While my last posting was generally well received, there were a few comments that said that people who eat whole food, plant-based are being selfish if they aren't doing it for the animals in addition to doing it for nutrition. I've also read that same sentiment recently by some others online and in Facebook groups.
I want to dispel such notions because one, they are not true and two, such sentiments tend to lead us away from the good we can do for ourselves and in the world by eliminating animal products from our diets. If anything, it could be considered selfish to eat whatever you want, including animal products, without regard for the effect of such dietary habits on the planet's climate, environment, our fellow man and other species that live among us. But eating whole food, plant-based addresses all of those issues and makes a positive impact in the world we live in.
We should not criticize anybody's motives for what they do. All we can really do is look at a person's actions to make a judgment about whether or not what that person is doing is good or bad. If I don't eat meat, it matters not a bit whether I do it out of compassion for animals, out of concern for the environment or out of interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The end results are the same. I will accomplish all of those things. Our goal is not to get people saying they are ethical vegans; our goal is to improve the environment, the climate, our health and our treatment of animals. And we do that one mouthful at a time by resolving to eat a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet.
To say that a person is selfish because they eat whole food, plant-based for health reasons is like saying a person who goes jogging in the morning is selfish if they are doing it for their health. It's not selfish to take actions that will sustain and improve our health. In fact, I believe that we have a moral obligation to keep ourselves as healthy as we can. And that means, among other things like exercise, getting enough sleep, meditating or praying (depending on your beliefs) and moving around, we need to follow a WFPB way of eating.
Why is it a moral obligation? There are many reasons. To start with, when we don't keep ourselves as healthy as we can, we risk becoming burdens to other people, such as our children or other family members or good friends. Not only do we affect our own lives in a negative way when we come down with serious chronic diseases, but we also can often take away the lives of others too. Being a caregiver is hard work. I know because I've done it. And while caregivers love us and will do whatever it takes to care for us, we have a duty to do what we can so as to not become that burden on them.
Before going further, let me state that people do get sick through no fault of their own, and they do require extensive care as a result. This in no way is intended to shed guilt on them. But I think we can all agree that there is way more chronic illness in the world than there needs to be, and much of it is preventable. And if it can be prevented then morally, we should do what we can to prevent it. The exception might be the independently wealthy person who has no need to depend on family or friends for support if they become ill. Such a person can just pay his way to good care.
But that's not the only reason that maintaining our health is a moral imperative. There's also the ridiculous costs that all members of society pay today for health insurance, dental insurance and long-term care insurance. These costs come about because of so many people being on some kind of prescription medication and/or being so unhealthy they need to make many trips to the doctor's offices. Today, health insurance and long-term care insurance, in particular, are becoming more and more unaffordable. This is exacerbated by the poor dietary and lifestyle choices that so many people make. We all pay those costs. And I believe if we all considered it our moral obligation to stay healthy, then we would not be placing such high costs on others.
Along those lines, Americans are paying too much in taxes for that same reason. Medicare is 15% of the national budget and Medicaid accounts for over $500 billion of spending (some of that is federal and some of that is state funding). In addition, government employees receive benefits that pay for significant portions of their health insurance. The taxes we pay, whether to the federal government or to the state, have to cover those costs, and those costs are in addition to the costs of individual health insurance policies that we all carry.
And finally, eating whole food, plant-based means being there for our children, grandchildren, spouse and other immediate family members. It means having the energy to play with your children and grandchildren. It means having the mental acuity to help your children and grandchildren with their school work. It means having the energy to volunteer and to help out those less fortunate. It means having the health to work at a successful relationship with your spouse. It means making the lives of others around you better because of your energy and mental acuity and interest in life. All of these things are improved by eating WFPB.
So, the bottom line is, it's not selfish to eat whole food, plant-based for health reasons. Those reasons are just as valid as are reasons for doing it for the environment or reasons for doing it out of compassion and kindness toward animals. Eating whole food, plant-based for our health is an act of love and compassion. It's an act of love and compassion for our own bodies and our own worth in the world and it's an act of love and compassion for others as well. It's an act of love and compassion for the environment and for the climate. And finally, it's an act of love for the animal world.