vegansaurus!

01/16/2013

The Guardian obnoxiously asks, “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?”  »

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"Protein-packed" Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Muffins from Chocolate and Chou Fleur.

The title of Joanna Blythman’s Guardian post—“Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?”—just struck me as bizarre antagonism hailing from left field. The post is in response to the complicated issues that the rising popularity of quinoa has spawned. As the subhead reads, “poor Bolivians can no longer afford their staple grain, due to western demand raising prices.”

The first thing I thought about this post was, “Isn’t this old news?” I read about this last year in Time and NPR has a story about it from early 2011. The price of quinoa seems to have grown rapidly since 2011 but it’s the same issue. I’m not saying that makes this unimportant; it just makes me wonder what the Guardian has been doing with its time. Did it take two years to come up with that stomach pun? 

The second thing I thought was, “Why is this just our problem?” I agree that vegans should be concerned with how our food choices affect people in addition to animals, but vegans make up, what, 1.5 percent of the population now? I’m guessing that we aren’t the sole drivers of the quinoa fad. So why isn’t this considered an omni dilema as well? Are vegans the only people expected to have consciences? Supposedly many omnis attempt to eat in line with their ethics, but Blythman only addresses us. I want “food journalists” like Blythman to educate, but this is just like, um, thanks for policing my ethics for me? And like, can YOU stomach it?

What really doesn’t help that last point is that she doesn’t seem to have her facts straight. On soy for example:

Soya, a foodstuff beloved of the vegan lobby as an alternative to dairy products, is another problematic import, one that drives environmental destruction. Embarrassingly, for those who portray it as a progressive alternative to planet-destroying meat, soya production is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in South America, along with cattle ranching, where vast expanses of forest and grassland have been felled to make way for huge plantations.

If you’re going to play morality police for other people, you should know what you’re talking about. First of all, plenty of non-vegans do eat soy, and there are vegans that don’t. But more importantly, any “food journalist” should be well aware that the soy that’s destroying the Amazon is grown almost exclusively for livestock consumption (Google it). If anyone should be embarrassed, it’s meat-eaters. She also makes some vague reference to vegans and food miles. Whatever.

As for quinoa, personally I don’t eat it too much. I’ve had it about four or five times in my whole life. I’m just not that fond of it. But regardless, I wonder what to do in these types of situations. Like, if we stopped buying quinoa, would that help people in Bolivia? I don’t see how it would. So what’s the right answer? I would think it had to do with politics and if the Bolivian government can control prices and exports. But really I don’t know—do you? If you don’t, Blythman is not here to help. She offers no solutions, insights, or suggestions; she just uses this very complicated situation as an excuse to question our values as vegans. If she has some solutions or a plan to solve the quinoa issue, I’m all ears. But I don’t need some omni telling me how to be a better vegan.

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