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.
Have you read the book The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker? It’s 40-some years old, but quite interesting. It’s, more or less, about how pretty much everything we do — most especially our neuroses — are driven by a fear (and denial) that we will all die. Of course it has nothing to do with animal rights, but it’s compelling nonetheless. The author was dying when he wrote it, and I believe it won the Pulitzer.
I look forward to reading this. I am sure I will find it both uplifting and challenging — the best combo! — as I have your other work. Thank you!
Your book sounds amazing! “Vegan for Her” has been a great help to me, and “Even Vegans Die” sounds just as practical. Thank you for all your hard work and teaching.
Dustin, Yes, we draw on “The Denial of Death,” especially in considering how our denial of death may influence and be influenced by our attitudes to other animals! Thus, accepting that vegans die becomes a part of improving vegan advocacy!
Check out Ginny on the Our Hen House podcast!
This sounds like such an important book for the evolving and rapidly growing vegan movement, I can’t wait to read it!
Amen to the concepts in your book. Refreshing clarity it sounds like to me and I look forward to reading it. Interesting play on words in the title…..
[…] Can you imagine what it feels like to be a vegan in a larger body or with a health condition some may believe you “shouldn’t have” if you’re vegan? I’ve had people tell me the biggest barrier to them staying vegan is the fat shaming they receive from the vegan community. How sad is that? “Vegans who are larger are often reluctant to share their veganism or participate in activism in any way,” Ginny says. So not only are we hurting our fellow humans, we also are doing a disservice to the animals by making veganism less accessible and less welcoming.Interested in learning more about this topic? Ginny just released a new book, Even Vegans Die: A Book for Animal Advocates, along with activists Carol Adams and Patti Breitman. Check it out! […]
Thank you very much for writing this very good vegan book.
a good reality check for us vegans….thanks
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