Guilt and shame are common reactions for vegans who get sick. Our diet is all too often portrayed as a way to get skinny and stay bulletproof against disease. Vegans who don’t reap those outcomes sometimes wonder if there is a place for them in our community of animal advocates.
These kinds of issues have been a concern to me as a vegan activist and health professional for a long time and they are addressed in my new book, co-authored with Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman. It’s called Even Vegans Die and is being published this month by Lantern.
Our book’s premise is that we are better advocates for animals and for our fellow vegans when we accept that vegan diets do not absolutely guarantee good health. And when we also face the fact of our own mortality.
Coming face-to-face with the knowledge that anyone, including those who do “everything right,” can get sick (and that we are all definitely going to die) might sound like a rather depressing theme for a vegan book. And yes, it’s true: these are hard topics. But our book aims to address these realities in a way that is both empowering and uplifting.
There are distinct benefits in letting go of myths and promises about veganism as a cure for all conditions. It allows us to also let go of shame if we get sick and to be more supportive of others who get sick. It motivates us to make better decisions about our own health care and also to take critical steps toward protecting our legacy for animals. Acknowledging the limits of veganism doesn’t diminish veganism in any way; instead it makes us more effective vegan advocates.
These are some of the issues we cover in Even Vegans Die.
- Disease shaming and body shaming. Both result from misguided attempts to portray a vegan diet as a guarantee of health, beauty and youth. And both exclude people from our activist community while betraying the ethic of compassion that underscores veganism.
- The need for vegans, like everyone else, to pay attention to their health, which means engaging in wise self-care and getting appropriate medical screenings. (Yes, even vegans need colonoscopies and mammograms)
- The vegan ethic of care, which derives from feminist theory and is built around inclusive activism, acceptance of grief and acceptance of our dependency on others (including animals)
- A model for compassionate caregiving, which includes how to be helpful and avoid being hurtful when vegans (and non-vegans) are sick
- Coping with guilt and shame when you yourself are sick
- Making decisions about necessary medical care that may challenge your vegan ethic.
- The absolute necessity of having a will and making plans to ensure that your concern for animals lives on after you die
- How to plan a “green” funeral
- Mourning as vegans. Because while everyone experiences loss, we vegans are exceptional in that we constantly grieve the death of animals and do so in a society that doesn’t recognize our mourning.
- Why being a vegan means that you always live with hope even in the face of illness and death.
- How denial of death may relate to the way our society treats animals.
While there are many books on death and dying, caregiving, and creating a will, I believe ours is the only one that addresses these issues from a vegan perspective.
The paperback edition of Even Vegans Die is available for preorder on amazon and the kindle version is available for download now. If you aren’t an amazon shopper, you can order the book directly from Lantern or you might want to see if your local independent bookseller carries it. Carol, Patti and I will also be presenting material from the book at Vegetarian Summerfest in July and the Animal Rights national conference in August so stay tuned for updates on those events.