A compelling new book, Even Vegans Die, makes the seemingly obvious point that no diet can stave off the prospect of eventual death. There are many reasons this book is mandatory reading for vegans and non-vegans alike. Here are a few:

  1. The authors Carol J. Adams, Patti Breitman, and Virginia Messina make it clear that while vegans face longer life expectancies and lower risks of serious health problems (like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease), they are not somehow completely immune to illness. Nevertheless, it is quite common for vegans to feel pressured to present themselves as the picture of health. I have known some well-meaning vegans who avoid mentioning on social media when they have a flu or cold because they don’t want the rest of the world to think vegans ever get sick! This perpetuates an impossible myth that real humans can’t live up to. Certainly, some people might enjoy newfound energy after becoming vegan, and there is evidence that patients suffering from conditions like heart disease or diabetes may be able to reverse their conditions by eliminating animal products from their diet. Likewise, there is abundant evidence that following a vegan diet reduces the odds of being diagnosed with several serious medical conditions in the first place. But vegans, like other mortals, can get sick and will certainly eventually die.
  2. To that end, the book is chock-full of essential, practical advice for everyone about planning for the most certain outcome each of us will face: death. The authors walk readers through the steps of preparing a will, setting up an advanced healthcare directive, planning for the care of pets, and many other details most of us don’t like to consider but really ought to.
  3. The book is also full of hands-on tips for the friends and family members of anyone who is suffering from a life-threatening illness. People often wonder what to say or how to help, and this book answers those questions in concrete ways that will make a big difference. This part of the book reminded me of another book I love, Twelve Weeks in Spring, which is a heartfelt account of a community that came together to take care of a woman during her final weeks of life, allowing her to die with dignity.

All of these themes of the book touched me on a personal level. When I was diagnosed with cancer in my twenties, I had not yet prepared a will, an oversight I quickly fixed. As someone who had already been eating a plant-based diet for several years, I was stunned by the cancer diagnosis. I was also embarrassed by the cancer diagnosis. I felt I was letting down the vegan community by having succumbed to a disease that was completely beyond my control. This consumed scarce mental energy at a time when I couldn’t spare any. The truth is that serious medical conditions can arise in spite of our best efforts. While some risks can be significantly reduced by careful lifestyle choices, none can be completely eliminated. People who don’t smoke can get cancer; vegans can too!

The reasons to stop eating animal products are many, and while they don’t include immortality, they do include lower risk of disease, as well as clear benefits to the environment and of course animals. This book reminds us that vegans are human too, and counsels all of us – vegans and non-vegans alike – to take better care of ourselves and each other.

References

Adams, C.J., Breitman, P., & Messina, V. (2017). Even Vegans Die. New York, NY: Lantern Books.

Callwood, J. (1986). Twelve Weeks in Spring. Toronto, ON: Lester & Orpen Dennys.

About the Author

Lisa Kramer, Ph.D.

Lisa Kramer, Ph.D., is an expert on behavioral finance, drawing on human psychology to shed light on financial markets in unconventional ways.

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