Being Vegan

By Paul Graham

Contributing Writer

Though it may not be obvious to some, we are in the midst of a cultural and culinary revolution in America in regards to food.  This revolution is about what we consume, but more important what we don’t and the compelling reasons behind it.  We are seeing vegetarians and vegans come to the forefront like never before and lead the charge against a status quo that many believe has led us down a path to disease and substandard health.  We spend more on health care than any country in the world and yet we rank in the mid-forties among countries in actual health.  That is why more people are talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet than ever before. 

A vegetarian is simply someone who chooses not to eat meat or fish.  This idea has really been around since the beginning of recorded history.  A vegan is someone who not only does not consume meat or fish but also does not consume any products taken from animals including dairy, eggs and honey.  Many vegetarians have more than likely been vegan in practice, but the term did not come about until invented by Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley in 1944 with the formation of The Vegan Society.  There have been well-known vegetarians throughout history including Plutarch, Plato, and Pythagorus from ancient Greece; St Francis of Assisi, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Issac Newton, Voltaire, Martin Luther, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Gandhi, Henry Ford, Albert Schweitzer and later in his life– Albert Einstein.  There have been many authors throughout history that have been vegetarians who certainly influenced their thoughts and writings:  Leo Tolstoy, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Charlotte Bronte, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

There are three main reasons why someone typically becomes a vegan.  The first is for health reasons, whether to optimize good health or to prevent or correct a variety of diseases and physical ailments.  The second reason is because of issues with animals.  Bringing meat and animal products to the marketplace is very big business and yet in the process animals are held in captivity on factory farms and the subject to horrible treatment and living conditions with disease, pain, disorientation, and cruelty rampant.  The third reason why people choose to become a vegan is because of environmental concerns. The production of meat and dairy contributes greatly to pollution of land, water and air.  It is not an efficient process and inefficient use of land, fuel, and other resources.  To be a vegan and not participate in any of this is one of the greenest things one can personally do. 

You cannot go a day without reading or hearing about the food we consume and the effects upon us.  Vegetarian and vegan eating have reached the mainstream like never before and the momentum is growing.  Oprah Winfrey has done a number of shows on being vegan, featuring Kathy Freston who authored the book “The Veganist.”  Ellen DeGeneres is a strong vegan advocate who just launched her own website– Going Vegan with Ellen.  These women are reaching huge audiences.  CNN just recently aired a show “The Last Heart Attack” featuring Sanjay Gupta, M.D. which recommended a plant-based diet for the health benefits of it and the program was very well received. Former President Bill Clinton was featured and has become a great proponent of being a vegan saying that it “saved his life” and he is committed to helping others now too.  The Movie “Forks Over Knives” has aired in theaters across the country and is now on DVD and lays out extremely well the problems we are facing with the food we consume and the resulting health problems and how we can combat this and live at optimum health with a plant-based diet.  The basis of the movie comes from the best-selling book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell Ph.D. 

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Meat and dairy-free food options are becoming more apparent on the shelves of our food stores.  Many restaurants are recognizing the growing need to provide quality vegetarian and vegan meals for their customers.  Some have included vegetarian/vegan sections on their menus or completely separate menus with just plant-based options.  The Wynn properties here in Las Vegas are on the forefront of this movement providing quality vegan meals at all of the restaurants at the Wynn and Encore Hotel/Casinos. Other restaurants are doing so here in Las Vegas and the same thing is happening in cities across the country.  The cultural and culinary revolution is on in regards to plant-based eating.  Being a vegan is simply one of the kindest things that we can do for ourselves and others, animals, and our planet.  It is not about focusing on what we do not eat but a daily celebration of all of things that we choose to eat and all of the good that begin with that decision.

Paul Graham

Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004.  He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer.  He has a daily vegan food blog www.eatingveganinvegas.tumblr.com which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas.  He can also be reached at eatingveganlv@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/EatingVeganinVegas.

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