Veganism and the Spa

Lisa Sykes

vē-gən: a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also: one who abstains from using animal products –Merriam Webster Online Dictionary

Veganism is somewhat controversial. For every argument for it, there’s one against it. Even some vegetarians question it. I became a vegetarian in 1993 and converted to veganism in 1999, but when I became pregnant with my son in the fall of 2001, an intense craving for a buttery local cheese did me in. I’ve been an intermittent cheese head since then, especially when I visit the Earth Fare. But, I won’t get into my personal weaknesses. . .

I have enormous respect for vegans. It’s tough, especially in the South. You label-read everything—everything. Your friends and family think you’re nuts—at least mine did—and laugh when they hear the word “Tofutti”. But, veganism stretches beyond mere dietary preferences. It includes clothing, shoes, and personal care product choices too.

Of the many arguments that vegans have, one of them is very relevant to the spa industry: the environmental cause. Green spas would be remiss to ignore the environmental contention of veganism because it is profoundly compassionate. Vegans maintain that the use of animal by-products contributes to three major environmental problems:

Depletion of natural resources: The amount of fossil fuel energy invested in animal protein is over 10 times greater than the amount used for grain protein production. In addition, raising animals for food requires massive amounts of water; for example, one pound of beef necessitates about 2500 gallons.

Global Warming: Meat consumption is partially responsible for razing the Amazon rainforest. Several South American governments allow the clear-cutting of lush forest for cattle crops and grazing in order to satisfy the western demand for beef, thereby increasing the amount of CO2 that goes back into the atmosphere. Further, animal waste and methane also produce greenhouse gases, many times over the warming impact that CO2 generates.

Pollution: Factory farms are some of the most culpable air, land, and water polluters in the United States. Factory farms are owned by corporations that have literally outgrown themselves and the natural resources that surround them, creating a surplus of legal cases and EPA violations.  

With these concerns in mind, clients have demanded vegan products for ethical and environmental reasons. They have challenged personal care product manufacturers to cease the use of cheap slaughterhouse by-products. In fact, major vegan brands have emerged like SpaRitual, the finest in eco-luxury. Furthermore, a quick search for “vegan” on SpaFinder yields 155 results for spas that offer vegan treatments and vegan dining options, and the numbers continue to grow.

Essentially, vegan clients practice the “live and let live” doctrine; they’re concerned about the environment and have compassion for all living creatures. Spas that present vegan treatments and cuisine offer benevolent refuges for vegans and non-vegans alike. Beautifully simple, the vegan theory is this: If consumers insist on vegan products and meals, the demand for meat and animal by-products will plummet. Accordingly, if the demand for animal flesh drops, the meat industry will no longer have the means or the need to clear-cut forests or build factory farms, thereby drastically reducing resource depletion, contributions to global warming, and pollution. Arguably, one could say that if it came to fruition, the vegan theory would resemble a strong shimmering chain of reactions that would ultimately hold the earth in perfect balance.

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