Author, activist and lifetime vegan Anne Dinshah visited the University last Wednesday to participate in the campus celebration of National Nutrition Month.
Dinshah was invited to speak in Driscoll Auditorium about her experiences living as a vegan and her latest book, “Dating Vegans.” The book, which contains vegan recipes interspersed throughout the chapters, relates a series of comical anecdotes about her experiences living as a vegan in a predominantly non-vegan culture.
The event was organized by Dining Services and attended by members of the Villanova Environmental Group as well as the larger University community. Dinshah’s presentation was part of Wednesday’s Veggie Mania Day celebrations.
Other events throughout the day included a lunchtime cooking demo in Donahue Hall and the 2013 Veggie Mania dinner, which featured innovative vegetarian options in all three resident dining halls.
Dinshah’s visit to campus was part of a larger effort to spread the word about veganism and encourage a more open approach to the alternative lifestyle.
Though efforts by Dining Services and student groups such as VEG and the recently created Just Food club have increased awareness of animal rights and environmental concerns in recent years, there is still a great deal of potential for education related to alternative dietary options such as veganism.
The vegan diet is characterized by the absence of any meat or animal products, including dairy and eggs.
However, as Dinshah explained during her presentation, the lifestyle consists of more than the diet.
Vegans also actively choose to avoid clothing or consumables that contain animal products, such as wool or cosmetics made with animal ingredients.
Individuals choose to be vegan for a number of reasons, including animal rights, concern for environmental impact and health. Social factors can also feature prominently in the lifestyle choice, as many vegans are joined by spouses or loved ones.
“It’s always been the ethical part that touches me,” Dinshah said when asked about the motives behind her own veganism.
She went on to explain that a greater awareness of the way animals are treated in the food industry has been the primary factor behind her own commitment to the vegan lifestyle. Dinshah also elaborated on some of the environmental concerns that influence many individuals’ choice to adopt veganism. Raising livestock for slaughter requires enormous amounts of land and agricultural feed products such as soy, products that could, according to Dinshah, be better spent serving consumers directly rather than livestock.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, the average American consumes 195 pounds of meat in his or her yearly diet. While raising the livestock to feed this diet requires over three acres of land, growing produce to be consumed directly requires less than one acre annually. Dinshah encouraged her listeners to replace meat products with beans, nuts and other vegan alternatives. Doing so could not only reduce waste products but make for more humane food system, she said.
Dinshah was raised by vegan parents and has been committed to making animal product-free choices all her life. Her father, H. Jay Dinshah, was a lifelong activist and founder of the American Vegan Society. His work on behalf of veganism inspired Dinshah to publicize her writing and stay committed to the vegan way of life.
A native of southern New Jersey, Dinshah has traveled extensively throughout the country, both to promote veganism and in her profession as a rowing coach. She challenges her athletes and listeners to incorporate more vegetables into their daily diets by telling them to “eat the rainbow,” a slogan that encourages seeking out a variety of different vegetables and fruits.
In addition to “Dating Vegans,” she has authored three cookbooks, including “Healthy, Hearty Helpings,” “The 4 Ingredient Vegan” and a book of vegan recipes for children entitled “Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook.” She is also an assistant editor of American Vegan, a quarterly magazine published by the American Vegan Society.
One of the aims of Dinshah’s talk was to dispel the negative stereotypes non-vegans often have about the alternative lifestyle. Many non-vegans are narrow-minded about experimenting with other food options or lack understanding of the motives behind the lifestyle choice.
Dinshah recounted several humorous stories for her audience about her dining experiences with non-vegan friends and dating partners. Her guests are often pleasantly surprised, she said, by how much they enjoy the vegan alternatives such as tofu and leafy green vegetables that feature in her dishes.
“Be who you are and interact with people who may not think like you,” Dinshah said to her audience.
Interacting with vegans and others who have adopted healthier, alternative lifestyles is the first step to creating mutual understanding of the underlying issues and concerns.
Following the presentation, attendees were invited to join Dinshah in the lobby for conversation and refreshments featuring recipes from Dinshah’s cookbooks. Selections included artichoke dip, fudge and edamame bruschetta made using healthful vegan ingredients.