Highly readable, fascinating, frightening and inspirational.
I’m not a vegan, nor have I ever considered being one, so I opened the pages of Ondine Sherman’s book on Vegan Living with a mindset of being the wrong audience. The result is that I’m not a convert but am a much more conscientious consumer who is keen to follow a lot of her advice.
Sherman enlisted the help of about 200 fellow vegans comprising friends, colleagues and new contacts who shared their experiences, tips and inspirations for becoming vegan. More importantly, her approach is not to convert but to educate. This she does with eye-opening detail, exposing the hidden treatment of animals, the fashion choices we can make, and the many and varied reasons why people choose to become fully vegan or part-vegan.
Perhaps the most disturbing exposés are the detailed accounts of how our animal farming industry is affecting our landscape, climate and the animals themselves. Even the seemingly simple act of extracting milk comes from the cruelty of keeping animals impregnated so they will produce milk, and killing male babes because they have no value.
Sherman advises that every month on a vegan diet, an individual saves about 120,000 litres of water, 543kg of grain, 84 square metres of forested land, 273kg of carbon dioxide and the lives of 30 animals. Animal cruelty and animal rights may be a driving force for many, but climate change and other issues play a larger part in veganism that expected.
For pure vegans, it’s more than just the food, but includes the unlabelled animal products found in drinks (eg wine), clothing, bags, shoes and many other products. But the book does not advocate an all-or-nothing approach, citing many examples of people who transition by swapping out one or two meals per week to begin with, or changing from animal milks to plant-based milks in their coffee or cereal. “Tried and true” techniques for making a progressive transition are provided, with small changes often strengthening one’s resolve over the long term to adopt more vegan practices.
Despite the distressing motivators behind veganism that are looked at in detail, Sherman’s guide to this lifestyle choice is one of positivity. She focusses on making a difference to both internal and external forces. She discusses old assumptions that continue to persist in the medical and social arenas. She talks about family and friend reactions to becoming vegan and how once can respond to that without preaching. In fact, one of Sherman’s primary messages is that veganism is an individual choice and not one to be pushed upon others; to lead by quiet example rather than doorknock your beliefs.
Easy tips for beginning a vegan lifestyle, affirmation that it is not an all-or-nothing choice, and the positive benefits that can be gained from even small changes make Living Vegan an excellent introduction and an invaluable lesson on the extent that our commercialised industries go to hide their true practices from consumers. It is highly readable, fascinating, frightening and inspirational.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Pantera Press
Released: September 2020