by Leo Babauta
This post will strike a nerve with some readers, as many minimalists or aspiring minimalists are die-hard carnivores. They love their meat and don’t want to hear anything against it.
Well, hear me out, please. If you could read to the end of the post before disagreeing, blasting me, or dismissing me, I’d be grateful.
In this post I’ll tell you (briefly) why I chose veganism and how it is the diet I believe is most in line with minimalism.
Veganism, simply defined, is abstaining from animal products, from meat and fish and poultry to dairy and eggs and other such products. I also try for whole foods that are minimally processed, which means I mostly eat veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, some whole grains.
This is a limited, minimal diet, and yet it can be incredibly satisfying and maximally flavorful. It’s also very healthy, very light, and low on the budget (if you compare it to eating whole foods carnivorously).
A small amount of ingredients. Light on the palate and stomach. Easy to prepare, with a minimum of fuss.
The most sustainable diet
I won’t go into the figures here (they’re covered better elsewhere), but raising animals for meat, eggs and dairy is incredibly wasteful. For every pound of meat or dairy, many times that amount of plants must be used to feed the animals for those products.
Animals also produce a huge amount of pollution and contribute_immensely_to greenhouse_gases, not to mention the machinery and fuel that’s used to raise, slaughter and transport them … and all the plants needed to feed them. They contribute hugely to deforestation_and_other_environmental_problems as well.
Eating only plants cuts that waste to a minimal amount, and is so much better for the environment. Minimalists who care about living lightly and sustainably would do well to research_this and consider it.
One of the main reasons for becoming a vegan is that we don’t believe animals should be held captive, suffer, and be slaughtered for our pleasure.
There is absolutely no need for humans to consume animal products to live a healthy life. Sure, we’ve eaten them for millions of years, but as millions and millions of people have proven, you can eat a vegan diet and be healthy.
And so, the only reason to eat animal products is pleasure — you like the taste and “can’t give it up”. Vegans don’t believe animals should suffer for our pleasure, and becoming vegan means you’re opting out of a society that treats animals with extreme cruelty and pretends it doesn’t happen.
Addendum 1: Obviously this applies to factory farming, but it’s also true of free-range, grass-fed animals. Some vegans (myself included) don’t believe animals are objects that should be used for our pleasure, kept captive and killed, no matter how “humanely” we treat them while alive. This is akin to slavery of a fellow thinking, feeling creature. Animals don’t exist for human benefit — they exist for their own benefit.
Addendum 2: Another justification commonly made is that vegetarians kill plants, and those are living things too. However, they don’t feel and think and suffer in the same way that humans and animals do — they don’t have a central nervous system or brain. It’s a fallacious argument — carnivores have no problem with killing plants, and are only pointing this out to make vegans look inconsistent. If you feel that killing plants is cruel, then I challenge you to live consistently with that belief. Vegans are doing our best to live consistently with ours.
Living lightly, not always conveniently
If your definition of minimalism involves always choosing the most convenient, easiest options, then veganism might not be the most minimal choice. It can sometimes be inconvenient, when eating at restaurants that aren’t vegan-riendly or at the homes of non-vegan friends or family.
That’s a reality, but in truth, it’s not that hard. I mostly cook my own food, with a minimum of preparation, and so most days I have no problems whatsoever.
More and more restaurants are becoming vegan-friendly, and the ones that aren’t can usually whip up a quick and simple vegetable dish on request. I usually avoid McDonald’s and most fast food anyway. When I go to someone else’s house, I usually bring a dish with me, and friends and family who know me best often will cook a dish for me out of consideration.
So it’s not that hard. My suggestion, if you’re interested, is starting small: try a couple vegan_dishes this week, a couple next week, and so_on. There’s no need to drastically change overnight, but in time you’ll find that vegan dishes are delicious and the vegan lifestyle is wonderfully minimalist.
Thanks for listening, my friends.