When I first went vegan over 11 years ago, my journey was a gradual one inspired by food intolerances and a desire to transform my diet into something my body could live with. Over time, I read a number of books and my position on vegan diets versus a vegan lifestyle changed. My outlook change simply due to exposure and a different perspective. In the end, one book in particular that describes the treatment of cows and chickens in factory farming was enough to change my lifestyle and I’ve been happy ever since.
The concept of reducetarian
The Reducetarian Solution, written by Brian Kateman, was obviously not available to me 11 years ago . If it had been, the process of going vegan would’ve been far more of a no-brainer for me beyond learning how to read labels. This book is a mosaic of perspectives on vegetarian and vegan diets as well as the vegan lifestyle. The perspectives range from religious perspectives, such as Christianity and Buddhism, to the more flexitarian approach (people who occasionally eat animal products, but have ultimately switched to a plant-based diet).
For people who are on the fence and open to hearing ideas on how to make their diets and the planet better, this is definitely the book for them. I was also happy to see a few essays written on fitness and athleticism including one from one of my favorite voices in the vegan fitness community, Robert Cheeke. Not all of the essays were geared towards me, however I was not the target audience of every essay. There’s a little something for everyone in this book.
While some essays stood out more than others, so did what people had to say. I especially appreciated this line from Victoria Moran in her essay “From Compulsive Eating to Conscious Eating,”
“Ethically, every bit helps. Not a single plant-sourced meal fails to contribute to lives saved and suffering averted. Don’t let yourself be guilt-tripped into doing nothing by the vegan police, amnesiacs who can’t recall that they were once where you are right now.”
One step towards veganism is better than none
Before reviewing this book, I kept running into one vegan after another in the community complaining about the idea of idea of “reducetarian.” It actually made me hesitant to publish a review until I was certain that I could talk about this as clearly and as succinctly as possible before dipping my toes into the heated waters of this discussion. Absolutism is doing nothing for the vegan movement, the animals or the planet. The reality is that all of veganism is a reducetarian solution. Without taking into consideration issues such as fair trade and the unethical practices towards human labor; the continued environmental impact of cultivating even our own food and its transportation into our communities; and the limitations of fruits and vegetables many communities have, let alone their affordability, all we can do is do our best to harm as little as possible.
One essay discusses the problem of the “food desert” and how poor communities are often forced to eat cheap fast food to provide for themselves and their families, but offers no easy or clear solution. It remains a problem which must be resolved, and it must start with the hearts and minds of those who can make the biggest impact where it counts: the financial cost and availability of plant-based products based on supply and demand.
Encouraging the idea of meat-eaters reducing their meat consumption will render vegan foods friendlier and more mainstream to our culture. Traditionally omnivore companies are increasingly picking up vegan foods and products because they are finally convinced that they can sell. Absolutism will not transform us, and an all or nothing approach has discouraged many new vegans because they are convinced if they are not perfect, they can’t actually be vegan. Meat eaters hear the preachiness: the false equation of weight loss and vegan diets, the grandiose claims of curing every illness under the sun, the pseudoscience that some vegans believe in and the lack of honesty about what can and cannot go into a genuinely healthy diet. That’s when they tune us out. This strategy has never sold non-vegans and it has done us far more harm than good.
Read it and gain perspective
On the other hand, times are a-changin’. Just one of many examples is how plant-based milk and their availability has skyrocketed. Meat eaters continue to vastly outnumber vegans, but if a few of them could be convinced to give more vegan foods a try in exchange for less of theirs, we can transform the landscape. The process has already started; we just need to encourage it and continue to do so.
This book could save us. Not only in terms of its delicious recipes for those who don’t know how to start cooking vegetables, but its attitude towards veganism. Getting out of our own heads and into the rest of the world to show that they too can make an impact even if they aren’t “perfectly vegan” can change both minds and lives. I don’t know if die-hard meat eaters will be willing to read this book or even agree with reducetarian . But, if some fence sitters and those who have concerns about any of the issues discussed in the book — animal welfare, the environment and/or health — it could do for others what it did for me: convince them to do their best to avoid products tested on animals, goods made with animal products and overall harm as little as possible for the sake of potentially having a better world.