Finding Common Ground: Can Vegans, Vegetarians and Meat-Eaters Unite for Change?

To eat meat, or not to eat meat: It’s probably one of the hottest debates around the dinner table.

But can vegans and vegetarians unite behind a campaign to #BoycottBigMeat—if the campaign incorporates grass-fed and pasture-raised meat production as part of the solution?

On August 25, the #BoycottBigMeat campaign hosted a Facebook Live discussion about veganism, vegetarianism and how meat is produced. #BoycottBigMeat is a national consumer education and lobbying campaign to advance the transition away from today’s centralized industrial meat production to a system of organic regenerative pasture-raised and grass-fed meat production.

Through conversations like these, we hope to help shrink the divide between vegans, vegetarians and producers of regenerative grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and animal products.

While they may differ in their views on whether or not to eat meat or animal products, in many ways, all parties are fighting against the same common enemy: industrial factory farming which threatens our health, our environment and our local economic and food security.

Our virtual panel featured well-known vegans and vegetarians who shared their views on the industrial meat industry and the alternatives. Guests included:

• David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s

• Ocean Robbins of Food Revolution Network

• Elizabeth Kucinich, organic regenerative food/farming advocate and producer of two food-related documentaries

• Sherri Dugger, executive director of the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and co-chair of the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal

All of the panelists agreed that while we must reduce meat consumption, we must also advocate for a better food system, one that works with nature, rather than against it. Dugger, who moderated the event, said:

“We can and must do better. It is on this platform that vegans, vegetarians and regenerative agriculture producers can agree.”

David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s is a vegan who supports pasture-based agriculture

As CEO of Dr. Bronner’s, Bronner has paved the way for the natural soaps and organic body care industry. His company was the first to certify its soaps, lotions, balms and other bodycare products as organic in 2003, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program standards.

Bronner is a leader in other areas, too. In 2017, Dr. Bronner’s, along with Patagonia and the Rodale Institute, co-founded the Regenerative Organic Certification, a label centered on three pillars: soil health and land management, animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness.

Though a vegan since 1997, Bronner is an advocate for grass-fed and pasture-based regenerative agriculture systems. He’s inspired by innovative farmers such as Gabe Brown and David Vetter, who build soil health through regenerative farming practices, such as crop rotation and bringing livestock back onto the land.

Bronner takes no issue with meat produced from cows that are managed in a way that’s humane and that allows them to express their natural instinctive behaviors:

“I am in solidarity with high-level pasture-based livestock operators. Our common enemy is this industrial factory farming machine that’s eating us for lunch, that’s raising these animals in cages . . . and feeding them GMO grain that they weren’t evolved to eat.

“But if we get them out of their cages, drastically reduce the numbers so that we have a balance in our farming ecosystems, like in a wild ecosystem, there is such a thing as a balance between animal and plant life. We can replicate that in a farming ecosystem.”

Elizabeth Kucinich believes in a holistic perspective when it comes to food & farming

Kucinich also believes in bringing social, economic, health, agricultural and ecological systems into balance. In order to bring vegans, vegetarians and regenerative farmers and ranchers together, we must use compassion to cultivate those relationships, she said.

When Kucinich became an active board member of the Rodale Institute, she began to learn more about the farmer’s perspective on the land, about soil health and about the economics of agriculture and food production:

“Very often, people who enter the food movement from the consumer perspective, are looking at it from certain eyes and we are really trained by the media . . . that it’s the farmers who are the bad people. But it really isn’t.

“It’s a system of colonization. The farmers themselves in the industrial food system have been colonized as much as animals or genetically engineered grain. We need to have this holistic perspective of how the world works, of how our body ecology works, the consciousness that we bring to the table and what it is that we want to see.”

Ocean Robbins is an advocate for less meat and better meat 

Robbins is a long-time vegetarian and founder of Food Revolution Network, an organization committed to healthy, ethical and sustainable food for all.

But Robbins also supports regenerative agriculture. While on a personal level he doesn’t believe in taking the life of an animal to survive if he doesn’t need to, he is also an advocate for better meat, or meat that is produced in a humane and regenerative fashion.

Robbins discussed how industrialized meat production is arguably the most destructive force on the planet when it comes to the environment, having a negative impact on global warming, soil, water systems—Earth’s entire ecosystem:

“Humanity is living in a way that is out of alignment with our own sustainability and long-term viability. We are acting more as a cancer than as a collaborator. We are consuming at an ever increasing rate and fueling systematic environmental collapse.

“But as dark as things are. There is also a response. Everywhere there is injustice, there are people working for justice. Everywhere there is war, people are working for peace. Everywhere there is destruction, people are working for healing.”

Robbins is an advocate for regenerative agriculture, even when it involves livestock production, because he understands that such practices restore ecosystems, sequester carbon in the soil, promote clean water and restore our natural relationship with the natural world.

Vegans, vegetarians and regenerative farmers and ranchers can unite around regenerative agriculture, but only if they respect each other’s food choices, said Robbins.

“We need to eat less meat. And for those who are going to eat it, eat better meat.”

To learn more about the #BoycottBigMeat campaign, go here.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

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