Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rant: Faux-Meats vs. Faux Meat-Eaters

And now my mini-rant-that-isn't-really-a-rant, entitled, Vegans and Processed Faux-Meat Products and the People who Question Whether We Should Eat Them Because if We're Really Opposed to Meat Why Would We Eat Something That Looks Like Meat or Tries To Resemble Meat and is Still All Processed and Not Super Healthy and Junk.

I've encountered some lovely, well-intentioned people along my vegan odyssey who have questioned the concept of faux meat...you know..."sausages" and "bacon" and ground round and cold cuts and jerky and veggie burgers and "chicken" from companies like Yves and Tofurkey and Gardein. Some people wonder whether it's not just better to eat real meat or cheese instead of the faux meat and dairy substitutes that are processed and probably not super-good for you anyways. Others question why I would want to eat something that looks and kinda tastes like an animal product.


Processed faux-meats definitely fall into the "once in a while" category. Processed food in general is Alicia's Nasty Food #4 (after meat, dairy, and white sugar). But every so often I'm totally down with throwing some Gardein in the oven and melting some Daiya on a Tofurkey sandwich (ok...maybe I break out the Daiya a bit more frequently than "every so often"...it is soooo gooooood).

Now that I'm moving beyond the "flirting" stage of the vegan life, I try my darndest to mainly eat whole, nutrient-rich, plant based foods on a regular basis: veggies, fruits, grains, beans, etc. (as well as lots of dessert...that part of my life definitely hasn't suffered since my Kind conversion and I have no intention of going hard-core superhero yet).  And in the past six months, I've likely eaten more whole, healthy, plant based foods than I have in the past six years, so regardless, I know I'm winning, even with the occasional processed food indulgence. Maybe even bi-winning...I know the Charlie Sheen wave has long since passed, but ima try to keep riding it just a bit longer because I really love the term bi-winning.

It might just be my next tattoo.  

Like many (if not most) vegans, I'm a convert. I grew up eating meat and dairy, and the vast majority of my meals were created around a meat item. Veggies and grains were always a "side", and if I couldn't finish my meal I was encouraged to at least finish the meat...that's the expensive part, after all, and there are starving children all over the world who never get to eat meat.

And of course my finishing the meat on my plate directly helps them.

Plus, every time you leave meat on your plate, a fairy dies and an angel cries and a kitten goes blind.

It's true. Any Polish parent can attest to that.

Anyhoo, I find that faux meats are a great way to ease into a veggie way of life and make the transition more smooth, as well as keep the status quo for the first few holiday family meals as a vegan (just try eating white borscht at your first Polish Easter as a vegan without Polish sausage...I dare you).

As for the health argument, I'd rather eat a soy sausage that's been processed to hell than ingest a piece of meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides, thanks.

In anticipation of the "Yah but there's pesticides in everything including vegetables" argument, I'll just cut and paste the following from VegSource dot com...

Common belief: U.S. Department of Agriculture protects our health through meat inspection
Reality: fewer than 1 out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues
Percentage of U.S. mother's milk containing significant levels of DDT: 99
Percentage of U.S. vegetarian mother's milk containing significant levels of DDT: 8
Contamination of breast milk, due to chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in animal products, found in meat-eating mothers vs. non-meat eating mothers: 35 times higher
Amount of Dieldrin ingested by the average breast-fed American infant: 9 times the permissible level
Ok, but that's just from factory farmed animals (which do make up the vast majority of animals we eat). What about eating a cow or a chicken or a pig that's been lovingly or at least respectfully raised and treated super-duper well? One that hasn't lived most of its life in horrific cramped conditions never seeing the light of day standing in a foot of its own shit and the shit of its neighbours? One that hasn't been given any of those nasty hormones and whose flesh isn't saturated with all those nasty chemicals? It's not like a Chicken McNugget. Surely we're better off eating a chunk of this naturally raised animal than some processed veggie-food product?

Yah, not really. From our jaw structure to our relatively alkaline saliva and long intestines, we're just not meant to eat meat. We've proven that we can, historically by inventing some kickass weapons, and more recently by industrializing to a state of mass production and appalling conditions beyond a rational person's ability to believe that these are living, sentient beings we are dealing with (but that's a whole other argument). And along the way we have duped ourselves into believing that this is how it's meant to be, that we are meant to eat animals and animal products. We have become faux meat-eaters.

We were given everything we need to survive and thrive in plant-based foods. Progress is great, but it's questionable when it takes us away from the lifestyle and diet for which we are physiologically created.

I'd rather eat faux-meat than be a faux meat-eater. 

Some people question why vegans would want to "pretend" to eat meat, or eat something that looks like and tries to taste like meat and mimic its texture, if we are so averse to the idea of meat. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, simply knowing that an animal was not killed or exploited so I could enjoy my purse or shoes or burger is good enough for me.

I ate meat for 30 years. It doesn't gross me out (even though as the months go on, the thought of it becomes less and less appealing). And really, why should animal products have a monopoly on the sausage shape or burger shape or breaded nugget shape?  Faux-meats are just a funky form of seasoned tofu or veggies or grains, and it all comes right back to the fact that even though they might resemble meat, THEY ARE NOT MEAT. A sentient being with a personality did not have to suffer and die to nourish me. Eating faux-meats does not support the meat industry. So wherein does the problem lie? Nobody eats meats in their naked form anyway...they all need to be seasoned and marinated in order for us to enjoy them, and those seasonings and marinades easily transfer over to the veggie realm. 

So can't we all just get along? Yes, plant-based, nutrient-rich whole foods are of course better for you than Tofurkey pizzas and Tofutti Cuties. I'm glad we got that out of the way. If you're a vegan who doesn't eat faux-meat, awesome! The less processed foods making their way through your system, the better. I might end up there one day.

But to suggest that I'm better off eating the flesh of an animal than a processed faux-meat item? Yah, no. We'll just agree to disagree on that point.

The good news for us faux-meat consumers is that there's plenty to go around, because most meatetarians I know have no problem stating that these faux-meats and cheeses taste like ass, so they won't be partaking any time soon.

It's all good. More for me :)

Mini-rant-that-isn't-really-a-rant over. That's about as good a rant as you'll get from a Canadian, especially one of the passive ones like me.

Happy belated Canada D'eh!

And happy belated Fourth of July to you swell Americans. Thank you for Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo.

No comments:

Post a Comment