There’s now a support group and 12-step program for people trying to go vegan. Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous will host its first weekly meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at 16th and Q streets NW.
The group was co-founded by a woman named Jane (the group’s anonymous so she didn’t want to share her last name), who has been sober from alcohol for 20 years and “sober from meat and dairy” for 18 years. Jane lives in New York but started the group in D.C. because of the meeting space provided by PETA here.
“For me, overcoming addiction or staying sober one day at a time is a spiritual journey,” Jane says. “And veganism is also a spiritual journey.”
Jane says she was inspired to start the group with her partner after running into a lot of people who wanted to switch to a plant-based diet but didn’t have a support system and were struggling with cravings. “The parallels to alcohol, to me, were staggering,” she says.
There are already many programs that address other addictions, including gambling, smoking, sex, or food. “Within the subset of food, I feel that meat and dairy are definitely addictive. There are definitely cravings,” Jane says.
Jane says the 12-step program for Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous is “inspired by” that of Alcoholics Anonymous, whose first step is admitting you are powerless over your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. Some of the steps required some tweaking, though. For example, step No. 8 of AA is making a list of all the people who you have harmed and making amends. In MDEA, the step has more to do with the animals you’ve consumed over the years, rather than people, and making amends by, first and foremost, no longer eating them.
During the meetings, there will be a speaker (Jane will say some words at the first get-together) and then people are welcome to share their own stories and struggles. Similarly to AA, participants will also have “sponsors” who’ve already gone vegan and can help with the transition.
“For a lot of people, getting rid of animal products is really overwhelming,” says PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt. “Having a sponsor or someone who has already made the switch and started to reap the benefits can make that so, so much easier.”
Rajt says she would have appreciated something like that when she was growing up.
“When I was young and I was living in a small town in the Midwest, I decided to go vegetarian, and I was the only vegetarian I knew of,” Rajt says. Her family didn’t make it any easier, teasing her about it and eating her (formerly) favorite meat dishes in front of her. “I would have been so grateful for a group of people who were supportive of my choice and helped mentor me a little bit.”
Although PETA is not involved in organizing the group, the advocacy organization is supporting it and providing sites for them to meet. Jane would like to expand the group to New York, and PETA has also offered its office space in Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif., and Norfolk, Va. for others to form a group.