This weekend BBC Radio 4 did a programme on veganism. You can listen here, although I'm not sure if that link will work outside the UK.
They talked about all the reasons to eat a plant-based diet, talked to several converts, including hard-core meat eaters (such as Mark Bittman) and explored the "mainstreaming" of veganism, particularly in Germany, where there are several all-vegan supermarkets.
The only problem I have with discussions like these, particularly with Mark Bittman's "vegan before six" approach, is that it glorifies meat. The Bittmans and Pollacks love to talk about how meat should be reserved for a special occasion, a "feast" day. In other words, a special day just isn't complete without meat.
But if a special day needs meat to be special, couldn't every day really use a little meat to make it a little more special? And pretty soon you're back to where you started: or, if you're Mark Bittman, you're already there.
In one of Dean Ornish's books, which advocates a low-fat vegetarian diet, he talks about switching from whole-fat milk to fat-free milk, not in gradual stages but all at once. His reasoning? If you drink whole milk one day, then fat-free the next, and whole milk the day after that, you'll always feel deprived on those days you don't drink whole milk.
Likewise, if you reserve meat for special occasions, or after six (which, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't dinnertime the usual time of the day for consuming meat anyway?), you end up never getting over the idea that meat is necessary for a good time.
It's not, trust me.
Don't get me wrong; I think every little bit (err...Bittman) helps: helps the environment, helps your health, and definitely helps the animals' health. So I don't begrudge people who advocate for part-time approaches that, at the very least, lead to better health.
But I want to see plant-based diets glorified in the way that, say, a bacon-based diet is. I want to see cashew basil cream treated with the respect it deserves, rather than a begrudging replacement for the "real" thing. I want people to realize that those of us who eschew bacon are not deprived in any way.
Maybe I want too much, too soon. And as the BBC programme reveals, veganism has come a long way, baby. Many people are eating more plants, and fewer animals, even if after six they still pig out on flesh-based meals. So, if VB6 floats your boat, go for it.
Just don't expect it to be any easier than going whole, well, hog.