My two cents on Bill Clinton going Paleo

Needless to say I got slightly depressed upon learning that Bill Clinton shifted to Paleo. Apparently this has been in the news for about a year now, and I really don't know how I could've missed it despite being online all the time.

Read it here: Clintons go Paleo (NY Times)

After jumping from one page to another to confirm its authenticity (it sure was), I stood up, headed straight to the kitchen and made myself a huge batch of revenge veggie stir fry and steamed kamote. His complete 180 is quite unnerving.

I have been vegetarian about 7 years now, and vegan for 3 months. While I have gone vegan for about 6 months in the past, I am vegan now for a completely different reason.

For most of my vegetarianism, my primary motivation has been 'for health reasons'. I want to avoid getting all sorts of lifestyle diseases (hypertension, diabetes, obesity) should I reach old age, not to mention some cancers and a host of other diseases linked to high meat consumption. Through time I have learned to be a healthful vegetarian focusing on eating plant based and avoiding processed food. In five years, I transitioned from pesco-vegetarian, lacto-ovo, to lacto-vegetarian, and felt turning vegan was the 'next logical step'. And vegan I became. Unfortunately after 6 months I found myself gradually reintroducing the milk and eggs, mostly because I craved baked goods (pancakes, ice cream, cakes), and a lot of times I felt hungry and left out. Eventually I concluded that veganism wasn't doable, given how unfriendly available food choices are to vegetarianism, much less to a more restrictive vegan diet. I actually felt liberated upon becoming lacto-ovo again. And if you think about it, I was still in line with being vegetarian for 'health reasons'. I continued picking veggies off of meat dishes so as not to be the inconvenient/prissy guest, ate mostly egg and cheese sandwiches for most of my internship (it was technically vegetarian), and had my fair share of doughnuts and McDonald's pancakes. It wasn't until recently when I met an ethical vegan of 6 years that I realized why I wanted to be vegan again.

We met at my nephew's christening and mostly talked about what vegetarians giddily discuss when they meet other vegetarians: veg restos. "I wish I could be vegan again," I told her, "but it's just too hard." She smiled. I forgot she has been on this train for 6 years.

At the buffet table, I waited for what she'd put on her plate given that there were only two vegan dishes available-- rice and seaweed. (I am sorry for acting police the same way non-vegetarians would scrutinize what we eat.) And that's what she ate, rice and seaweed, seasoned with soy sauce and onions. My mom saw it as an exercise of laudable self-control, I saw it as unshakeable commitment.

I distinctly remember reading before why veganism for health reasons eventually falter. You can practically achieve the same level of 'healthy' as an omnivore -- normal weight, good blood panels, heck even mostly carnivorous diets can check as healthy given such parameters. So is there really much of a difference? Probably none. However when you see veganism from an ethical standpoint, the question now becomes "Is it necessary for animals to be slaughtered so I can eat?" Or "Can I really stand cows being continuosly impreganated just so I can drink their milk?"

The first man to drink cow's milk

I realized a lot of things after meeting my new vegan friend. (She didn't indoctrinate me or whatever. Our conversation was pretty standard new acquaintance randomness.) I realized I wasn't and chose not to be vegan because of convenience. It's easier not to care about the minutiae of dairy and egg consumption because everybody eats them anyway. It takes so much effort to be vegan, checking labels, declining food offers, not being able to buy regular ice cream or pastries , that it's easier to be oblivious to my indirect support of animal exploitation by consuming their "products". Recently I felt I cannot live with my conscience anymore. Becoming vegan wasn't the next logical step, it became the only course for me to take to be at peace with what I put in my mouth and my self. Convenience is, and was a poor excuse for not living and supporting what I believed in. We do not have to raise animals, subject them to dastardly conditions, slaughter them, just so we can satisfy our palates. We can choose not to because it is possible to live otherwise, without harm, without blood, without having to feed our food chain superiority hubris by multiplying these domesticated animals and feeling smug as if we're subjugating the wild kingdom animalia. For many of us it is possible to choose. Health may be a by-product, especially if a vegan chooses a more plant-based lifestyle. But more importantly, it's not having to silence self-reproach for taking life just because you can and just because you want to.

What saddens me about Bill Clinton is that he didn't get around to thinking of veganism as a compassionate way of life. I am in no way throwing stones at him because it also took time for me to come around. He may go back or not. He may realize he actually does not want to consume animal flesh. Who knows? For myself, I choose to be vegan and remain vegan. I choose to be able to live with myself, in my skin, knowing at the very least I am not settling with status quo because it is easier. Veganism is not about perfection, it's about choosing to try, every day, to live with kindness, to not objectify other lives as tools and goods for my own. I urge you to think about it.