It seems to me that, everywhere I turn, veganism is being referred to as a religion. I hear acquaintances state “I don’t understand what’s going on; all I hear about is everyone turning vegan. It’s like some type of crazy religion.” I am in the middle of reading a novel in which the main character, a grandfather, describes some of his grandson’s past girlfriends. He condescendingly talks about one particular girlfriend from Brown University who treated her advocacy for animal rights as a religion.
If veganism is not described as a religion, it is often referred to as “extreme.” I recently saw the play “Other Desert Cities” in which one of the main characters (portrayed by Stacy Keach) makes a statement to the effect of “what is wrong with young people today; they have to be so extreme with everything.” He cites veganism as an example.
Either way, it is my opinion that these descriptions of veganism as either a crazy religion or too extreme are derogatory and could not be any further from the truth. To ignore or fail to understand the overwhelming medical science proving that a vegan diet is the healthiest diet, is detrimental to one’s health and to the planet at large. Clearly, we are destroying our oceans with over-fishing and it cannot be denied that factory farming substantially contributes to global warming, the world’s water shortage and world hunger. Furthermore, to refer to a compassionate person who recognizes the horrendous torture of animals for meat consumption as a religious zealot is illogical. The science behind the benefits of a vegan diet, the destruction of our planet by over-consumption of meat and the torture of animals for meat consumption are based on reality and facts and have nothing to do with religion.
In my opinion, religion has a spiritual or otherworldly component to it. It addresses many issues which science cannot, including the meaning and purpose of life, belief in a supreme being, and life after death. Having faith in a religion is exercised through religious ceremonies, holidays, traditions and other conventions. Although many vegans do recognize Meatless Mondays and National Vegan Pizza Day (myself included), I don’t believe that these qualify as religious conventions.
I loved one of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s statements in the movie “Forks Over Knives.” I cannot quote it verbatim, but it was something like “Following a vegan diet is not extreme; cutting one’s entire body open for heart surgery is extreme.” To call a diet which has been proven to be the healthiest diet by the latest nutritional science “extreme” is ridiculous. To stereotype people who have compassion for animals, a strong commitment to the relief of animal suffering and a deep concern for the well-being of our planet as religious zealots is convoluted, at best. I think it is time for people to stop referring to veganism as a religion and to start recognizing it for what it is: a genuine belief in the science supporting a plant-based diet and a commitment to a non-violent and compassionate lifestyle while, at the same time, being mindful of the far reaching consequences of eating meat.