Kathy Stevens

6 Things Oprah Viewers Should Know About Veganism

February 1, 2011 | Categories: Press,Vegan

By Kathy Stevens, Founder and Director

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m excited about the attention that Oprah’s Tuesday show is bringing to veganism, a lifestyle to which I’m passionately committed. And I’m equally excited to do my part to support anyone eager to consider making this life-affirming, health-affirming, planet-saving change! So here, in no particular order, are six things you need to know about veganism.

1. Help is everywhere you turn! There’s a whole web-based world eager to THANK YOU and to hold your hand on this exciting journey! If you’re inclined to begin at the beginning and learn what we’re doing to the animals, I heartily recommend these books: Eating Animals, Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, and The Food Revolution. There are countless others. Do your own google search. Rather watch a film? Try: Death on a Factory Farm, Glass Walls, or Earthlings. Want to bypass the suffering and instead see cows, pigs, and chickens (and a host of other critters) for who they truly are? Check out my books: Where the Blind Horse Sings and the newly-released Animal Camp: Lessons in Love and Hope From Rescued Farm Animals. Don’t think it’s possible to love a pig? You’ve got some surprises coming!

2. You CAN treat your tastebuds! At least once a month for the last dozen years, my dad calls and asks, “Whatcha havin’ for dinner tonight? Sticks and leaves?” Folks: let’s dispel the myth that veggie cuisine is bland!! For general info and advice about nutrition, try the Vegetarian Resource Group, Savvy Vegetarian, VegSource, or The North American Vegetarian Society. To bypass the BS and get right down to cookin’, try these recipe databases: VegWeb, International Vegetarian Union, and VegFamily. Finally, check the Catskill Animal Sanctuary website, for regular updates from Chef Kevin Archer, director of Compassionate Cuisine. Far as we know, Catskill Animal Sanctuary is the only sanctuary in the world to offer a vegan cooking program. Join us, either onsite or via podcast, coming in February!

3. You can date without committing! Not sure you’re ready to strip the fridge bare? There’s nothing wrong with dating before you commit. Try choosing vegetarian restaurants to discover how varied and delicious veggie diets can be! Happy Cow is a database of vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly restaurants around the world. Just plug in your city or zip code and the distance radius you wish to search. If you’re a New Yorker, you’ll love SuperVegan’s “The Amazing Instant New York City Vegan Restaurant Finder“.

My advice? Choose the vegetarian and vegan restaurants rather those that have “vegan options.” You’ll find that restaurants truly committed to the lifestyle offer far more inventive, satisfying meals. Go ahead: tantalize your tastebuds!! Check out the menus from my favorite local restaurants: Garden Café in Woodstock, Luna 61 in Tivoli, and Karma Road in New Paltz.

4. A word of caution: Vegan does not equal healthy. There’s a lot of processed vegan CRAP out there filled with ingredients I can’t pronounce (and I ain’t stupid!). If you want to use this opportunity to take charge of your health, focus on simple, whole foods. Want some great advice? Grab a copy of my pal Kris Carr‘s just-released, New York Times-bestselling Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It!

5. A new, better you awaits! I may not know you, but I know this about you: you’re a good person who values kindness, and who likely works hard to ensure that your actions embody this highly-cherished value. Just for a moment, let in the uncomfortable notion that every time you eat an animal, you’re subjecting an innocent sentient being–an animal who, when you get right down to it, is very much like us in ways that count–to a level of suffering you wouldn’t wish upon a child molester or rapist. Acknowledge your role in the suffering, and when you choose to go vegan, celebrate your choice to honor not only the animals, but also, and most importantly, yourself, for in embracing veganism, you’ll be aligning your lifestyle with the values you prize most deeply. And that feels good.

6. It’s okay to stumble. Let’s face it: change is challenging! Even vegan poster girl Alicia Silverstone has stumbled a few times – and that ‘s OK!! As someone who took several years to go vegan, I know what the resistance is about: habit, convenience, concern about family members’ reactions, lack of knowledge about what else to cook. If you decide to take the plunge, or even just to dip your toe in the water, be prepared to encounter resistance, even if it’s just from, well, your own noggin. Be kind to yourself in your heroic effort to be kind to all beings and to the fragile planet we inhabit..

The vegan train’s pullin’ out of the station people! Grab a seat for the ride of your life, and be sure to tell us about your journey.

21 Responses to “6 Things Oprah Viewers Should Know About Veganism”

  1. Lasek_088 says:

    Im proud of all you vegans out there over 1 million people choose to become atleast vegetarian every year in the states alone and going strong!

  2. Jo says:

    Kathy, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Colorado has a good site with many resources, too. I’ve visited CAS and enjoyed your first book. I look forward to reading the new one. The vegan cooking program is an excellent idea. Thanks for your continued dedication to the animals. Good luck with everything!

  3. Newearthfibres says:

    I picked up a copy of the December edition of “O” magazine, yesterday, and stumbled on the show discussing veganism. As someone who has been an on and off vegetarian for many years, this has given me renewed inspiration. I haven’t eaten beef for many years, but really do like the taste of chicken and fish. Besides, when you pick them up all neatly packaged at the grocery store, it’s pretty easy to disassociate yourself from how they actually get there. But, I have come to the point that I can’t really fool myself anymore, and your program has really brought that to the fore. So, for many reasons I will be deleting animal products from my daily fare. One small step to help the planet, but in my world, an important one. Thanks for the push. Cheers, Heather in Hawke’s Bay New Zealand

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Heather: This is how it happens for nearly all of us: a gradual awakening, a gradual letting go of denial. I loved the taste of chicken and fish, too…especially tuna. But I got to a place in my life where it simply no longer felt okay to be responsible for the torture, misery, fear, pain, extreme suffering of being after being after being.

      Congratulations to you. If the animals could speak, they would surely thank you.

  4. As someone who is struggling to become vegan, this was wonderful… gives me more hope. As of now I am 1 month and 3 days meat clean lol… it feels great. But what I really want is to learn about the vegan lifestyle and commit to that.

    • Kathy says:

      NICE!!! Going vegetarian is a HUGE step and you should give yourself a big ol’ hug for taking it. In terms of going vegan, check out some of the resources I listed, or look for “vegetarian starter kits” by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or Farm Sanctuary. Loads of good books, too. If you’d like more recommendations, just ask!

  5. Ann LaGoy says:

    Great article! You provide easy tips for people who are thinking of veganism. Lead by example, and without judgement; you’ve done a fine job here.
    What I find challenging is people’s reaction to the thought of it. There seems to be something behind it – fear, doubt, a requirement to reflect on behaviors… I don’t know what, maybe all of those things.
    The helping hand offer is so important.
    Thanks!

    • Kathy says:

      You’re welcome, Ann. It’s no small feat to adopt a vegan diet–but so very “life-affirming” on so many levels: respectful of our own health, of our fragile planet, and of the animals who share the Earth with us (and to whom pain, terror, and suffering feel the same as they do to humans).

      Best of luck with your journey, and if there’s any support we can lend, please let us know!

  6. Zambi44 says:

    I watched the Oprah show with a die hard meat eater and their impression of factory farms and animal processing was that the cows didn’t seem to suffer. I believe this show does give the general population a distorted image of a typical factory farm. I wish the media would show some youtube videos on factory farming. Most people would be horrified if they knew what really goes on.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, I completely agree. I was especially disappointed that, given with the EXTREMELY whitewashed picture Oprah presented of agribusiness, that she didn’t at least show the stunning and killing process.

  7. Kathy says:

    Hi Donna:

    I hear your frustrations! Glad you’re getting Kathy’s book, and hope it can help. There are plenty of vegan doctors and nutritionists who could help as well. If you’d like us to send along some links, let us know!

  8. Pamela Podolak says:

    what a wonderful post. i haven’t had a chance to watch the oprah episode. planning for later today. but as a long-time vegetarian, 17 day vegan (thank you kris carr), i think your list is really positive, helpful, and motivating. i can’t wait to check out all of the resources you mentioned.

    • Kathy says:

      Pamela:

      Way to go!, lady! Kris Carr is the real deal (she’s a very good friend) — really walks the walk — so glad she was your inspiration/guide. Hope the resources help, and would be thrilled to hear about how you feel a few more weeks into your new vegan life. Yeah!!

  9. Jevanses says:

    Excellent post. I was thinking most of these things while watching the show. They seemed to focus so much on pre-packaged faux-meats and not using whole ingredients to make super, yum food.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, I think that Kathy Freston believes that asking folks to go from the Standard American Diet to eating REAL FOOD in one go is unrealistic. Though I’m not a fan of any of it (occasional Daiya cheese user, but that’s about it), I know from my conversations over ten years that the meat substitutes are a way to get more folks to dip their toe in the water. Clearly not the answer, ultimately, as so much of the stuff is packaged, processed crap.

  10. susanbarnett says:

    The most powerful thing on that Oprah show was, in my opinion, the simple disclaimer – if you can’t watch this slaughterhouse video – don’t eat meat. Pretty simple. And I couldn’t watch.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Love:

      And she didn’t even show the stunning or killing of the cows. This presentation of the “best” slaughterhouse in the universe was really misleading. One friend actually believes that in her whitewashed presentation of animal production/slaughter, Oprah did more harm than good.

      • Donna8449 says:

        Kathy: People online are accusing Lisa Ling of purposely covering-up slaughterhouse realities. Seeing hanging carcasses and innards and heads being lopped off…..that was tough enough to see, without actually watching the bolting of the heads. At best, the food industry is one of the toughest and most barbaric in the world….and it’s hard work, fraught with dangers galore for employees…..and the pay isn’t commensurate with the jobs, either. The infamous “bottom line” will always be agri-business’ main concern, same as most other businesses.

        Some of Michael Pollan’s comments about supporting the small/family American farmer who is treating animals respectfully ring true. It’s a matter of educating society about humanity and decency. Pain and cruelty have no place in ANY situation, and we must remain vigiliant to keep animals safe, healthy, and treated properly right up to the end.

        Thanks for the offer of other resources and medical professionals. I’ll be sure to contact you when I’m ready to explore a bit deeper. Keep up the great work at CAS!

  11. Donna Reynolds says:

    Kathy Stevens is just the best, most enthusiastic, supportive, creative and forgiving Teacher about a lifestyle choice that people need to be gently led toward, not scolded into adopting. This column is jam packed with great information and told in such a warm and conversational way that is is just plain fun to read… and copy too for future reference.
    You write with the same loving attention you give to petting a pig or a horse… sweet.

  12. Donna8449 says:

    Kathy: Thanks for pointing out that “vegan” does not automatically equate with being “healthy,” same as the misconception that all products sold in health food stores are good for us. It’s amazing how many people believe that there is actually “truth in advertising” and don’t question the “facts” on the packaging (hey, we want to believe the info is true because we enjoy eating the food inside).

    When I go food shopping, I spend so much time reading all the nutrition labels, even on fresh fruits and veggies, because I’m diabetic and have to be aware of carbs, fats, sodium, fiber, etc. My diet is about 50% veggies, fruit, grains, beans, and legumes; 30% low-fat dairy; and 20% animal protein.
    I love soy products but cannot eat them on a regular basis because I also have hypothyroidism, and almost everything today contains soy of one type or another.

    Truthfully, I find shopping for vegan items even more confusing, because reading the ingredients becomes another challenge……checking for eggs, milk, cheese, animal-based fats, or any other items that are not acceptable on a vegan diet, as well as having to limit my soy intake.

    Unfortunately, some of my favorite vegan foods are also high in calories, making weight loss another struggle. And last but not least, the high cost of vegan foods is somewhat prohibitive, especially in today’s economy, with food prices constantly rising.

    Anyhow, on a high note, I’m ordering Kathy Freston’s “Veganist” with hopes that her advice and suggestions can make food shopping easier as I journey from “veganish” to “vegan.”

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