For six months this year, I attempted a vegan diet, which led me to meet Butterflies Katz, vegan chef, writer, activist, veganic gardener, and “vegan dog” innovator. Ms. Katz began her vegan journey over 40 years ago, at age 12, and she’s been an unwavering vegan since.
Are you interested in a vegan diet? Then, this interview is just for you!
M.J. Fievre: I followed a vegan diet for six months, until my budget no longer allowed me to. Wholefoods and the Fresh Market seem to be geared toward the wealthy. Meat replacements and soy products are not exactly cheap. In this economy, how does one afford to remain vegan? May I ask you how much the average vegan might spend on foods?
Butterflies Katz: Many vegans, including myself, never or rarely eat “meat replacements”, but rather eat whole foods, unprocessed such as rice and beans, hummus, lentil dahls, coconut-curry stew with beans, etc. – and these grocery items are not too expensive. If someone wanted to purchase convenience foods, Tofurky products are delicious and no more expensive than animal flesh. I know vegans who live in a hut and sleep on a straw mat, it has nothing to do with how much money you have, but it’s an ethical stance of non-participation in animal exploitation. It’s about finding a way to live off the plant kingdom so as not to harm other fellow sentient animals. Don’t shop at expensive markets if you can’t afford it, find farmer’s markets. There is no average vegan; they come in walks of life and with many different perceptions. Some shop in Whole Foods or other type grocers, and some don’t.
MJF: How healthy are those meat replacements? So many ingredients I can’t even pronounce! Are there specific brands that have proven more reliable than others?
BK: Whole foods are much healthier than processed “meat replacements”. However, for some, they make the transition to a plant-powered diet – easier. If they help people to stop funding animal exploitation, they are worth eating. Others use them just in the beginning of their transition, and then progress to a more healthy whole foods diet. I have never seen a “meat replacement” product with ingredients that I could not pronounce the name. They are certainly more healthy than eating animal flesh, but not as healthy as eating whole foods: with plenty of raw foods, dark leafy green salads, fresh fruits, raw nuts and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and green drinks.
MJF: What would be your advice to someone whose Significant Other/children reject the notion of being vegan? How uncomfortable would you be with a grocery list that includes animal products?
BK: I would not live with non-vegans and I would not help anyone to be non-vegan, especially someone I loved. But I am far removed from those type of situations. I visit and help my nonvegan parents annually, and I feed them vegan. They have no choice in the matter, or I would not go there. I want nothing to do with aiding the violent assault of fellow sentient animals.
MJF: There were occasions when trips to the restaurant happened in the spur of the moment. “Let’s grab a bite.” Some restaurants did offer basic salads, but more than once I found myself without any option at all. Have you ever been in such a situation? How did/would you deal with that? What about invitations to dinner? Do you simply let the hosts know about your life style?
BK: I don’t support nonvegan restaurants any more. Where I don’t have to fund animal exploiters, I don’t. I flew from Ft. Lauderdale to New Zealand recently, and found very little to eat in the airports, and it was difficult. Vegans are certainly not catered to in our speciesist society. But I always pack my own food and can find a can of nuts to eat, and that’s what I eat. Finally I could get a good salad when I arrived in the New Zealand airport, as well as a fresh squeezed juice. I don’t usually take people up on invitations to dinner, but rather I invite people to our home or host events where I offer them vegan food. It’s educational and has the potential to lift them to a new and improved way of living. For me, I care more about living ethically than having “friends” or family that totally disagree with my perception of living vegan. I would never, under any circumstance that I have encountered, alter my vegan ethics. I have been an unwavering 100% vegan for 34 years. The only non-vegan things I’ve ever done is to give pharmaceuticals to rescued dog friends in a life and death situation. (Pharmaceuticals are tested on animals. I would only use them in emergency situations because of this.) I have rarely ever needed to take them myself. I choose to prevent illness by eating and living healthfully. I also drive a car (very little) and car tires may not be vegan, and I use a computer which may contain nonvegan components. Other than that, I have found it easy to live vegan, and that is because I “get it” and don’t want to be complicit in our crimes against non-humanity.
MJF: My husband worries that a vegan diet might not be healthy. Please tell me about supplements, particularly proteins. What supplements are needed? Aren’t animal proteins absolutely necessary?
BK: Your husband’s worries are unfounded. He is just believing the mainstream myths perpetrated by those who profit off exploiting animals. (They have a lot of power and they push their propaganda via commercials and government financial support.) I am very healthy as are my other long-time vegan friends. There is definitely a lot to learn when adopting a plant-based diet. When we eat animals, we eat the nutrients their bodies have made. When we eat plants, we need to make our own nutrients. For example, we make our own Vitamin D from sunshine exposure on the skin (same as other animals); it is not found in plant foods. We make Vitamin A from beta carotene found in orange colored foods like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash and some greens. We make long chain fatty acids (DHA/EPA) from short chain fatty acids, and must consume them in flax seeds, chia seeds, kiwi fruit, purslane, hemp seed products, etc. Or we can supplement with algae-derived DHA/EPA supplements rather than fish oil for our omega 3’s for optimum health. Where there is a will not to harm other animals, there is a way to find a vegan alternative. And it always turns out to also be the healthier option for ourselves, not just the other animals. We do need to ensure that we are getting our calcium (dark leafy greens, dried figs, almonds, etc.) and our iron (molasses, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, spinach, etc.). If we don’t eat iodized salt or seaweeds, we need to supplement with iodine. Vegans should ensure they are getting a source of Vitamin B12; either in fortified nutritional yeast or other fortified foods, or even better with a sub-lingual (under the tongue) B12 supplement. Once you get the hang of including these things in your diet, it becomes second nature. My blood tests results have been fine for 3 decades. Plant sources of protein are easily found. Protein is in many different vegan foods, but the highest sources are beans, soy foods, Quinoa, hemp seed products, lentils, hummus, and peanuts. Even grains, vegetables, and nuts have some protein. Even fruit has smaller amounts of protein. It is not an issue at all!
Butterflies’ blog: http://thevegantruth.blogspot.com
Her book: http://veganpoet.com
Recommended site and link to the book she co-authored entitled “INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS; Recipes for a New Paradigm” by Gentle world: http://gentleworld.org
Great beginner site: http://vegankit.com