A Northern Vegans THANKSGIVING

MARQUETTE – A Thanksgiving meal without the turkey might seem like a sin to some people, but for those involved with the community group Northern Vegans it’s actually a virtue.

The group will host its 10th annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner at 2 p.m. Nov. 24 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 520 U.S. 41, Negaunee.

“We encourage everyone to bring a vegan dish to share, but we’re going to have plenty of food there,” said Kevin Crupi, a member of the group.

If attendees are unable to bring a vegan dish, participants are asked to consider donating $5 to the group. Anyone is welcome to attend.

Vegan dishes don’t contain any meat, dairy products, eggs or honey, which are all items Crupi has lived without since the early 1990s when he transitioned to a vegan lifestyle after growing up in a “typical meat and potatoes” kind of family.

“We never even had pets,” he recalled. “My mom didn’t like pets, they were too dirty. … So I never even really got to interact with animals closely. But then when I was actually in the Air Force, I was at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and they had a pet shelter on base.”

Crupi said he had been interested in adopting a cat and eventually ended up taking two of them home. Then one day when he was feeding his cats, his outlook on what he had been eating his entire life changed.

“I was watching them eat and I was making a meal out of ground beef, hamburger, whatever I was making that day. I just started thinking, how can I be treating my cats so lovingly, but then yet supporting, or eating meat from animals that were treated so inhumanely by factory farmers,” he asked himself. “And that’s how I made the connection. It just hit me all of a sudden that one day, that I need to make a transition away from that lifestyle. If I’m going to love my two cats, I have to treat all animals that way. My cats are capable of feeling pain and being just like humans – I mean, obviously they’re not as smart as people – but they’re capable of feeling pain like that. Why am I supporting an industry that’s mistreating animals so inhumanely?”

So began his transition to a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle.

In 2006, he and his wife along with two other couples began laying the ground work for a vegan group, and the year after Northern Vegans held its first Thanksgiving potluck.

Northern Vegans, Crupi explained, was somewhat founded on three major principles: to prevent cruelty to animals; to improve human health; and benefit the environment.

Preventing Animal Cruelty

“Most animals today are not raised on Old MacDonald’s Farm,” Crupi said. “They’re raised in factory farms where animals are in cramped, filthy, filthy conditions where they’re forced to endure all kinds of cruelties.”

Last year in the U.S. there was 23.8 billion pounds of beef produced for human consumption, down 2 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Slaughter 2015 Summary.

Commercial cattle slaughter that year totaled 28.8 million head, with figures for commercial hog slaughter at 115.4 million and commercial sheep and lamb slaughter at 2.22 million head.

Meanwhile, the animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, estimates about 9 billion chickens are killed in the U.S. each year for food, and 305 million hens are used for their eggs.

“We kill 10 billion animals a year, mostly poultry, … in the U.S. to feed us,” Crupi said. “But due to consumer demand for cheap meat, these factory farmers obviously skimp and try to save as much as possible, and that’s why these animals are treated so cruelly, and horribly mistreated.”

The largest 13 production plants – out of the 808 slaughtering animals in the country – were responsible for 57 percent of the total cattle killed and 60 percent of the total hogs killed, according to the USDA report.

Improving Human Health

“The American Dietetic Association, this group of physicians, and other medical groups have found that vegans on average have lower body weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, along with lower rates of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer,” Crupi said. “I mean, these are some of the biggest killers of people in the United States.”

There are also concerns that vegan diets don’t provide people with enough protein. But Crupi said all plants have some amounts of protein, and that most people already eat too much of it.

“The average American diet is too high in protein,” he said. “Too much meat, dairy and eggs … Again, the American Dietetic Association said that too much protein results in elevated levels of kidney diseases, kidney stones, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer.”

Benefitting the Environment

Crupi said fewer animals for human consumption would mean fewer acres for grazing and ultimately less deforestation, which could also ease environmental impacts on global warming.

There would also be less water use for both animal consumption and to support the crops they eat, he said, as well as a lower risk of animal waste infiltrating human water supplies.

In addition to not eating meat or animal by-products, the Northern Vegans group also doesn’t use clothing or other items made from animals, such as furs or leather.

“We advocate a vegan lifestyle where we encourage people to completely (follow) plant-based living,” Crupi said. “It’s very easy to do this nowadays.”

Occasionally they organize a picnic at someone’s house, but the group also visits local restaurants once a month, typically at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday.

“People don’t have to be … 100 percent vegan to join us, but we ask that they order vegan items … off the menu,” Crupi said.

The next meeting is set for Dec. 7 at Sweet Water Cafe – 517 N. Third St., Marquette – followed by a Jan. 11 meeting at the Marquette Food Co-op, at 502 W. Washington St., Marquette.

Crupi said resources for those interested in becoming vegan have been donated to local libraries by his group.

For more information on Northern Vegans, visit northernvegans.com, email info@northernvegans.com or call 906-236-1279.

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal.net.