inherently healthy (or at least healthier
than omnivores) because it is not necessarily true.
Vegans are predisposed to congenital disorders, environmental
hazards, and acquired diseases the same as the general
public. However, a well-balanced vegan diet along with
other healthful lifestyle practices (such as regular
exercise, sufficient sleep, and minimized stress) may
provide some protective benefits in ways that the standard
meat-centered diet cannot. Still, vegans do get sick,
and some develop heart disease, cancer, and other debilitating
ailments. To blame these maladies strictly on diet does
these people a grave disservice and merely burdens them
with unwarranted guilt. For the record, vegans are not
superheros and will not live forever. Nonetheless, our
mortality can and should make us more sensitive to the
fragility of all life.
But what if a vegan diet had no health
benefits whatsoever? Would you still subscribe to a
life of dynamic harmlessness? My guess is that you would,
and that is the bottom line. The issue, then, is less
about veganism being "better" than it is about simply
being a healthful and ethical alternative. And this,
of course, is demonstrable.
There is no evidence that the human
body requires nutrients from specific sources in order
for them to be effectively assimilated. Humans need
protein, iron, calcium, and so forth, but the body does
not differentiate whether these nutrients come from
animal products or plant foods. There are several excellent
reference books that contain in-depth information about
vegan nutrition that can serve as guides for your own
meal planning as well as provide scientific support
for the soundness of your diet. These include "The
Vegan Sourcebook" (by Jo Stepaniak, with a comprehensive
nutrition section for all stages of the life cycle by
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD), "The Vegetarian Way" (by
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD and Mark Messina, PhD), and
"Becoming Vegan" (by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, RD). The first two books also include a number of vegan recipes.
In order for your father to tolerate
and accept your choice, you need to exhibit a mature
approach. This includes acknowledging your dad's concern
for your health by demonstrating that you are capable
of devising and following a well-balanced vegan diet
based on current nutritional guidelines, which are outlined
in the books mentioned above. It includes buying special
food, if you have to, and being willing to prepare your
own meals, if necessary, without complaining. It also
means that you can restore harmony and let your dad
save face by refraining from trying to prove him wrong.
Even though your father believes that meat is necessary
for optimum mental and physical functioning, he will
realize on his own that he is mistaken if you improve
your scholastic achievement, help more often around
the house, and work at keeping your mind sharp. This
will take some effort on your part, but seeing is believing.
Nothing will convince your dad more that veganism is
rational and sound than the example of your own glowing
health and personal accomplishments.
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