A Short Modern History of Veganism . . . or . . . Winning the fight for the animals, one veggie burger at a time

When I first became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, in 1982, I was a walking freak show. Firstly, I was the only veggie I knew at the time. I’d met several other people who’d dabbled in it, but both of them returned to the way of the carnivore, and I meandered on alone until my daughter joined me nine years later after vomiting up yet another meal of pork provided by a relative. Secondly, it wasn’t easy to find “safe” food, especially while at other people’s homes or in restaurants (people seemed to delight in sneaking meat and dairy into my meals . . . like, why? Really?) Thirdly, if one more person asked me where I got my protein from . . . OMG . . . please, PLEASE make it stop! I couldn’t tell anyone when I’d morphed into eating a vegan diet because, well . . . it was too . . . time consuming.

Thirty-seven years later, I haven’t yet died the gruesome death predicted for me decades ago, mostly by friends and family who quickly grew bored with my choice, even though I never spoke about it unless asked. I also packed my own food wherever I went and brought enough to share, because, dammit, everyone always wanted some as I’m a freakin’ amazing veggie cook.

But that’s not what this blog is about. At all. Actually, I want to discuss the remarkable progress we’ve made, as well as the fact that no matter how far ethical vegans and animal rights activists have come (some are both, some are not, but they are not mutually exclusive) we will never finish the job if we don’t stop wasting our energy beating the crap out of each other and instead put all our efforts into progress for the animals and for the planet. Because . . . again . . . mutually exclusive movements, they are not.

My husband and I have a farm animal sanctuary named Locket’s Meadow. Most people take that at face value, while others, no matter how many animals we have rescued (so many hundreds . . . and if you count the worms I move out of the road when I walk the dogs after a rain, thousands, maybe MILLIONS as I NEVER leave a worm to die) will argue to their last breath that we SUCK and they don’t consider us a “vegan” rescue because we train horses to be ridden if their health and disposition are amenable to it. Also, people like us aren’t demanding immediate change to turn Earth into a perfect vegan utopia of a world because, truth-be-told, we deal in reality. And . . . whatever. My feelings aren’t hurt by their judgment. The world is what it currently is and we do the best we can with what we have. We can’t waste time on semantics when the immediate situation is so dire. However, we’ve been in this animal-lover/rescue/sanctuary business a lot longer than most, and we see change that we never would have believed. Think about these developments . . .

Vegan Burgers. Thirty-seven years ago, there were no veggie burgers except those we made from scratch with lentils. Now they are everywhere, all brands and kinds. I’m confused by the vegans who argue against the plant-based Impossible Whopper; in 1982 we never dreamed of such an amazing thing! We would order a burger, hold the meat, add extra condiments and pickles, and be happy that Burger King was good like that. If Burger King sells a million Impossible Burgers, how many cows DID NOT get eaten? I’d like someone to calculate that, because I call that major progress. Add to that the many other fast-food establishments that are jumping on board with fake meats and . . . wow! We are kicking ass! Would I rather all meat be “fake” meat? Hell, yes! But we now have a clearer path to that end than ever before.

Tofu. Yes . . . tofu. Do you know if you said the word “tofu” in 1982 people would snicker, if not burst out laughing at the most preposterous “food” on earth? It went like this . . . “Snicker, snicker . . . You’re a vegetarian? Snicker . . . what do you eat, tofuuuuu? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Seriously. Tofu was a legitimate joke food. But two years earlier, in 1980, a newly vegetarian friend (who quickly lapsed) had handed me a booklet about how to cook tofu, and while I had politely taken it, I later passed it around as a “joke” book, much like some do with the Watchtower when it’s dropped off by proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like really, you were gonna win me over with TOFU? Hahahahahaha! And the lion will lie down peaceably with the lamb HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! And now I buy my tofu at Walmart, where they regularly run out because TONS of people eat it, and if I say the word in public, NOBODY laughs. That’s serious progress! And if I can go from laughing at tofu in 1980 to eating it in 1982, well crap, anything is possible!

Non-dairy milk. Thirty-something years ago, I used to drive two and a half hours to the Brattleboro Coop in Vermont to pick up cases of parmalat soymilk. While I was there I also stocked up on organic granola, in case you didn’t think soymilk made me crunchy granola enough. Go look in the refrigerated case at any supermarket today . . . soymilk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk and every combination of the aforementioned. (Oh yeah, and dairy milk . . . whatever . . . there’s less of it being sold every single day) But wait . . . there’s more! This time of year we can even get vegan EGGNOG!!! Holy Cow (and I don’t say that lightly as I happen to think cows are pretty-darned sacred,) vegan life is getting pretty damned good!

NON-DAIRY CHEESE! And not the waxy, non-melting garbage they tried to pass off on us in the early 2000s. This stuff is the real deal, and it pairs well with chocolate, wines and PIZZA! Way back in the olden days we had to order our pizza with no cheese and then pay extra for veggie toppings as nobody would make substitutions. As if broccoli costs as much as cheese . . . sheesh! Vegans aren’t stupid, we know you were all raking us over the hot coals piled in the interiors of your brick ovens . . . laughing at us (Tofu! Hahahahahaha!) And yet, we persisted . . . and because of that, we now have dozens and dozens of varieties of non-dairy cheeses (those of you who say you would be vegan except you would miss the cheese . . . it’s a COP OUT! You can now have your cheese and EAT IT TOO! Thank you Universe, you are so very kind . . .)

Volume! Numbers! Visibility! Look around you. You know a vegan or two. You know a few more vegetarians, as well. You even know a handful of pescatarians (those that are “vegetarian” but eat fish.) You know people who participate in meatless Mondays. You even know people who aren’t vegetarians but who actually EAT TOFU ANYWAYS!!! Bill Clinton, famous for his forays into McDonald’s, IS VEGAN! In 1982, I was all alone, and here’s what’s even weirder by today’s standards . . . I assumed I would be all alone forever, going to restaurants and eating a side salad with vinegar and oil and a baked potato with no butter as my main meal for the rest of my days. Today, I actually have a choice of vegan restaurants should I find the time to get off the sanctuary and eat out! Hallelujah!

Is life perfect? Hell, no. It won’t be perfect until no animals suffer in factory farms, in slaughterhouses, in dog-fighting rings . . . as long as hens languish in battery cages, sows in gestation and farrowing crates, calves in veal crates, and oh, dear Goddess of the Universes, fur animals in their tiny, little hell-holes awaiting a terrifying and excruciating end . . . I could fill pages, but that’s not for today . . . today’s blog is not about what we haven’t yet accomplished, but rather, about how we are on our way, and the momentum is OURS and if all the varying factions of our movements would stop wasting time denigrating all of the other factions, would take those billions of hours of playing Negative Nellie keyboard warrior and instead focus on encouraging positive change, we could make progress that is pervasive, permanent and life-saving for animals and our struggling planet (details for another blog, but if you can’t take the suspense, Google “diet to save the planet.”) Being positive is just a suggestion, really . . . because few people actually care about my opinion, and plenty others think name-calling is the most effective way to sway opinion . . . but think about if every effort made for animals was progressive instead of negative . . . I swoon while merely contemplating the possibility . . .

Because real change is really possible.

And how do I know that, you ask? How’s this . . . I can’t remember the last time someone asked me from whence do I get my protein. 🙂

I mean, come on people! WE’VE GOT THIS!!!

Kathleen Schurman and her husband David are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow. They spend their days catering to about 150 of them , while trying to make a living in their spare time as their endeavor is mostly self-funded. While they are cool with being vegan, they prefer the more all-encompassing term of “compassionist” because it includes all living beings . . . even HUMANS!

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