Yesterday morning, after hitting snooze 3 times and deciding that I would finally wake up (which really means just open my eyes and continue to lay in bed scrolling through my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds until I decided to get out of bed) , I was confused to see all of these articles about Jay-Z going vegan. Huh?
I thought it was some kind of joke. Anyone can be vegan though, right? So why was I so surprised to learn that one of my favorite rappers decided to go vegan for 22 days? (I was also super surprised to learn he was turning 44! Where does the time go?!)
Either way, I was interested.
Not only did he declare on his blog that he would go vegan for his 44nd birthday but that his wife, Beyonce, would be joining him. Specifically, he is taking on a plant-based diet, which is not necessarily vegan. (Read about the differences here, here and here.)
Now, I was impressed.
Not only does he know the difference between the two but he’d already been eating a plant-based breakfast and his partner (Beyonce) is on board. I like where this is going and couldn’t have been happier for him.
But then…the backlash…
As I scrolled through my newsfeeds, I was disappointed by many of the comments about his decision. Things like, “When will they stop wearing fur?” “This is just a gimmick, he won’t do it.” “Who cares? He can afford it.” Like the true glutton I am, I read on and on and just sat in front of the screen shaking my head. We still aren’t getting it, I thought. His declaration of leading a plant-based life style for even just 22 days is huge. Let me tell you why:
He and his wife have an audience that reaches millions of people. People we (vegans) will never meet in places we may have never even heard of. Imagine if just half of these people go to Google and type “vegan” to find out more about what that means. Imagine if their fans think, “Well, if they can do it, then I can do it too.” Then imagine if those same people try and take on a 22 day challenge to! Wow!
Maybe they stick to it, maybe they reduce their overall meat intake, maybe they start wondering about other ways animals are used and abused in our society and start investigating cruelty free options in their bath and beauty product or clothing. The very idea that vegan or plant-based has now entered their lexicon is significant. He is shedding light on a movement, a culture, to groups that many of us do not have access to and might not have otherwise been able to reach.
My experience in animal rescue has taught me that I can get more done by being positive than by making someone feel like they aren’t doing enough. We live in a society that is that is always telling us we are never doing enough or that we are never enough. Think about it: when that Sarah McLachlan commercial comes on (you know the one) have you ever donated money? No. It makes you feel sad, hopeless, depressed, frustrated. But if you see a rescue group outside of Petco and they tell you about how donations helped get this one dog into his forever home because they were able to remove the noncancerous mass on his leg – then you might think, “Wow, what I’m doing is actually making a change.” (You can read more about positive marketing here or here.)
Similarly, with veganism, my friends are SO eager to tell me about the great choices they make when they have a totally meatless day or if they ate at a vegan restaurant and liked it. They also tell me about times they’ve “slipped” or they snuck a piece of cheese and you know what? That’s okay. I don’t make them feel worse about it. I say, “That’s alright! We all slip up. You’re doing great!” No one I know has done something because I make them feel like garbage about it. My experience is that positive thoughts and words will produce positive results and actions.
So, what will happen? We’ll just have to wait and see! Admittedly, Jay-Z isn’t sure himself if he’ll be “a semi-vegan, a full plant-based diet?” after 22 days but plant-based diets speak for themselves. Once you’ve tried it, the benefits are obvious. Many people lead plant-based for diet or health reasons not because of animals or the environment and we should support that, too. Bringing this kind of positive attention to veganism/plant-based is a great opportunity to open a discussion about why leading a full or semi plant-based lifestyle has so many benefits for the entire world. So whether he goes full on vegan or reduces his overall meat intake, that is still a major change that we should support and encourage. You can follow (and join!) their 22 journey here: http://www.22daysnutrition.com/blog/2013/12/04/join-us-for-22-days-of-vegan-meals/
I find that, often, vegans advocate compassion and love for animals, forgetting that humans are animals, too. Practice kindness always.