Conscious Eating: Vegans and Omnivores Unite

Posted on Mar 30 2011 - 2:51am by Mike Lieberman

There was a post on EcoSalon titled The Conscious Case Against Veganism by Abigail Wick.

The gist of the post was that just because one is vegan that doesn’t mean that they are eating in a more sustainable way than an omnivore. This is a topic that I wrote about in the past on GreenLifestyle Magazine.

To me what was most interesting about her post were the comments. The people who left comments were so tied to their label – be it vegan or omnivore.

“As a vegan…”

“Veganism is about…”

People are so tied to this label that they cling to it and let it define them. Like there are bylaws that have to define you. As someone who eats a predominantly plant based diet, I’m often told that I’m not a “true vegan” because I consume honey.

Who really gives a shit? I don’t want to be a “true vegan.” I just want to be me. Food is just one small aspect of me and who I am.

What I’d like to see is more people becoming conscious eaters. I’d love to see “vegans” and “omnivores” unite together against something that both can see something inherently wrong with…factory farming.

Let’s drop the labels that have been bestowed upon us by society and do something against this atrocity that’s now known as the industrial agriculture system. This issue is much larger and will have a greater impact on the environment and our health than the bickering that is currently going on.

So who’s down to join the conscious eating movement? How are you going to start today?

Tom Philpott beat me to the punch on this one. He wrote a similar article on Grist.org for the Vegan/Omnivore Alliance against Animal Factories. Let’s all join in on this and make some true change.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jess.kornfeld Jess Kornfeld

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I have so many friends who are vegan who definitely judge others far too often and far too much. I have two friends who recently transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism and consume honey and white sugar, yet I have other vegan friends who, if they knew them, would criticize such eating habits.

    Like you, I don’t care for labeling my eating habits. I will eat meat if I’m in the mood for it, but sometimes I go days or weeks without even thinking or wanting any meat products. It’s not a deliberate choice… it’s a natural one, for me and nobody else!

    What I’ve been doing to be more earth-friendly in what and how I eat is to go local. I feel like that’s the simplest and most effective way to be conscious of what is on your plate. I started by buying as much as possible at farmers markets. If I shop at a grocery store, I make sure it is the one that was founded and operated from my city; also, I try very hard to only purchase items whose source is near my city. (Sometimes that part isn’t possible all the time, but it’s not about perfection, it’s about what works for me… and every little effort does help the greater good!) If I buy meat, it must come from a local farm. Period. I will not stray from that.

    I also started gardening, so hopefully I will have some super-fresh produce soon!

  • Pamela

    I absolutely agree. I eat meat, but not much. The meat and eggs I do eat I try to buy from local farmers at a farmer’s market. I talk to them about their families-and their animals-and know that I am supporting a real family’s livelihood rather than putting a few more pennies in the coffer of big agribusiness. The meat (and eggs) are often two or three times the price of meat I would buy in the grocery store, but it tastes five times better! It also makes me value the animal’s contribution to my dinner plate.

    In addition to growing as much of my fruits and vegetables as I can, I also try to spend more on fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market than I do at the grocery store. Sometimes this is hard because of where I live-a very rural mountainous area where there are few farms because the landscape does not lend itself to farming. When I have to go to the grocery store, I avoid overprocessed, overpackaged foods as much as I can. It’s not about sticking to some sort of dogma about what’s right or wrong or ethical or unethical, but about focusing on how you (and I) can make an impact by our own choices.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s what’s up Jess. Sounds like you have found what’s most comfortable for you. Keep me updated on the garden progress.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s what’s up Jess. Sounds like you have found what’s most comfortable for you. Keep me updated on the garden progress.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    You certainly can make an impact by our own choices. Good for you. Do what you can given your circumstances. That’s what it’s all about.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    You certainly can make an impact by our own choices. Good for you. Do what you can given your circumstances. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Liner811

    Just eat clean….whether it be meat, eggs, veggies or dirt for that matter…rid our food of things that make it grow faster, bigger and mass produced. Let it grow and produce as it is intended…

  • http://www.thecrimsonpirate.com The Crimson Pirate

    Welcome to the dark side. Look at all of the other labels people apply to themselves, and then define themselves by.
    Liberal or Conservative
    Democrat or Republican
    Religious or Atheist
    Green or Not
    etc, etc, etc

    And the government and media use these labels and their connotations to control and direct people. The beautiful thing about anarchy is you do your thing and I’ll do mine. No skin off my ass if your vegan, or almost vegan, or whatever. No skin off yours if I want a hunk of chicken or a slab of cow. No skin of anyone’s ass if you want to be mostly vegan but have honey, or cheese, or an egg now and then, or whatever. BTW I fail to understand how honey, an animal made product not an animal itself, is a problem. I don’t get how the meat=murder crowd gets honey=murder. Same thing with guns, abortion, marijuana, religion, whatever. You do your thing, I’ll do mine. We’ll help each other when we can and stay out of each others business the rest of the time. Just let me know when your coming for dinner so I can tell my wife to make something meatless ;)

    As to what we are doing for conscious eating. We have been trying to grow more of our own food, use heirloom seeds instead of hybrids, and buy real food at farmers markets instead of processed at the grocery store, when we can’t grow it. It’s an ongoing process. If we can ever afford property I’m going to get chickens, and maybe a pig or two, and some bee hives. My wife doesn’t like that idea, but I would love to know that I raised the animals, and butchered them, and knew where they were and what they ate and did from beginning to end.

    BTW I love 100% natural honey. In addition to being good food it’s bacteriostatic, and bacteriocidal. You can use it to disinfect wounds, and treat other problems in place of topical antibiotics.

    ETA: Forgot to add that honey is the only thing on this planet that provides almost all of the nurtrition, vitamins, and minerals a human being needs. You cna live on it by itself.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word. Exactly.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. As always love your POV and insight.

  • Mamasimpson4

    We eat meat because my son thrives on protein but I will only buy clean healthy meat as local as possible. This means we don’t eat a lot (price) of meat just quality. I prefer more veggies than meat.
    Why can’t we all just get along?

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Exactly. Let’s all get along and stand up united against factory farming.

  • MamaBee

    I’m all for conscious eating. I’m finding it to be pretty easy in Central PA (just moved here this summer) because there are lots of farmers markets and a whole lot of local farms to get veggies, honey, eggs, dairy and meats from. It’s more expensive, but I’d rather buy pork from the guy who has invited us to come to his farm and see the animals than buy a discounted pack of pork chops from who knows where just because they have an organic sticker on them. I personally feel better when I eat protein, but I also try to use the locally-pastured meat I get sparingly and get the most out of it. 3 meals from a single whole chicken for a family of 4 is pretty good, I think. Keep fighting the good fight, Mike.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice. Great that you take care of your family that way.

  • Chris

    Wdup Mike, recently found your blog and Im digging it being that Im a patio gardener myself. Just wanted to say awesome post, who cares what the label is and living up to some bullshit ideal. Just do what’s right for you and what you feel comfortable with. Be conscious and eat healthy whatever it may be that you stuff in your mouth! PEACE…

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s what’s up man. Glad we could connect.

  • http://noteasytobegreen.wordpress.com Jennifer

    Amen to this. The ironic thing is that the author is mostly vegan (95% of the time), yet she was getting hammered in the comments for being anti-vegan. Purity pissing contests don’t accomplish anything except alienate people who might otherwise be receptive. Encouraging people to learn about where their food comes from and its impact is going to have much wider appeal, even if it doesn’t cause everyone to make the same dietary choices. I don’t eat meat, but I do eat honey, local eggs, small amounts of dairy.

    It’s true that there are major philosophical differences between veganism and conscious omnivorism, but I’d like to think that working for a common goal — better treatment of animals, a sustainable planet — would take precedence.

  • Pingback: Quick Green Reads For The Weekend Volume 206 | The Good Human

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word up. Let’s unite for a common goal.

  • http://www.ithoughtiknewmama.com I Thought I Knew Mama

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ll be recommending this post to my readers in my Sunday Surf post tomorrow!

  • Todd

    It’s possible for omnivores as well as vegetarians and vegans to feel regret at our reliance on factory farming, and the inhumane treatment of animals that it often breeds. If nothing else, there are advocacy organizations for animal welfare that strive to diminish the abuses of factory farming (such as the Humane Farming Association and, to a more limited degree, the Human Society of the United States), and we can certainly offer them our support. And, to the greatest degree practical, within the boundaries of availability and affordability, when we do eat meat, we can choose to consume free-range or wild livestock.

  • Pingback: Sunday Surf: My Favorite Blog Posts of the Week

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice. Thanks for the shout.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Well said Todd.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, and thanks. Jennifer’s comment about “purity pissing contests” is quite apt. I have noticed in the ethical food movement these kinds of discussions also alienate and devalue and even make into folkd devils those suffering the most due to agribusiness and just, business in general in America – those lowest on the socioeconomic spectrum.

    I’m putting you in my feed reader; if this piece is indicative of your ethos and writing style I’m all over it.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Kelly. There’s no need to be perfect and alienate others. Let’s keep this open and available to as many people as possible. Glad to connect.

  • Lavidacita_22

    I just discovered you and already I love you! I can’t wait to learn more and start my own urban garden…thank god you are working towards uniting people-no matter what their eating preference may be-to stand up against the real problems within the food industry

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. Glad you found me. I was a bit lost for a while ;-)

  • Shannon

    My sentiments exactly.

  • Angel

    Love this post..I eat a plant based diet as well but sometimes I eat honey and on occasion bake with eggs and real butter.I like to bake for friends and I bake for them according to what they choose to eat.If they are vegan I bake vegan ,if not I bake with eggs and butter.I have been literally scolded before because I am not a “true” vegan based on my occasional use of honey eggs and butter.
    I bake out of love,I choose not to judge my friends and I think we all have so much to learn from each other if we drop the boxing gloves.
    I will add that when I use honey eggs and butter,they are sourced from a local sustainable farm who is an inspiration to our community.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s what’s up. Just do it consciously and with love.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for sharing.

  • michele zezima

    i like the idea of common ground..but couldn’t read your comments without replying…for a vegan at least this vegan (me)..its about killing animals. I don’t want something to be killed (or suffer) on my behalf when I don’t really need to have it to survive…just sayin.
    michele z.
    ps. i’m starting my first growing food garden..your blog is helping me!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I respect and understand what you are saying. Some definitely have that feeling about killing animals, but standing divided isn’t going to help accomplish anything.

    To most people it’s about the treatment of the animals. Let’s unite against that and have a stronger voice and make some real change.

    Keep me updated on your garden.

  • Elizabeth

    Easter is right around the corner and we run the gamut of labels…a vegan, vegetarians and omnivores, one Born-Again, one Jew, 2 atheists, 2 Buddhists, miscellaneous Prostestants and 1 fallen away Catholic, 1 Republican, multiple Democrats…But the labels that matters the most to me is FAMILY and FRIENDS.
    Our common ground will be food and fellowship and then, later, we can go back to our respective labels.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word. Family and friends are labels that truly mean something.

  • kpac

    My thoughts are; you should be happy with yourself, regardless of how that is categorised.
    I’m a “conscious” eater for years, eating a plant based diet. My wife recently decided to give away dependancy on meat (which i think is great), so now when dining with others we refer to ourselves as vegetarians (and i often say vegan) just so we don’t have issues when socialising and eating. Truth is – we’re not either. And we don’t care. I tell those that care to listen that i’m an ethical eater. If i cannot justify putting something in my body for the right reasons – i wont. But that doesn’t set the “rules” of my life. I set the rules by what i justify….
    The disappointing things here is the stigma that’s associated with eating outside these “vegetarian/vegan” rules. For some reason people see it as a challenge to eat ONLY by the rules of veg/vegan. I think that’s a shame! I’m proud of what i eat – i’ve not consumed anything this year that has come from more than 50miles of my house, and if that not a “good way to eat” then i give up.

    If people united against the problems in our food production, rather that internal bickering between these “groups” maybe we could see more progress and change for the better.

    Shout out to you from the sunny Gold Coast in Australia. Loving your work, and i just get excited to see people like you who ‘get it’. Keep promoting mate, im also a balcony farmer, 6sqm of flavourful, healthy life!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Amen. I’m with you. Very well said.

  • Carle_mae

    Hi I call myself vegan because generally speaking, that is how I eat. Rarely on occasion I eat something with butter or egg. We’re talking once every couple of months. However I feel the people that push the ‘vegan agenda’ make everyone else so mad they refuse to consider the idea, and I think that’s ridiculous.

    It seems because of the recession, there is a growing trend in eating more vegetarian meals, and homegrown vegetables which I think we can all agree is awesome! :)

    I am trying to grow my own veggies this year, but am relatively new to this. All I grew last year were herbs and they were already in their containers and sprouted. I’ve been able to start a lot of plants from seed, hoping they pull thru!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I hear ya. People who push their agendas in your face are mad annoying.

    Keep me updated on your garden progress.

  • Carle_mae

    Hi mike! My garden is doing decent so far, a few missteps but my radishes should be nice and lovely before it gets too hot, and most of my tomato plants are doing great after transplanting! My bell pepper sprouts are doing amazing, my habanros are doing ok, my cilantro is beginning to grow real leaves, as are my lavender and basil, and my zucchini and chinese eggplants are sprouting up lovely too! I’m so excited!!

  • http://twitter.com/Ozzyopolis Ozzyopolis

    ‘True’ Vegans and omnis won’t be uniting…as True Vegans see meat as animal exploitation, slavery, rape, etc. These Vegans WILL -NOT- SUPPORT any of the animal farming industries. Simple as that; factory farmed or not. Some omnis ‘get’ that but most, sadly, do not (or don’t want to acknowledge that truth). There’s NO such thing as humane slaughter.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    If this food movement is ever going to be taken seriously, then this is critical. If not, then factory farming and processed foods will continue to dominate because people are divided. 

  • http://twitter.com/Ozzyopolis Ozzyopolis

    It’s far more likely to end due to lack of sustainability. Same thing will happen regarding our dependence on fossil fuels. People would rather resist change and stay in a state of denial as long as Humanly possible. I don’t get why people fight the inevitability of change.

    In this country, it always points back to ‘the Almighty Dollar’ in the end. As long as there’s some huge corporation out there that will make a fortune off of exploration of animals, people, resources, or land (and backed by government subsidies on all sides) it will continue. To make sure that money will keep flowing, they have to convince the public that these things that are killing them along with the planet and the economy are good for them somehow (Got Milk? Beef: it’s what’s for dinner. Pork: The other white meat).

    No only is animal, human, and earth exploitation doubleplussungood (heh) it’s not sustainable for anyone involved, including 1st world nations such as the U.S.A.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    It’s hard to argue that a million voices won’t be louder than 100 voices.

    We need to stop sticking to these labels and uniting against what we are all opposed to – factory farming. 
    If we stand divided amongst ourselves there is no fighting chance…but we will all have our labels.

  • http://twitter.com/Ozzyopolis Ozzyopolis

    Like them or not, labels are extremely important. This goes for all things.  Some of us prefer to know who and what are GMO, non-GMO, Vegan, non-Vegan, et cetera.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I respect your opinion. Let’s agree to disagree. Neither one of us are going to convince the other of anything.

  • Melanie

    I agree. The NY Times seems to really be fanning the flames of this vegan/omnivore debate lately. I think it’s counterproductive. Conscious meat eaters and vegans have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of oblivious Americans stuffing fake food in their faces day after day. Join forces to bring an end to unwise and dangerous farming practices that threaten our health and the health of our planet.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Amen to that!

  • guest

    I eat mainly vegetables but I do eat meat/fish on occasion. Those who argue that eating animals is inhumane no matter what the process makes me wonder how exactly they plan on stopping all animals from eating each other in the wild? There is a natural food chain. Are you going to force a whale or seal to stop eating other fish to survive? Teach a lion or bear to only eat vegetables? We as humans are part of this life cycle too. Primates would have never survived without meat. We wouldn’t have humans. There was no canning or breads back then.  I just wish people would focus on keeping our foods free of GMOs and as organic as possible no matter how you choose to eat.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word!

  • guest

    Humane slaughter…..so do you judge our brother and sister wolf and bear and consider that they are beneath you because they eat meat? 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Do I? No. 

  • Dash

    Thanks for putting your thoughts out there. This is exactly what I keep saying to people. Eat consciously and you’ll make more humane choices that are also healthier for your lifestyle and for the planet. What an approach for life, really! Be as conscious as we can in any given moment!

  • Rox

     I used to joke that being vegan was ‘specisest’ as who are we to decide that plants are lesser beings than animals.  Well, I was sort of joking but there is an element of truth in it.  All life requires matter to change state and if you’re a living thing this eventually requires your death.  Having spent a great deal of time close to both plants and animals I can’t say that one is more important than the other, or that we can accurately verify the level of consciousness of different species.  The only thing I can say for sure, is that any living thing does its best to grow and flourish and that they all will eventually experience death.  To me the issue is what we’re doing to grow plants and animals for our own consumption.  While its true that eating meat multiplies the the area needed for agriculture, it doesn’t address the issue of agriculture itself.  In a healthy ecosystem every species plays a part and a healthy farm has both plants and animals if its going to mimic a natural environment.  None of this happens on a factory farm whether its producing meat or vegetables.  No matter where the individual chooses to get their calories, I think its our duty to make sure its grown ethically.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    True dat.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hear hear!