PennLive Opinion: Thinking about going vegan? Here’s why it’s good for Central Pa.

Posted in: Vegan Living


No matter where you live or what your typical news sources are, you’ve probably become aware in recent times of the rise of veganism in our culture.

Veganism is the commitment to living a life free from animal products–not just meat but eggs and dairy, as well as non-food products such as leather and silk.

Veganism is a movement that has been brewing in our culture for decades but has recently begun to gain very fast momentum.

Naturally, such a movement sparks strong feelings on all sides.

Non-vegans feel one of the very cores of their existence–how they gain sustenance–is being called into moral question. When our most basic acts are criticized, reacting with venom is a natural response.

Likewise, vegans feel that animals are being abused and killed for reasons that the world is now capable of moving beyond, and when people seem non-receptive to that message, it can get emotional.

So to be certain, it is a powder keg issue.

Veganism has taken a more natural foothold in more urban centers, where everyday life is less connected to animal agriculture.

Central Pennsylvania has no such disconnect. Anyone who grew up or lives here touches upon animal agriculture in some way every day–even if it’s just being at a stop sign beside cows as they chew their food, although most of us have more first-hand knowledge of it.

I grew up across from a large farm where cows walked up right to our property line.

Going to the Farm Show was a must-attend yearly event. My first romantic involvements were with classmates who raised pigs for 4H. I have attended livestock auctions.

Clearly, the continued rise of plant-based eating will absolutely have a major effect on the economy of the mid-state.

Already we are seeing news of the struggle of dairy farmers in light of the popularity of nut-based milks. These struggles will only expand as the vegan movement grows and more people stop eating meat for not just ethical reasons, but health and environmental reasons as well.

Cows, pigs, chickens, dairy–these industries all will feel the sting of the growth of plant-based eating.

The natural inclination of any geographical area is to protect its established economy. When large-scale, wrenching changes begin to occur, we often collectively ignore them and actively resist them, usually at our great peril. See examples in Detroit and Pittsburgh.

We think of our jobs and livelihood in the short-term. A philosophy growing at the rate of veganism stands little chance of stopping or reversing course.

So why would a region so dependent on agriculture neglect to change along with the world? The only way for central Pennsylvania to survive and thrive in the plant-based future is to embrace veganism and start changing now.

A world that is more vegan needs more plants. Period. Animal agriculture uses a vast amount of land (and water). This sounds like a perfect recipe for growing plants. Creative economic solutions for replacing one product in waning demand (meat, eggs, dairy) with another in rising demand (plants of all stripes) must certainly exist here in central Pennsylvania.

Nobody would suggest that making such a transition would be easy, fast, painless, or without missteps. It will be a long and challenging time–not just here but all over the world.

But once we decide to innovate, collaborate, and embrace change, there is little doubt that we will excel at the new plant-based agriculture just as much as we did in the animal-based model. However, one thing is for certain: we have to start now, because veganism is already here.

The option is to innovate now or be left behind. I am haunted by future visions of vast unused farmland all along the Interstate 81 corridor, much like online shopping has left countless hulking former storefronts, once owned by companies too slow to innovate.

There is, of course, an even better reason to make these changes than the purely economic: because we can.

We no longer live in a world that needs to depend on animal products, so why are we imprisoning and killing so many of them? It’s time to change.

Countless people are living and thriving without eating animals, from Tom Brady to Beyonce. There is no shame in admitting the world is changing and then, with eyes and hearts wide open, changing along with it.

Original May 1, 2018 PennLive opinion piece can be viewed here

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