It is officially Veganuary! In case you don’t know, yes it’s a thing. Every year, people pledge to try vegan living for a month and this year’s Veganuary has a record amount of sign-ups, more than 250,000! That’s huge considering this is a UK-Based campaign and 2020 is its first year in the United States.
Veganism is not just a diet, it’s a peaceful and cruelty-free lifestyle that’s seriously on the rise. So much so that 2019 was officially named “The Year of the Vegan.”
There are three major reasons for going vegan in 2020: animal welfare, personal health, and the climate crisis. If you’re of my generation, global warming is probably one of the most – if not the most – important issue in your life and animal agriculture is an important part of that. It is the second biggest contributor to global pollution and the leading cause of deforestation worldwide.
It is increasingly important for us to do anything we can to help fight the climate crisis and prevent animal exploitation, but there’s still a lot of misinformation out there about plant-based diets. So if you’re considering a switch but you don’t know where to start, or if you aren’t sure why it matters, I’ve compiled a short reading list to help answer a bunch of those questions.
1. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
Why is it so hard to think straight about animals? Why aren’t we eating the family dog for dinner? Those are the kinds of questions this quirky and fun-loving book seeks to answer. Combining laugh-out-loud anthropology with evolutionary psychology and surprising moments of deep and challenging thoughts, Herzog’s study will forever change the way you look at animals. I was surprised to see this book hailed by vegans and non-vegans alike. Those looking into the subject for the first time praised the author for tackling the issue of animal rights without any bias. But even committed vegans felt the book challenged them to think more deeply about their belief system, reinforcing their dedication to animal welfare through different eyes. It is not written by a super die-hard guilt-tripping vegan nor is it written by a soulless factory farming advocate. If you are looking for a thought-provoking study of animal welfare but aren’t ready for something too scarily serious, this book is the best of both worlds: super funny and scientifically sound.
2. Personalities on the Plate by Barbara J. King
Over the last few decades, we have become increasingly aware that animals feel fear and pain. Animal use has been banned from circuses, zoos are under close supervision to ensure their animals are happy and well provided for, and generally, animal abuse is illegal and seriously frowned upon. Why then has this empathetic feeling not reached our dinner plates? This is where Barbara King comes in. Mixing her firsthand experiences with close scientific study, Personalities on the Plate takes an ethical stance in telling us what will happen if meat consumption continues to rise. Her deep empathy is infectious but it’s her captivating argument that really moves you to take a better look at what you’re eating. Not just for yourself, not just for the animals, but for the planet.
3. The Minimalist Vegan by Michael and Maša Ofei
A quick read that focuses more on the “why to” than the “how to.” This modest manifesto inspires you to surround yourself with less, appreciate what you have, and live simply with kindness. It’s a cleaning of the soul as well as a decluttering manual, exploring the surprising overlap of veganism and minimalism. With chapters on pollution, gratitude, and the “more virus,” this manual on conscious living was designed to be read in just a few hours. Believe me, it’s a few hours well spent.
4. Why Animal Suffering Matters by Andrew Linzey
Fresh from the Oxford University Press, this amazingly personable study into animals and our treatment of them has become one of the most engaging theories in recent years. Andrew Linzey argues that the meekness and silence of animals are not an excuse to exploit and tower our “superiority” over them. Rather, their inability to express and protect themselves are the very reasons why we, as humans, are obligated to care for them. Proving animals are feeling and sentient beings whose moral innocence outweighs ours, this book puts forth a call to action. A plea for us to change our ways and lessen the continual suffering of animals.
5. Dominion by Matthew Scully
Taking on the Judeo-Christian teaching of Dominion (Man’s power over animals as stated in the Old Testament), Matthew Scully has combined a masterwork of investigative journalism proving our exploitation of animals has created a toxic culture that is destined for collapse. Going undercover into factory farms, the Whaling Commission Conference, and Safari Club International – where wealthy businessmen pay upwards of $20,000 to hunt elephants and lions trapped inside game pens – this is a bold and necessary book that shows the depth of corruption in our society and the heartbreaking effect it has on animals.