The perspective of a plant-based meat-eater

It is hard to miss a passionate argument in favor of what a food group’s website calls “plant-based food.” At the same time, in this post-Planned Parenthood era, you may also notice a growing number of social-media posts that suggest no question is off-limits when it comes to guns. Increasingly, when you enter these mutually connected worlds, food and guns are joined at the hip.

So it is in that context that I must answer the question: Are plant-based meat-eaters activists or terrorists? On the answer’s key question, meatless activists win.

Most plant-based meat-eaters I know are not dedicated Islamic fundamentalists or fanatical feminists. Instead, they are folks who care about the environment, animal welfare, health and development, civil rights, global disease control and aid, the fate of indigenous peoples, the issue of the right to public education, the rights of minorities, women’s rights, the environment and so on.

These are the issues that these groups worry about above everything else. Their activism sometimes has to do with securing both the rights and the resources of these issues. It is largely impractical to demand an end to meat production without addressing how to fund the necessary environmental benefits.

Certainly, no sane public official or animal rights activists will favor policies aimed solely at killing more animals. But the many plant-based meat-eaters who have worried and done something for the environment, are dedicated to the safety of the vulnerable — they insist on universal health care and reproductive rights — or who seek to improve the local community (mainly by promoting safer access to education and health services) and must win from in large part from environmental stresses.

Many plant-based meat-eaters are also engaging in the new paradigm in which we think about growing our own food and end up eating less, or have the extra income to buy food we produce at home. Take the case of Emory Dr. Brandon Knoll, who, as a chicken farmer, said, “I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for someone to have to live in fear of their children being eaten by a predator.”

Dr. Knoll and his wife, Lisa, created Let’s Eat Free, a restaurant that is offering employees an optional vegan meal option. The couple adopted veganism three years ago. These days, their main concern is food justice.

When I say that plant-based meat-eaters are activists, I’m not talking about the legal definition of that word. But what does this mean?

In a culture where government seeks to control the population of people (and animals) by limiting their space and resources, a plant-based meat-eaters’ activism is both satisfying and political.

Our present society looks at the actions of individuals, or in this case groups, with suspicion. But in this context, conscious activists with a cause are more appealing than the sight of a person’s every turn of phrase and gesture under the microscope of an unprovoked attack.

But there is still another part of that political definition that I struggle with. Activists of any stripe are activists of all sorts. You’re not a vegetarian, vegan or any other sort of activist unless you take a public stand against an obnoxious or hateful person or political party. I mean, did you ever see a vegan or vegetarian activist stand up for somebody who was being bullied at school?

But this means that the political activism of the plant-based meat-eaters has consequences and aims. Yes, they must be willing to spend money in the fight to sustain the rights of those most vulnerable. But they must also be willing to sacrifice their own own short-term pleasures — as well as funding for their various causes — in order to satisfy the long-term needs of their own people. Plant-based meat-eaters are activists whose activism seeks a global solution to the global problem of climate change, or of carbon emissions from agriculture.

In the process, they are elevating those most vulnerable to global attention.

Like many activist movements, like many religious ones, their activism is in keeping with the worldview that it is not enough to fix a problem. The solution has to address a whole range of societal issues.

The Plant-Based Meat Trade had a lighthearted section in this year’s edition of New Delhi’s this newspaper. Here, you can see how activist “crab sandwiches” or “trippy vegan sandwiches” can be made.

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