Meat Free in Boy-See

January 3, 2019

Enjoying a plant-based diet

By Barb Law Shelley

Photography by Kimberlee Miller

I was four years old when I realized that the cows on our family farm were being served on my supper plate. I took a stand, refusing to eat my animal friends. But this was in animal agriculture country decades ago. I gave up the battle rather than take the corporal punishment headed my way. I developed a conscience-gnawing case of cognitive dissonance. It was years before I lived true to my young self and stopped eating animals.

Reading science-based books, such as The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist who wrote a comprehensive study of nutrition, diet and death rates in more than 2,400 Chinese counties, provided my motivation to be a plant eater.

A year ago, I moved back to Idaho, a state heavily invested in dairy and animal agriculture. I felt some trepidation. In the larger metropolitan areas where I had lived prior, it is common to find dozens of fully vegan restaurants, enormous grocery produce departments, annual vegan festivals attended by thousands and active social groups. In Boise, would I be able to find other people like me? Would I ever eat at a restaurant again?

A July 2018 Gallup Poll reported that up to eight percent of Americans are plant-based. By definition plant-based eaters seek to avoid all animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) and to limit processed foods including sugar, salt, oil, and flour. Their focus is health. Vegans also avoid animal products including honey and gelatin. Their focus is preventing animal slaughter and eliminating factory farming. As many as 150 billion animals annually are slaughtered for human food.

This lifestyle involves people concerned about the damage animal agriculture does to the environment—think manure lagoons and forests demolished to grow cattle food. No matter how one comes to the plant-based lifestyle, it has the same result—better health, environmental protection and fewer animals die. As a bonus, most people lose weight on a plant-based diet as long as they also exercise and avoid processed foods.

The health benefits can’t be overemphasized. Associate Pastor Ken Melin of the Meridian Friends Church, experienced pre-diabetes for more than a decade when his doctor warned him that his condition was deteriorating and would require medication. Ken did not want to take drugs. Online research led him to the fact that a plant-based lifestyle can prevent or reverse diabetes. In a few weeks, his blood test proved that he had reversed his disease and would not need medication.

Boise restaurants have started to offer vegan options on their menus. For me, the Taj Mahal and Wild Root Café have been especially accommodating. 

Vegan groups are blossoming on social media. On Meetup, find the Whole Food Plant-Based for Life Support Group (meets monthly at the Boise Library), Treasure Valley Vegans and Idaho Veggies and Vegans. On Facebook, search for Boise Area Vegan and Vegetarians.

In 2017, Boise State University students formed the Animal Compassion Club with 100 students on their email distribution list. President Caitlin Recla says the club helps people understand where meat comes from.

This lifestyle is in the germination stage in Boise, and the movement’s future is bright.