Monday, September 27, 2010

A few thoughts on Bill Clinton going (mostly) vegan...

The Blogosphere lit up like a pinball machine at news that Bill Clinton went vegan, and I think most of my Facebook vegan friends did a happy dance. It is good news. I salute Clinton for his dietary choices. It's a wise move for so many reasons. Health-wise, Clinton is making the right decision. This is a man, remember, who has a long history of heart problems, including his 2004 quadruple-bypass surgery, not to mention having two coronary stents (tubes that keep arteries open) implanted. Clinton explained his reason for moving toward a vegetable-based diet to CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

Since 1986, several hundred people who have tried essentially a plant-based diet--not ingesting any cholesterol from any source--have seen their bodies start to heal themselves--break up the arterial blockage, break up the calcium deposits around the heart. Eighty-two percent of the people who have done this have had that result, so I want to see if I can be one of them. (Source)

Hopefully, veganism will eventually mean more to Clinton than a means of improving his health. Maybe while Clinton is a vegan, he can educate himself about the horrible treatment of animals - whether it's in the factory farm system, the fur racket, the fishing industry, and pretty much every other sector of the economy that makes products out of animals. Bill Clinton's shift to veganism is, without question, a real victory for the vegan community as far as outreach goes. But a vegan diet doesn't necessarily guarantee weight loss. For example, when I switched from being an omnivore to being a vegan, I initially lost about the same amount of weight - 24 pounds - as Clinton, but a big part of that weight loss came from exercise. Over the summer, my exercise routine slackened and, as a result, I put on a big chunk of my old weight, and I've been 100 percent dedicated to a vegan diet.

We need to challenge the myth that veganism automatically results in weight loss. I fear that if people jump on the "Go Vegan, Lose Weight" bandwagon, as soon as they figure out that not all vegans see the pounds and inches drop dramatically, they'll jump back off the wagon again. It's not easy being a vegan and if you're going to become vegan, it is crucial to know precisely why you want to be one. If veganism were solely about weight loss, I would have ditched it months ago. But it's about far more than that. It is an act of solidarity with nonhuman animals. It is a vital way to live compassionately. And we're not talking about the fake "compassion" of the "happy meat" movement. We're talking about the real compassion of acting according to our consciences, as part of a global movement to liberate nonhuman animals.

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