Posted on October 1st in REACH Blog

Going Vegan? The Plant-Based Diet is in our Roots

Jenna Eating Vegan Meal with International Officers

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Jenna Santacroce, International Vice President for Division 1. Jenna is a passionate environmentalist and has written an award-winning honors paper on how veganism can solve most environmental problems.

I recently tried Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper.” My personal verdict: not bad. It tasted just like a regular Whopper, from what I can remember, but it would’ve been better with more ketchup.

I’ve been following a plant-based diet for nearly four years.

I’ll admit giving up meat was tough. My Dad and I used to take weekly trips to our local steakhouse and each order a 20-ounce steak (yes, I would finish mine). Despite my occasional cravings, what has always been most challenging is facing those who castigate veganism.

I’ve been told I’m a trend-follower, I’m malnourished, and — the most inaccurate — I’m an extremist.

More and more restaurants are beginning to offer vegan options, and I can now officially find dairy-free ice cream at all my local grocery stores, but plant-based diets are not a new fad. Plant-based diets are familiar to humans, found deep in our roots through the prehistoric era.

The “man the hunter” stereotype has been deeply engraved into American society in an effort to reject veganism. Society attempts to invalidate plant-based diets because “humans have relied on meat to survive since our earliest ages.”

Have we?

Hunter-gatherers lived in subsistence. They didn’t hoard food — they didn’t have the means to hoard anything. The people tended to only create, collect, and consume what was necessary for comfortable survival.

Men spent hours of each day hunting large, social prey (like mammoths), which was perhaps a task too hard to handle. Social species travel in packs, just as humans do, and protect one another when necessary. Catching a mammoth alone was rare, and killing one member of a pack was nearly impossible. Men pursued the animal for miles and hours before attempting to slay one, and if there was a successful defeat, the men were far from their camp.

With the day nearing night and a dead, five-ton mammoth to guard against other predators looking for a late-night snack, neither lugging their harvest back to camp or abandoning it until the following day or were options. The men needed to stay put until their group arrived and settled. Although hunter-gatherers were nomadic, constantly uprooting their settlement to meet the men at the harvest was hardly worth each individual’s gross caloric intake, and thus groups rarely ever actually fed off large prey.

Women, in contrast, spent most of their time near camp handling domestic productive labor. Before women discovered agriculture, much of their time was spent foraging too. Because they were gathering the same vegetation that small animals consumed, the women also made and set traps.

It is estimated by anthropologists and osteologists that 70 percent of the hunter-gatherers caloric intake was from the vegetation that women harvested, and 30 percent was from meat — not only from big game, but from small trapped animals and fish as well.

According to Sarah Shaver Hughes and Brady Hughes, American historians and educators, “…throughout the world, except for specialized hunters in arctic regions, more calories were obtained from plant-based food gathered by women for family sharing than from meat obtained by hunting. Due to the relative durability of bone as opposed to plant refuse, the archaeological record may exaggerate the amount of meat in the hominid diet.”

So it turns out humans relied mostly on plants, not meat, since our earliest ages. And in turn, it’s confirmed — I’m not an extremist.

We have seen that society has never welcomed change with open arms. Change is a natural discomfort. People cling to consistency because it makes them feel secure; the uncertainty associated with change can be unsettling.

What is most unsettling is living amongst a society that is so dangerously reliant on regularity, enough to neglect issues that compromise our own health, happiness, and overall quality of life. A society that depends on stillness is toxic, like we’re living in a pool of stagnant water.

Change is vital for survival; with change comes growth. It’s time to make waves.

Burger King took the first plunge by incorporating a vegan Whopper into its franchise, expanding its menu at more than 7,000 locations across the United States. Burger King took the first plunge, making a huge splash in that stagnant water that, with hope, will one day resemble a wave pool.

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