Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Money

What does this stuff called money mean to me? I find myself sitting with my friends well into the night, armchair politicians, solving the world's problems and crying out about the world's greedy and their terrible impact on the world. If only they did things our way, we are convinced that the world would be so much fairer and better run. There can be no doubt in my mind that the world's greedy are making life difficult for thousands. And yet, like most people, I have indulged in the odd fantasy of winning thousands of dollars. And I know I have sat with these same friends and pondered.. What would you do if you won a million dollars? Of course, we all say we'll give it to the charity of our preference. I wonder, in the excitement of it all, would an otherwise noble person lose their mind and hoard like crazy? Are the "haves" in this world really so different in character to the "have nots," or have they just been swept up in a crazy but powerful dream? And am I being arrogant and patronizing in even saying such things? Does not our economic system play upon this natural tendency that even the best of us have -- the tendency to think we need more, more, more?

The theory of our money-based economy works a treat. It's a very fair system theoretically, and who am I to say it should be overhauled completely? It seems fair enough: someone contributes to society, in return that society looks after their needs for shelter and food. However, I do believe this system we live in allows incredible greed to run rampant -- and it's only going to get worse, in my humble opinion. What to do?

In today's world, in the wealthier countries at least, we have an abundance of options available to us. We can thank money and capitalism for this wonderful wealth that we, the minority, enjoy. There's no denying this. Our supermarket shelves are packed to the brim with every kind of food we can think of, and then some. Our freedom as consumers is immense, and I'm not suggesting that it should be any other way. We no longer NEED to eat meat, and to do so is not a necessity, but a choice. We have an abundance of freedom, but are we abusing this privilege? It is painfully obvious that this freedom is coming at a great cost. There can be no doubt that in our fat little society we have outgrown our NEED for meat products; there is ample vegetable product to feed the world, and several alternative products for clothing and other essentials. Furthermore, as time goes by, it has been soundly argued that the vegetarian movement is becoming the ONLY hope of sustaining our future from a social and eco-LOGICAL point of view. As veg*ns and supporters, we all know about the clear felling of forests, poor distribution of food, and unbelievable cruelty that occurs in these industries. People are starving while the vast bulk of legumes and grains are used to fatten the cattle to feed the rich minority. Forests are clearfelled. Still, animals are intensively farmed in sheds, slaughtered in their millions, and McDonalds is paying incentives for farmers to pack increasing numbers of animals in as tiny space as is possible. There is no doubt that the most barbaric practices in the world -- war, slave labour, factory farming, clearfelling of forests, mining -- are done in the name of money. It's disgusting. It's evil. It can't go on.

Yet who am I to deny the allure of its promises? Who am I to even suggest that people even have it in them to stop their inherent desires for more, more, more of everything? Is this not an impossible dream? In our cultural climate, I'm sad to say that I think it is not possible to ask people to vastly change their quality of life in the name of a sustainable future. We all have gotten too used to our electricity, our cars, our airplanes, our clean blue toilets, etc. to part with them, although, of course, the world would benefit greatly if they were no longer used. Few people would be willing to give these things up! So what are we to do to stop the terrible side effects of our decadent society?

And it grows. More products that we suddenly "can't live without" are invented all the time. Where would we be without the Internet and the mobile phone, for example? Money can buy magic, advertisers are hell-bent on convincing us. It is the elixir of youth, beauty, desirability, and power.

Advertisers remind us thousands of times a year on a daily basis that we are inadequate as we are, but to quote media theorist, Berger, they "console us with the promise of a dream" (provided, of course, that we first part with our money). As a woman, I am told every day about the "problem hair" on my body (what exactly is the problem?) and am reminded that any wrinkles on my skin are "imperfections." (Is it fear of growing old and dying they are playing on? I ask myself). Although I think critically about these issues, I'd be a liar if I said that I am immune to this social pressure, for nobody can be an island in this culture in which I belong. And we all get sucked into the game. The cosmetics industry is a case in point: 97% of the money spent on cosmetics is spent on the packaging and marketing of the product -- less than three percent is spent on the product itself! All those miracle creams and tonics that promise to preserve youth and beauty are worth less than three percent of what I'm paying. I'm largely paying for the pretty package, for goodness sake!

But still, like everyone else in this crazy part of the world, I spend. I cannot help but spend. And anyone who claims to not be sucked into spend on things they don't really need is lying. I know that advertisers play upon my fears, but they also flirt with my desires. And I know I'm as big a sucker as anyone when I see that "perfect" dress, or the "must have" china set, or whatever else I suddenly decide I cannot live without. And I'm not the only one who has had fantasies of winning, of getting rich quick.

But as a person who is trying to be gentle with the earth, I do think I must constantly question this system. I must, in my own life, remind myself that the pretty dress may well have been made in a sweat shop under horrific working conditions. I must look at the cosmetic cream and think: Has an animal suffered here for the sake of my "beauty"? And if I knowingly buy such a product, am I truly beautified? In my own life, I am trying to be mindful, to make my own shampoo and other products, to cut down on my car and electricity use, to buy ethically produced goods from caring companies. Could this system work if people were educated about these issues and made those crucial choices?

Increasing numbers of people are making these decisions, and it fills my heart with hope. Surely a balance can be achieved between consumer freedom and consumer responsibility, so that our purchases needn't "cost the earth" so to speak. It would be wonderful if people from the "privileged" countries exercised their immense and wonderful freedom and power as consumers and took these matters into consideration when opening their wallets. I dream of a time when more people realise that conscious, critical spending and movements such as veganism are not merely the habits of cranks and joyless martyrs, but well within anyone's reach and comfort zone. I believe that if people realise they can have these things without adversely affecting their quality of life, they will be more inclined to take the vital steps away from supporting the unethical corporate giants such as McDonalds. Maybe then, this money-based system we live in has a hope of being sustainable and not so exploitative. How we get this message across to people is another issue entirely. It is at this point that this armchair politician furrows her brow, gives up, then rises from her chair to take the dog for a walk.

Ruby R.
Australia

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