Yes! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, founded in 1917, is the world’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals. They say that a well-planned vegan diet is adequate for all stages of life (even for athletes and pregnant women), and that it is better for the environment. Vegans are less likely to experience certain health issues, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Changing your eating practices should be done with caution. We live in a society that encourages us to eat certain things, so naturally, walking a different path requires learning new habits. But don’t worry, it’s easy! We have some resources that will set you in the right direction
The short answer is yes. Vitamin B12 is the main nutrient of concern, as farmed animal products are the primary sources for most people. Vegans can get an adequate intake from eating kai fortified with B12 (e.g. some plant-based milks), but taking a B12 supplement is the safest source, and is often more convenient and cost effective.
Food sovereignty promotes peoples’ right to use their own strategies in regard to access and production of sustainable and culturally appropriate kai.
Colonisation has driven the spread of animal agriculture and dietary change all over the world. Local animal agriculture directly harms our ability to produce food into the future, because our intensive farming methods are depleting and polluting our soil and freshwater. This has also led to the loss of mahinga kai practices for many iwi. We’re currently required to take resources from other countries to prop up this unsustainable system, which in turn also harms the food sovereignty of others.
A plant-based diet has been described as the single biggest thing we can do as individuals to help fight climate change, which is the greatest threat to global food sovereignty. Furthermore, plant-based foods require significantly fewer resources to produce than animal-based foods, making it a great choice for te taiao.
Our tūpuna had a lot of tikanga that we’re not comfortable repeating in modern society, and the same is true of all peoples. Furthermore, our old people were masters at adapting, and they did this very often. Now that we’re armed with mātauranga around plant-based nutrition and the benefits of respecting the many different children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, it’s no surprise that a lot of Māori are embracing veganism. Many of us view it as aligned with values from te ao Māori, particularly around hauora, tiakitanga, and rangatiratanga.
Hunting involves killing animals for food. Animals who live in the sea – sea mammals, fish, crustaceans (e.g. crabs, lobsters), molluscs (e.g. pāua) and bivalves (e.g. mussels, oysters) – are all part of the animal kingdom. Neither hunting, nor eating animals as kaimoana, are consistent with a vegan diet.
For rāranga (weaving) and whakairo (carving), there are traditional plant materials still available to us today that can be used to create modern taonga, making the avoidance of using animals easy and in fact normal.
Some taonga have been made and passed down from our ancestors. Some of these contain animal materials. If you’re able to ask your whānau, here’s something you might consider: did an animal suffer or have their life taken from them specifically for the creation of this taonga? Or, are the materials used (e.g. bone or feathers) by-products from an animal that was killed for another reason, considered necessary at the time?
Certain animal materials can be used in alignment with vegan values. Feathers, for example, can be obtained easily from animals that have passed naturally in the wild, from molting chickens or from ducks along the banks of lakes and ponds.
Āe mārika! Of course! Just remember the importance of respect and reciprocity.
On the marae, like visiting a friend’s house, give them a heads up about any dietary preferences to allow your host to manaaki you as best as possible. No host wants their manuhiri to go without kai. Also, it’s often a good idea to bring some vegan kai with you – a contribution, for everyone to share.
If you’re unsure who to contact, speak to the organiser of your marae visit. If you’re attending as an individual, speak to the group who is organising the hui, or call the marae ahead of time / contact them via their website.
Promptly letting people know you’re vegan, when the time is appropriate, can make things less awkward for others. You can do this ahead of time, too – if you think you’re likely to be offered kai, give your host a heads up and if they sound unsure about what to prepare, try offering some easy meal ideas or to bring your own kai. The most important thing is to be respectful: accepting what you can eat or drink, patiently explaining your reasons when you decide to decline something, and expressing appreciation for your hosts’ manaakitanga can help everyone feel good.
Be kind to yourself. We’ve all been there! What’s important is the intention behind our actions, not the accidents that sometimes happen. Treat it as a learning experience, and explore how to prevent a similar problem in the future.
If you’ve knowingly eaten something that isn’t vegan, consider how you might avoid this in the future. If you were tempted by non-vegan chocolate, think about buying some vegan chocolates to have on hand for next time. There’s an overwhelming number of vegan alternatives for most of the food we love. Check out A Guide To Vegan for inspiration!
Don’t worry, you’ll find them! Veganism is growing, and more and more Māori are making the change. If you’re looking for support online, the Māori and Pasifika Vegans group on Facebook is your go-to! The group, which now has over 1,600 members, was established to support people transitioning to a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle, with a focus on how to maintain it while still being able to enjoy cultural activities with whānau and friends.