Vegetarian Journal

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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


Nov/Dec 1997

Volume XVI, Number 6

Note from the Coordinators

Is Vegetarianism Your Religion

Debra Wasserman
Charles Stahler
Each religion has customs, traditions, and rules, which help adherents put philosophical or spiritual tenets into practice in everyday life. Some people follow their doctrine by caring about others, whether they have the same theology or not. Others of the same creed may practice their beliefs by being intolerant and hateful of others who don't have similar customs. Either way, people's actions and decision making spring out of their religious beliefs. It seems some people are turning vegetarianism and veganism into a religion. Their treatment of people is based on whether others live up to their interpretation of the term vegetarian or vegan. These individuals are very hostile to anyone not following the same rules.

Though we know there are many good reasons and ways to be vegetarian and vegan, we don't think they should be made into a rigid religion. Vegetarianism or veganism should be an extension of caring, which may evolve from your beliefs of health, environment, ethics, animal rights/welfare, or religion. But if you use diet as a way to judge people and to be intolerant and critical, rather than supportive, what's the point of it all? This is neither healthy nor ethical. It surely will not bring about a better world.

Over the summer, VRG staff member Jeanne Bartas did a huge amount of work calling fast food and family-style restaurant chains to find out the vegetarian and vegan options available (See page 16 in this issue of Vegetarian Journal for Part I). One consumer advisor was especially frustrated that vegetarian callers were yelling at her. She just wanted to be helpful. She was appreciative that we could talk with her in a kind way and refer her to our dietitians to give her credible information. Several consumer advisors wanted copies of our product ingredients source list, since they wanted more information about which ingredients were vegetarian. Another food chain wanted to know about sources for vegan rolls, while one wanted ideas of vegetarian options which could be added to their menu. Maybe the chains won't do all we want because they don't believe there is enough economic support for the products. However, if you worked in a vegetarian restaurant, would you want someone calling you and yelling that you are misleading people by not putting meat in your chili? Yes, let's work for more vegetarian and vegan food. But even more important, let's be considerate of people, both inside and outside the vegetarian movement.

This summer we had seven 4-H interns in our office for two days. Though most were from communities involved in animal agriculture, we were able to learn from each other. We didn't spend time criticizing. Even though we may not have had the same beliefs, we each found out that the other could be thoughtful, kind, and caring. The high school interns cautiously tried Tofutti "ice cream," and discovered that a non-dairy frozen dessert could taste good. If they did not feel comfortable with us, this would not have happened.

Some religious people believe that you have to accept suffering, and that you will be rewarded in the next world. We believe it is important to work to reduce suffering, and you need to have victories. However, we want to do this by continuing to be kind. This is very difficult in all causes. The subject of how to care while being successful is important, and we hope to discuss related issues in the future.

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler
Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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