You know you have arrived when the mainstream media, well any media outlet really, starts poking at you. As a dear friend recently reminded me, “No press is bad press.”
This month, vegans have a milestone to celebrate. On Sept 2, Donald Watson would have turned 100.
Watson, a British woodworking teacher who I affectionately call vegan daddy, is the inventor of the term vegan. With the help of his wife Dorothy, Watson truncated “vegetarian” by taking the first three and the last two letters. His philosophy? Becoming a vegetarian is a first step towards eliminating any dependence on animals ending in veganism — beautifully poetic.
As the movement gains momentum and vegan products and concepts enter our everyday awareness and vocabulary, there is more lively and engaging conversations that emerge from those who practice it, those who are curious about it, and those who oppose it.
And there is a lot at stake (or steak). The food industry, specifically animal agriculture, is big business that translates into countless jobs and a lot of cash for a relatively smaller number of people. And in the last 30 years, this number is getting smaller as big meat eliminates the small farmer.
Green products and sustainable practices are sought by consumers as environmental concerns threaten our not-so-distant future. And with food being such a strong cultural tradition most of us inherit, it is only natural that the more attention is given to those that matter.
Celebrities. I'm joking.
It’s a bittersweet issue. Celebrities do have the ability to reach millions, but many do not distinguish that they are not the definitive authority on subjects. They are carrying someone else’s message. But we can use celebrities as conversation starters.
Laughter is indeed a great medicine and often we need reminders to laugh at ourselves as well. Taking anything too seriously all the time can have the end result of alienating those with whom we are attempting to engage and have conversations. While most of my omnivore friends believe in a live-and-let-live attitude, passion behind a lifestyle that goes beyond diet can certainly turn dialogue into rants and trigger indoctrinating speeches similar to those used by the religiously insane.
No burning of Korans here, please.
So, on the pseudo lighter side, this is what has been happening in the veg-celeb world.
Angelina Jolie, the former vegan
While struggling with a cross-dressing 4-year old, Angelina recently announced that a vegan diet “nearly killed her” and the sight of her aging hands as she bathed her baby was enough to turn her back to red meat. While claiming that she was not getting enough nutrition, Jolie’s somewhat irresponsible statement forgets that many people could be influenced to treat veganism as a health sacrifice where research indicates the opposite.
“The real truth is that a total plant-based, or vegan, diet has been shown in peer-reviewed research to be the most effective method of not only preventing, but also reversing the chronic diseases that are killing 75 percent of Americans every year,” Stuart Seale M.D, explains. “Animal foods are deficient in carbohydrates, micronutrients, and antioxidants, as well as devoid of fiber and phytochemicals.
“For anyone who chooses to follow a well-balanced vegan diet, his or her health will certainly benefit from the decision.”
For some, like Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, it was a trial and error process that took a year to fine tune.
“I was hungry all the time and I wasn’t recovering well and it just wasn’t going well," Brazier says. "It took about a year, but once I got it right, it was amazing. It worked very well.”
Can we encourage Angelina to give it another try?
Carrie Underwood, the new face of Olay Skin Care
I still remember the day I fell in love with Carrie Underwood. On American Idol season four, Underwood belted out a sexy and sassy “Sin Wagon” by Dixie Chicks. She then sealed the devotion with her iconic finale performance of “Independence Day." Indeed, let freedom ring.
Underwood is a vegetarian and daughter of cattle ranchers. But as a country singer, she performs in areas where cattle ranching is not only big, but a way of life — part of the cultural identity of the community.
She has been booed for announcing her diet and has been working to keep her choice to herself. A closet vegetarian?
Underwood was recently announced the first North American celebrity to become the ambassador for Olay Skin Care beauty line.
The controversy? Olay is owned by Proctor & Gamble, a company that practices animal testing, although they claim that the technique is only used for a small amount of products and as a last resort. OK, so they fed a preservative to pregnant rats, and rats are not very well loved.
I believe that a life is a life and I was not granted with the wisdom or right to determine which is more valuable though. The company’s policy of allowing animal testing is not aligned with Underwood's convictions.
Aside from the general image that Olay is associated with an older generation, is this a good move for Carrie Underwood? Or is she selling out?
Hugh Jackman’s vegan promises
On Tuesday, Brendan Brazier’s newest book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life is relaunched. Why do we care?
Jackman wrote the foreword and says that “there’s every chance that I will be a vegan by the time you read” this.
Jackman credits following a vegan diet with his delicious and buff physique in the movie Wolverine, in building 20 pounds of lean, mean, beefy and animal-free muscle.
He is not a vegan, yet, and has just a few days before making good on his promise. As much as I would love for him to follow through, I have to consider if it's fair to hold celebrities to a higher standard. But if Jackman doesn’t keep his word, I will not be the only one wondering about his foreword’s relevance in Brazier’s book.
While I understand that we often vow, promise and make resolutions that although filled with good intentions eventually fail, there are many other celebrities more appropriate to be held up as supporters of Brazier's philosophies.