Vegan Uncensored: No Vegans in the Peace Corps!

“So, if it was a choice between being vegan and joining the Peace Corps, you’d answer . . . .” 

“Vegan,” I filled in. He had asked it nonchalantly, just another question in a long interview that covered many aspects of my life. No, I wouldn’t mind taking out piercings. Yes, I’d be willing to cover up my tattoos and dress modestly. Yes, I understand I might have to conform to certain cultural traditions that I might disagree with. I admit I was caught a little off guard, but I wasn’t really taken aback by the bluntness of his statement.  I quickly answered vegan, trying to help the recruiter build an accurate picture of me. I didn’t realize that that moment was—in effect—the end of the interview.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At that point, I had been vegan for 3 ½ years. I had come to the decision slowly, first being vegetarian for a couple years. I had no guide down this path, no one inspiration. I thought about numerous factors and decided that vegan was the right choice. I didn’t have much support either, in the beginning. I was surrounded by meat eaters and it was rare to find a vegan. I persevered and while sometimes my choice made it difficult to find food, it was never impossible. With a little planning, it wasn’t even a big deal. In those few years, I had lived in the Netherlands, Italy, Japan and a few places in the U.S. I had traveled in Morocco for a few weeks. I survived, I stayed healthy—and I learned how to ask for vegan food in a few different languages.

I think my desire to join the Peace Corps was related to my veganism—my desire to lessen suffering in the world overall, to contribute what I could to the world and enjoy myself in the process. I researched the Corps extensively before I decided to apply. Their website said many vegetarians had served successfully and stressed the importance of being flexible. I also found blog posts of a few vegetarians currently serving. I didn’t find much about vegans serving, and it is more restrictive, but after my research I decided it would be possible. I could be flexible—I wouldn’t mind skipping a meal or monotonously eating the same food if it was vegan. However—as I found out much later–that was not what they meant.

I started the application process and it took three months to get the interview. I filled out a long application, wrote essays,  and got recommendations. I went through a slew of paperwork: ensuring I could take care of my student loans while serving, a notarized statement from my mother saying she would take over my credit card payment if necessary, official college and law school transcripts. I had to be fingerprinted and send those cards in. Through it all, I was in constant contact with my recruiter. When he had received everything, we scheduled an interview. On an incredibly hot day in July, I boarded a Chinatown bus in Philly and went up to New York City for the interview. 

I was dressed professionally and arrived early. Already off to a good start, I thought. At an early point in the interview I mentioned being vegan and he said we’d discuss that later. We talked for maybe half an hour before it came up again. He gave me scenarios:

“What if the village chief slaughtered a goat just for you?” he asked, looking up.

“I wouldn’t eat it,” I answered.

I found the question odd. I wasn’t someone who occasionally ate meat. I thought the word “vegan” made it clear that I did not eat animal products under any circumstances. These few scenarios ended with the question about joining the Peace Corps or being vegan. Then we moved on. At the end of the interview, he had me fill out a vegetarian questionnaire with a few more scenarios. I thought I gave thoughtful, well-reasoned answers—yet my responses always stated that I would continue my vegan diet. I gave him my questionnaire, he read my answers, and then he started to wrap things up.

As I was gathering my things, I asked what the next steps in the process would involve. He talked about medical checkups in the next few months and the availability of assignments. Then, he paused.

“But, actually, I can’t move forward at this point,” he stated.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I thought the interview had went well.

With this,” he indicated my vegetarian questionnaire, “I can’t move on unless you’re willing to be flexible.”

“I am,” I responded, “I know my diet will probably have to change. I’m willing to occasionally skip a meal or eat the same foods.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

 I don’t remember the exact wording of the conversation after that, but his point soon became clear. He never actually said it, I admit. But to him (and the Peace Corps?) being flexible meant being willing to eat meat. He didn’t mention my vegan choice of avoiding eggs and dairy, all the examples involved meat. The questionnaire said of vegetarians, “While some have found adequate food items in the country’s diet, many more have had to adjust their diets in order to remain healthy and maintain good relations within their communities.” It suddenly dawned on me, “adjusting your diet” meant being willing to eat meat.  To me, that made no sense. A “flexible” vegetarian would then be an omnivore. He made it even more clear.

 “Earlier, when I said you could be vegan or join the Peace Corps. . . that’s pretty much the choice. It’s one or the other.” He stated it so directly; I was surprised. I hesitated.

“I wish I would have known this earlier,” I quietly replied.

“Well, I didn’t know you were vegan,” he said.

I wanted to scream, “You didn’t ask!” and inform him that the website said vegetarians were ok. I was too upset. I told him I would consider “being flexible” and  left the office. He gave me a day to decide. I didn’t know it at the moment, but my mind was already made. I talked to friends that evening. Some suggested I lie and agree to be “flexible”. That’ll show ‘em. They say I can’t be vegan, but I will!  I considered it, but decided against it.  It didn’t seem like the best way to start out my years serving and I thought it might come back to haunt me.  I knew what I would choose, it just took me a while to admit it to myself. I had already invested so much time. And letting go of the Peace Corps meant throwing my life up in the air for the next few years. But I knew what it would be. The next day I made the decision. Vegan.

So no Peace Corps for me. I wrote a long email and copied in the New York recruiting office, the head of the Peace Corps, and their complaint office. I never received a reply from any of them. Just to be clear, I’m not asking the Peace Corps to change their policy. Maybe it is efficient if they only accept omnivores. I think it’s a great program (obviously, I wanted to join) and a wonderful choice for many people (including vegetarians, from what I read online). I wish they were able to take dietary considerations into account when assigning volunteers. The vegetarian questionnaire says the Peace Corps “cannot guarantee you an assignment that will enable you to maintain your dietary preferences. . .”. I would not have minded waiting longer for an assignment where it would be easier for me to be vegan; I would even be willing to do the research on the food available myself. Unfortunately, that’s not their policy.

I do  think that they should be straightforward about their stance. If their website had stated, “We cannot accommodate vegans and vegetarians unless they are willing to eat meat sometimes,” (I’m using their definition of “flexible”), well, then, I probably would not have spent the three months applying. My recruiter said, “I am not allowed to move forward with your application unless you are willing to be flexible.” He implied that it was policy or someone above him that made the decision, not him. I just wish I had known.

It all worked out ok for me in the end. I’m now at a fabulous job with a great group of people. I don’t have to cover up tattoos or take out piercings, and vegan food is abundant. The day of my Peace Corps interview was a very tough day for me, but it led me to where I am now. And the next time someone gives me an ultimatum that involves ___________ or being vegan, I won’t hesitate to answer.

Lala Stone lstone01@temple.edu

Vegan Uncensored is a weekly space on this blog where people can bring interesting topics of discussion to do with veganism to the fore. Read it, respond to it, pass it on to your friends – vegan and non-vegan – through Facebook, Twitter, or by sending them a link to this blog. Do you have a vegan issue you’d like to see in this space, or are you interested in being a guest contributor here? Email editor@veganmainstream.com.

By | 2016-10-17T10:42:36+00:00 September 9th, 2010|Vegan Uncensored|58 Comments

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  • Anna

    It’s not a great program. Trust me, you didn’t miss out. there are a million other ways to do good in the world (and travel and make money while doing it).

  • George

    I served with a couple vegans and they did just fine. During training Peace Corps let them know how hard it can be but basically left it up the volunteers to decide how to approach the matter. It was hard for them to explain this idea of veganism to Africans (A lot of people don’t realize that yes fish and chicken is meat too) but in the end people in their village learned more about the nutrition that doesn’t come from just animals. I don’t know why the recruiter spoke to you that way, it could have been a great learning moment for everyone involved.

  • when the recruiter asked you about eating a goat that was killed and your honor and you said you wouldn’t eat it indicated inflexibility because your one of you main goals as a peace corps volunteer is to become integrated in the community you serve in, and refusing to eat would be considered rude or ungrateful by the community you are in. in order to exchange ideas with your hosts (about veganism and why you practice it) you first need to understand the practices in the country you are in. he’s not saying you’d have to eat a whole goat every day, he’s saying there are cultural differences between america and developing countries and before you can teach them about you as an american you need to understand them. i know vegans that have served without an issue because they understood this. and often once they became a part of the community they were serving in, they were able to follow a vegan diet after taking the time to allow these types of exchanges. i’d ask you to reconsider because it was an extremely rewarding experience for me (and i was a veg for 10 years so i understand parts of what you’re saying) but you need to be able to understand that many of these countries operate significantly different than us. in mongolia, it’s quite difficult to grow veg’s and fruits so a majority of everyone’s diet IS meat. that’s all that is available. hope this helps.

  • Armansky

    I’m glad someone like you didn’t get into the Peace Corps. You have clearly failed to understand that your dietary preference is a luxury you can afford in a deveoped country, but to believe that your “preference” should be accomodated by everyone else around is what’s absourd. The likelihood of you being able to survive for 27 months without eating meat, either on purpose or becuase you didn’t know (and that happens all the time) is somewhere between zero and “most likely not going to happen”.

    Further, you were given a choice. Even after the recruiter told you why he couldn’t move you forward, you coudl have changed your mind and said you would alter your diet. You stayed adamant. You made your choice and consequently, the recruiter made his (and I agree, the correct) choice.

    Finally, if you are this inflexible about changing your “luxury” of being able to eat only vegan, how could the Peace Corps trust you, you who would be an Ambassador of the U.S., to not be rigidly inflexible to any number of things once you were in country (i.e. your accomodations, or how you are treated as a woman, or how animals are treated in the community, or any other thing that is completely in line with “their” way of life, but radically different than yours).

    You were not moved forward because you demonstarted poor emotional maturity and poor cross-cultural understanding by not be willing and flexible to adjust your lifestyle to that of the community and people you are serving. I’m sorry, but it’s plain selfish to assume when you enter a third-world country that they should accomodate your needs and not the other way around.

    Bam.

  • Vanessa

    I feel like there was a cultural point that you may have missed here. I understand the desire to want to continue your lifestyle because, here in America, you are afforded that option. We are plagued with an overabundance of food in our country and there is a lot of food waste, and meat production methods in certain areas (I can admit this even as a meat eater) are questionable. However, where I served in Peace Corps, being a vegetarian just wasn’t a feasible option, unless you wanted to get really sick and in turn be medically separated. There is no way to miss meals or survive a long winter on just potatoes or rice when vegetable prices sky-rocket and you aren’t able to afford good, healthy alternatives on your living stipend. In the developing world, people are malnourished and starving to death because they don’t have enough food. But, when you enter into your village as a Peace Corps volunteer, those individuals who are so hungry would gladly give up what they have to make sure you have a full belly and feel welcomed in your new community. So I ask this: if you went into a situation where a host country national slaughtered their only goat to prepare a huge celebratory meal for you, would you refuse it? Would you be able to reject this gift from someone who may have to go hungry for the next month or more because you want to continue what is comfortable for you? If the answer is yes, then that is completely fine and it is a clear sign Peace Corps isn’t right for you. There is a reason only 200,000 individuals in 50 years have completed their service….it isn’t for everyone because of all of the hardships inherent in this work. There are plenty of other programs that allow you to customize your volunteer service in regards to where you go and what you do. But since you are supported 100% by Peace Corps from the day you leave America until the day you get back, the least they can ask of you in return is a little flexibility.

  • Missdonna89

    Peace Corps is a wonderful program and if you want to travel AND make money, then PC is not for you. If you want to travel, only, do not join. Joining is about learing to accept other cultures and to see what “help” THEY want. It is sad that you did not ask for that recruiters supervisor and comtinue with the interview. Please do not judge PC by one person’s narrow minded ideas. There is a good point as to being flexible about your diet and missing one meal or so is not really the issue. I was in a village and there were no stores and no refrigeration and I often had to eat things that I was not sure of but there might be weeks of that….not a day or so. We had PCV’s in isolated villages where you could be in the bush for months at a time, with few options…..so it could have been an issue, being a vegan. Sorry it all left a negative “taste in your mouth” as Peace Corps has done some wonderful things throughout the world, I know, as I served.

  • Lala Stone

    My veganism is more than a dietary preference, it’s an ethical choice. I believe killing and eating an animal is just as wrong as killing and eating a human. I wouldn’t assist in the practice of female genital mutilation nor would I participate in the stoning of a person. I think these cultural practices are morally wrong. In these examples, the Peace Corps agrees with me so there would not be a problem. If I would have known they would not be willing to even try to accommodate a veg*n, I would not have applied.

    Most of the world doesn’t agree that eating an animal is morally wrong and I will never be able to change their mind. This isn’t the main issue here. As I said in the article, I’m not asking the Peace Corps to change their policy. I would like if they stated it up front. And, maybe it’s not even their policy, just my recruiter’s opinion. I could not get a response from the Peace Corps.

  • JC

    To the people saying that being vegetarian/vegan is a “luxury” and that you should eat what the locals give you, I ask: If you were among a cannibal tribe and they offered you a meal of human flesh, would you eat it? That’s similar to how many vegans feel about eating, for instance, a goat offered by the locals.

  • Yvonsipe

    Flexibility – that is the “F” word in the Peace Corps! We must have heard that word 500 times more or less during our incountry training. If you can not be flexible in whatever country you are sent to, you will definitely be a most miserable volunteer. Peace Corps is not about you, but what you can do for others especially those less fortunate. Like MissDonna89 said, the Peace Corps is a wonderful program. I firmly believe it is the best public relations (pr) program the United States has to offer to other countries. The benefits of serving outweigh any sacrifices you have to make to intergrate into a culture of a third-world developing country. It will not only change your perspective of the country you serve but also your view of the world and its many peoples. Can’t do it though if you are not flexible!

  • mary

    I do not believe there is an actual “policy” about not selecting vegans to serve as volunteers. Refusing the food someone offers you in Africa is tantamount to saying “I spit on you, your mother, your family, and your ancestors.” Refusing food is more than just ungrateful or rude, it is offensive. Food symbolizes sustenance, acceptance, love, honor, etc. During my time of service, I ate many things I would never have here (elephant, snake, monkey, goat, civet, pigeon, porcupine, alligator, etc.) because the person offering it was so proud and pleased to be able to do so. It honored them that I ate what they had prepared.
    Additionally, Peace Corps has many people applying to serve as volunteers, more than they need. I knew people who left by their own choice after a few months of training because they missed a boyfriend or found nothing they could comfortably eat due to their beliefs. Peace Corps spends money training volunteers, and allots a certain number of spots for each country. They need to know volunteers are going to stay. In your case, I believe they were being proactive in protecting their investment, due to the fact that you demonstrated your lack of ability to adapt. Though you may have a great deal to contribute, I do not think the third world would suit you.

  • Lala, Thank you for this extremely well written article about your experience and congratulations on not wavering. What many of the people commenting seem not to understand is that being vegan has an implied period; there is no “flexibility”. I am sure that a compassionate person such as yourself has or will find a way to contribute to the world in a manner that far surpasses anything you would have accomplished by joining a program that would have you blindly agree to sacrifice your ethics rather than work with you and respect your compassionate lifestyle. Just as a point of interest, I wonder if the Peace Corps also expects a Jewish or Muslim person with dietary restrictions to be similarly “flexible”?

  • L. F.

    Perhaps the flexibility the recruiter was looking for was actually the ability to contemplate philosophical struggle. Maybe it’s eating something you’re morally opposed to, or maybe it’s allowing yourself to fulfill a gender role you are morally opposed to, or work with a person you are morally at odds with; no matter what your morals are, there is a good chance they will come in conflict if you volunteer for the Peace Corps. Perhaps being able to admit that such a conflict would be a personal struggle that you are aware of and ready to face is a better strategy than knowing you wouldn’t ever try any goat. Not that I’m saying you have to eat goat- I don’t think I did. Maybe “being a volunteer and being a vegan are both incredibly important to me- I would work really hard to find a solution that allowed me to do both” would be have shown more of that kind of flexibility.

    In my Peace Corps experience, the types of moral battles I faced were different than yours, many of them centering on how the host culture viewed women, prostitution, and the spread of HIV. I had a moral opposition to so much of this, and yet, I was also morally opposed to being That American Who Comes In And Tells Everyone What To Think. These were my community members, coworkers, and my friends, and part of my commitment to the Peace Corps was to find a way to make a difference from within the community, not from the outside.

    So many people have already said it, and I think it bears repeating: the Peace Corps is not for everyone. I support your recruiter’s decision, or whoever’s decision it was.

  • Jen

    I think what the other people are commenting on is that Peace Corps (as an organization) and your recruiter (as a person) could give a hoot if you choose not to consume animal byproducts — it’s your business. The people who care will be the members of your community, and if you’re living in a village where people are starving to death every day and you want to try to explain to them the concept of turning down entire broad categories of food after they slaughter a goat to honor you, you clearly don’t belong in the Peace Corps. It’s not even about being “rugged” or “open-minded” at that point, or being able to say “Hey, I ate ant larvae for breakfast,” it’s about understanding what 99% of the world is actually like.

    To reiterate, Peace Corps itself does not care if you only eat raw food or if you eat baby bunny heads every day; Peace Corps cares about your ability to gain your community’s trust, without which every single contribution you try to make will fail.

    And side note, in some places everything is cooked in lard and you will die of malnutrition unless your mom sends you boxes of Planter’s. Furthermore, your ability to scrounge up vegan alternatives in Tokyo and Amsterdam says absolutely nothing about whether you’d be able to survive as a vegan or even a vegetarian in the type of rural, isolated communities that volunteers usually serve in.

  • L.F.

    Yes, PC would expect that flexibility from volunteers with religiously-affiliated dietary restrictions. It’s not about the reason behind the diet as much as it is about the reality of food availability and potential cultural significance. The Peace Corps is really about the host country, the people who live there, and what they need from American Volunteers.

  • jka

    This is such BS.

    I live in Africa. My husband and I are vegan. We have NEVER in all our travels to even the most isolated rural areas EVER encountered a problem – there was always sufficient food (maize, beans, some fresh produce) and if you explain on arrival that that is your diet of choice, the people understand.

    Quite frankly, as an African, I find it wholly insulting that the Peace Core think of Africans as so unreasonable, so unthinking, so stuck in tradition that they would reject a vegan volunteer worker from their communities. Quite the opposite, they embrace and love the volunteers – regardless of dietary preference.

  • Joyce

    I understand your viewpoint JC with how adamantly you are committed to being a vegan and I respect it as well. I have friends who are vegetarian and vegans and I admire their ability to turn down a whole meal with meat. However, I again think you are missing the point. First, Peace Corps doesn’t place volunteers in any situations are volatile or dangerous for them to be in, so a volunteer would never be placed in a situation where cannibalism flourishes. Many people have already said it, but I’ll say it again. Peace Corps is NOT for everyone due to personal preferences and possibly the inability of an individual to give up part of their lifestyle that means so much to them. There are many other programs out there that could easily accommodate your choice to be vegan. However, in Peace Corps, it will most likely be difficult to integrate if you are never able to share and take part in the culture. It could be hard to gain trust and confidence if you never are able to partake in any of the food with your neighbors because it is meat based or cooked in lard as per the local custom. They may not understand your reasoning and take your refusal to eat what they have sacrificed to offer as an insult. I think we can all agree in that case, you may always be looked at as an outsider, never fully integrate, and never truly complete any successful projects.

    I don’t ask that you agree with me, but understand that we were all raised in America where we have the freedom to choose what we eat, but others in the third world eat what they have available to them, be it vegetables, rice, pasta, bread, or meat as a way to survive. Most of us in this country don’t understand what it truly feels like to be hungry, so who knows what each of us would eat or wouldn’t eat if we didn’t have the option?

  • HJM

    To accuse you of being a vegan for the fact that you are from a “developed” country, or that you have the “luxury” of choosing to not eat meat is downright unfair and uneducated of people to say on this comment page. I believe that for many people (perhaps even for Lala) the choice of what to eat is not just a dietary choice, but a conscious humanitarian/life/religious decision. There are Jains in India who don’t have huge monetary luxuries and are yet able to practice veganism because of their concern for all transient beings.
    Regardless of a person’s religion or personal beliefs Peace Corps does (or should) make an effort to find a placement for you. I (as an ovo-lacto vegetarian) was lucky to be given a placement in a country where the religion dictates about 1/3 of the calendar year to fasting on a vegan level. But that sort of placement isn’t easy to find. And I did have to be very clear about my comfort with meat eaters. In fact, I witnessed many calves, sheep, pigs, and chickens being slaughtered for ceremonies and festivals (because when they weren’t on fast they, as a culture, LOVED meat).
    Though it is unfortunate that Lala got an interview like that, I would say that it is never too late to try applying again. One of my Peace Corps friends went through the application/interview process five times before he was offered service. Sometimes there are just tough interviews, sometimes there are just not enough spaces available. Hopefully if you tried again they would be able to find a country that would have enough nutrients to serve your diet. If not, I hope you offer yourself to another volunteer organization out there because you seem like a genuine person who wants to connect and interact and support others.

  • ATK

    I am African who also happens to be an American citizen. I have lived Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer and also as a regular African individual.
    Ms. JKA – as you are aware, Africa is a continent. You cannot generalize and say that every African society will accept that some people do not take gifts (food) from people that at times they themselves struggle to obtain. There may be instances in which this individual who was rejected from Peace Corps may have had to choose between not eating or complete and total integration into her community (i.e. the consumption of a meat product or something that may have been cooked next to meat). Peace Corps cannot be responsible for someone who chooses to starve rather than maintain a healthy lifestyle. Suppose the rejected individual had ended up serving a Maassi community in Kenya or Tanzania and they offer her raw blood of a cow, then what? Living the life of a vegetarian or vegan is certainly a luxury for some. Short of the story…Peace Corps is also about the cultural integration, making strides and relationships with the people you are there to serve. It is NOT about you. As a proud African (and also RPCV), I do not find it offensive at all that the organization takes all of that into account. But that is just me. I could tell you stories about Vegans that I served with that found their service difficult because of their lifestyle but that would take a while. I just wanted to let you know that it is not about discrimination or anything at all like that if that is the implication – it is more about ensuring the health of an individual and making sure that they do indeed TRY to become a part of the society they are working in tandem with.

  • Luc_duchien

    Where are you getting that Peace Corps thinks that about Africans? First, Peace Corps is in a lot of places other than Africa. Second, Peace Corps never tells someone that they have to eat meat, dairy, alcohol or anything else. They are looking for a certain type of personality that is “flexible” and willing to do whatever it takes to integrate and be a success in their community. Like someone else here said, you don’t join Peace Corps to live the same life you did in the States, and people who are mainly looking out for number 1, are rightfully weeded out.

    I think drinking alcohol is wrong, but I served in a country in which it’s totally unheard of culturally not to drink alcohol. I told my recruiter that I was “flexible” and would taste the alcohol if i really needed to, but that i wouldn’t drink regularly or get drunk with people. That was enough. And that’s what i did for two years.

    More than likely, they could have (and would have) placed Lala in a country where there would be no problem with veganism. They were weeding her out because people who are inflexible tend to be a little more self-centered and self-righteous about things, and those people do worse in the long run. That’s just my opinion. I can’t speak for Peace Corps.

  • JMC

    As a person who worked in Peace Corps’ Headquarters’ Placement Office, I am grateful that the recruiter spared us all the time and energy that would have been spent on this. As far as the term “luxury” goes, we are not referring to the cost of being a vegan, we are referring to the luxury of choice. As many people have said, Peace Corps is about being flexible and yes, we would require the same flexibility of people with religious requirements whether it be with their diet or having access to a place to worship. While PC can try to accommodate certain needs, you are also applying for a job through a competitive process – not “joining” some club. We can and are selective and one of the criteria we look for is your willingness and ability to be flexible – not because we have some old boys’ club romanticism about “roughing it” but because the reality of the majority of the situations you will cope with will demand it.

    Many cultures are simply not able to accommodate a vegan or even a vegetarian simply because a sufficient amount of non-meat nutritious food is unavailable. Skipping a meal is not an option if your only choice is fish and rice three meals a day, seven days a week. PC also takes some responsibility for your health in that we will provide medical services for certain injuries/illnesses that one gets during service. As such, we are going to try to minimize the risk of that happening. And in this case, that means doing our best to ensure that you will do your best to ensure your own nutritional health.

    PC will not post it as a hard and fast policy because many people will simply lie, as some of your friends suggested, and then demand to be accommodated at post. This will not happen and then PC is stuck with the expense of flying you home, repairing the relationship (that you damaged) with the host community, and your being out of PC anyway.

    Incidentally, it is not just your veganism that would give me pause as a Placement Officer. You state, “I think my desire to join the Peace Corps was related to my veganism—my desire to lessen suffering in the world overall, to contribute what I could to the world and enjoy myself in the process,” indicates a level of immaturity and self-centeredness that would be concerning to me. While it’s true most Peace Corps Volunteers “enjoy themselves during the process,” that should not be one of main reasons you want to serve.

    Another example that would give me pause is the fact that you liken your experience in Italy, Japan, Morocco, and the Netherlands to how you would get by in Peace Corps service. In those instances, the areas that you were visiting were able to accommodate your desire. As before, this also indicates a level of immaturity that would cause me concern – you did not accommodate yourself to their culture, you simply required them to accommodate you. What if that simply was not possible? Would you allow yourself to become so malnourished as to cause yourself harm? If the answer is, “yes,” then again, Peace Corps would be unwilling to assume any risk for your health. (And I would also encourage you to interview a few malnourished, starving people first to get a true understanding of what that means and would possibly feel like.)

    Health and nutrition aside, food and culture are intrinsically linked. Food is used to welcome people home, to send people off, to provide emotional comfort, to show people we love them. This is true not only in American culture but in others as well. Picture the scene – your village in your new Pacific Island home has chased a wild boar around for hours. Finally, they captured it, slaughtered it, and cooked it deep in the earth for several hours in order to welcome you, their honored guest, to their village. After an hour or so of traditional singing and dancing, the village chief cuts off a piece of the boar and gives it to you. Everyone is not only watching you but the people who worked so hard to prepare this celebration, will not eat until you do. You turn it away by trying to explain that morality of eating meat? Doesn’t necessarily show a level of immaturity but does show, again, a level of self-centeredness.

    Bottom line, in this case, the recruiter did the right thing by giving you a chance to consider your choice and again by not moving your application forward once you made your choice.

  • LF

    Lala, I’d like to thank you for sharing this story with the world. It is well written and descriptive, and it is a great story of one person’s experience. I can understand how, from your perspective as a vehement vegan, any suggestion to consider NOT being vegan for any amount of time could seem like an attack on your ethics. I understand how you perceived the Peace Corps, in general, as pulling a bait-and-switch. In one breath, it says vegans can join the Peace Corps, and in another, your veganism was the reason your application was stopped. I can understand how this looked to you, and to many other vegans and vegetarians who are reading this. From your perspective, this looks like a terrible double standard.

    I think the world needs vehement vegans. The world, especially the United States, needs people who are unbending in their principals, who will put their ethics above all else, who will stop at nothing to maintain their sense of morality.

    That same vehemence that is so valuable in one context, that of creating change in the United States, is not appropriate for serving as a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps, for the reasons that have been so well stated below in other posts.

    I keep imagining the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where the village offers Indiana and his blonde companion (played by Kate Capshaw) some food that Kate finds disgusting. She refuses the food, and he tells her that it is more food than the villagers have eaten in a week. Kate Capshaw’s character has an absolute right not to eat whatever was on that plate, just like you have an absolute right not to be in any way forced to eat something against your ethics. You just don’t have that right on the United States Government’s dime, at the risk of affecting years of community development in a host country.

    I served with many vegans and vegetarians, and generally they found plenty to eat among non-meat (and non-animal) products. And I think if I had asked them then or if I asked them now, they would say that being a Peace Corps Volunteer was more important to them than being vegan. You can be a Peace Corps Volunteer who is a vegan, or who is kosher, or who is a feminist, or who is anything else that can be morally/ethically/religiously incongruous with any number of host communities, as long as you are a Peace Corps Volunteer first. (and as long as Peace Corps can find a viable placement for you.)

    I am sorry that your experience was so difficult for you, and that you felt like the Peace Corps had misrepresented itself. I hope that, with this dialogue that has sprung from your post, you have some more perspective. According to stats I heard several years ago, only 1 in 10 people who apply for the Peace Corps become volunteers. It is just not for everyone, and it is a job that you apply for, not something that anyone with compassion and a bachelor’s degree can be guaranteed to qualify for. Contrary to the movie Shallow Hal, no one just signs up.

    And remember, there is SO MUCH you can do in this country! If you want to make a difference, why can’t it be here?

  • Gigi

    It’s a shame that you can’t be flexible in your diet and are missing out on such a great experience. You say you have a great job and lots of vegan food, but what is life-changing about that experience? Clearly you are limited in scope. As a vegetarian Returned Peace Corps Volunteer it is clear that you are not making the connection between flexibility on all levels and human service. Your own needs and animal rights come above and beyond helping anyone. This doesn’t make you a hero but rather someone who insists on staying in their comfort zone. You haven’t a clue as to the challenges people all over the world face with regards to access to food PERIOD irrespective of the animal vs. non-animal food issue. From my experience I can see exactly where your recruiter was coming from. I was asked the same questions during service and found in my country of service that it was about give and take, not sticking 100% to principles developed around a relatively privileged economy. I exchanged food, culture, language and so much more with others. I was the first vegetarian that many people met and had fun responding to lots of questions that were asked of me. I feel I made a greater difference by putting myself out there, certainly ingesting meat (whether I was aware of it or not sometimes), but also educating others about my practices, eating vegetables, enjoying them, dispelling lots of dietary myths. If veganism keeps you in a bubble it is ultimately your loss and a misfortune in my view.

  • JMC, if you do work for the Peace Corps and are representing them accurately, then I think it’s safe to say that the organization, as a whole, simply does not understand commitment: be it to veganism and/or religion. You claim that the PC requires flexibility not only from vegans, but also from people with “religious requirements”, but I find it highly unlikely that anyone who is as unwavering in their religious beliefs as Lala is with her ethics would even consider what you propose. Ironically, while Peace Corps is looking to employ people who can be trusted to make a considerable service commitment, there is no respect given to the commitments they have made in any other aspect of their lives; what a shame.

  • Guest

    In order to assimilate with another culture you have to be willing to. If someone were to give you meat as a gift for you to eat in front of them, and you did not eat it, you would be rude to them, their culture, and Americans as a whole. Part of joining the Peace Corps is assimilation, if you want to be “accommodated,” you should look into other volunteer organizations. It doesn’t seem like you are interested in being apart of another culture, it seems as though you are interested in having fun while helping out. You might be able to get this kind of experience with a “volunteer” program that you pay for, they often accommodate, but you do not get the cultural aspect. Though, again, I don’t think you are interested in the culture perspective.

  • JMC

    In response to Abby Bean: we do respect the level of commitment to veganism, religion or whatever it may be. But you miss the point: not every culture can or will accommodate those commitments. As a result, Peace Corps is not for those people.

  • Katy

    Excellent article. I had no idea the Peace Corp was like this. I have the utmost respect to you for not giving up your beliefs.

  • Missdonna89

    Perhaps that is all true in Africa….but there are plenty of places around the world where options are not available for food and where cultures would be offended if you did not eat what was offered. “Always sufficient food….” I question that in many countries and areas. I served, and I thrived and I accepted. PC would not require you to eat meat, and they would not require you to change your religion or politics. You may be asked to stiffle your opinions on any of those topics, and if that is too much to ask, then do not join the PC. Peace Corps is a wonderful organization, doing amazing things around the world, but it is not for everyone.

  • Burelison

    The Peace Corps is NOT “LIKE THAT” and none of you have heard the PC side of the story. Talk to people who served….please. Do not judge a wonderful organization because one person wrote one article.

  • Cherry

    This is news to me. I was in the Peace Corps and able to remain vegetarian the whole time. We had 2 vegans in my group who remained vegan the whole time. I also have several friends who were in the Peace Corps and remained vegetarian the whole time. (They served in various countries.) Was it difficult at times? Yes. Was it insurmountable? No. I did have to cook my own food sometimes, but I found that most people were accepting of my vegetarianism once I explained my beliefs. My experience certainly made a positive impact on my life and on the lives of people I met. I’m glad that the recruiter did not tell me I could not serve because of my vegetarianism.

  • Tiffanys91

    I served, I know a hundred people who served and LOVE it! It is a WONDERFUL program! But it is NOT for everyone. I wonder why Anna thinks it is not a great program? It has lasted almost 50 years and has a positive reputation around the world!

  • Nctanner

    Thank god you did not get by the vetting process. Your luxurious lifestyle will not work in places that cannot afford the huge costs of eating vegan in a healthy way. If the PC website does not say that vegans aren’t accommodated for then it should. As a Returned PC Volunteer I have many issues with the PC organization in general but this, I’m positive, is not one of them.

    PC probably can’t accommodate nudists either. Should we get upset about that too? What if “I’m committed” to being a nudist?

  • C.O.

    About one year into my PC service, my medical officer ran a blood test and found that my hematocrit and hemoglobin levels were beyond low and demanded that I raise those levels or I would be sent home. Although I went into service as a vegetarian, I did face many of the situations that others alluded to (when someone prepares a meal for you and you refuse it, it is tantamount to the worst possible insult you make to them and their entire family). I ate fish, raised my hb and finished my service. Post-service, I recommitted to my vegetarian diet. That is the flexibility that is required. Peace Corps is not an avenue for spreading veganism. It has 3 goals and one of those goals is that you receive and integrate into the culture of the country where you are doing service. And it is a noble service. It’s a shame that sometimes we are unable to see beyond the veil of our comforts to realize and acknowledge that most of the world doesn’t have the luxury to be selective in the foods they eat. And there aren’t terms like “diet” only “food” and “hunger”. Even though I’m a vegan now, I am conscious of the fact that it is a diet of privilege.

  • C.O.

    About one year into my PC service, my medical officer ran a blood test and found that my hematocrit and hemoglobin levels were beyond low and demanded that I raise those levels or I would be sent home. Although I went into service as a vegetarian, I did face many of the situations that others alluded to (when someone prepares a meal for you and you refuse it, it is tantamount to the worst possible insult you make to them and their entire family). I ate fish, raised my hb and finished my service. Post-service, I recommitted to my vegetarian diet. That is the flexibility that is required. Peace Corps is not an avenue for spreading veganism. It has 3 goals and one of those goals is that you receive and integrate into the culture of the country where you are doing service. And it is a noble service. It’s a shame that sometimes we are unable to see beyond the veil of our comforts to realize and acknowledge that most of the world doesn’t have the luxury to be selective in the foods they eat. And there aren’t terms like “diet” only “food” and “hunger”. Even though I’m a vegan now, I am conscious of the fact that it is a diet of privilege.

  • Armansky (and those of you who responded in a similar fashion): While I believe in “doing as the Romans do,” there comes a point where you still have to be true to yourself.

    There seems to be a general lack of understanding as to why this is a big deal: despite what some celebrity flakes would have you believe, many vegans don’t look at their “lifestyle” as merely a “diet,” i.e. something you do to lose weight or have clear skin. Veganism, to a lot of people including myself, is a deeply-rooted belief system that is as big a part of one’s life as religion. You wouldn’t tell a Muslim or Catholic to “be flexible” in order to secure a job overseas, would you? But discriminating against vegans is legal, so there you go.

    I think the author shows great emotional maturity by sticking to her guns no matter what, even if that means being rejected by the Peace Corps (PC). Did they really expect her to uproot her entire belief system for the sake of being “flexible?” Besides, didn’t the PC realize that if she suddenly started eating meat after 3 1/2 years of abstaining from it, she’d probably get very sick, which isn’t helpful to anyone?

    I’ve survived for a lot longer than 27 months without meat (four years, in fact) and many other vegans have survived much longer. While I realize that living in the US and other more developed countries gives us a wide variety of fruits/vegetables to choose from to fulfill our dietary needs, being able to stay alive in a less-developed country shouldn’t be impossible. Maybe the PC has been “burned” too many times by other vegans who didn’t know how to take care of themselves and didn’t know how to handle uncomfortable cross-cultural situations, but they should give every candidate who is otherwise worthy a fair chance.

    I understand that self-righteousness would be a huge concern for the PC, but just because you’re a vegan it doesn’t mean you’re going to hop on a soapbox and start preaching. If the PC wanted to know how the author would feel about her accommodations, women’s rights, animal treatment, etc., they could have ASKED her, but instead the recruiter repeatedly asked her about probably the one thing that she wouldn’t be flexible about and something that is a very personal choice: the food she puts in her body. From there, the recruiter undoubtedly made all sorts of assumptions…

    Why is being a vegan considered a “luxury” but meat-eating isn’t? Back in the day, in the U.S., “a chicken in every pot” used to be something to aspire to. Now it’s the other way around–if you’re a vegan, you must be rich. HAHAHA!!! I’ll remember that the next time I soak beans.

    What if a meat-eater were sent to a country where the citizens rarely ate meat–would the meat-eater be given as much grief as vegans are getting right now? Would everyone be worried that the meat-eater would keel over and die if they stubbornly insisted on following their “luxurious” beliefs?

    And I don’t think the author was asking anyone to “accommodate her lifestyle;” she wasn’t asking anyone to go out of their way and fix tofu dogs for her. She was simply saying that if someone offered her a freshly-slaughtered goat–a situation which could hopefully be avoided altogether with a little prior discussion–she’d pass. That’s not quite the same thing.

    Now I’m not familiar with the agriculture of every country on the African continent (so sue me!) but I’d bet that most of them have vegetables/grains/fruits somewhere (after all, what do the cows/goats/chickens eat?) and if the author were randomly sent somewhere I’m sure the odds would be in her favor. Not every African drinks cows’ blood, sheesh.

    Bam.

    Alecia Lott

  • LJ

    As a vegan I appreciate the honesty of JMC about the realities of life in other countries. I don’t view his statements as ignorance of the vegan lifestyle or religion, but rather knowledge coming from someone with experience. And hopefully saving people a lot of time and trouble in the future.

  • Aidan

    Veganism isn’t a choice, it’s a form of ethics. The Peace Crops have no problem with supporting me with food so I don’t have to kill my coworkers, they should have no problem supplying me with food so I don’t have to kill my fellow animals.

  • free_radical

    My sister-in-law went through a similar situation with the Peace Corps over 20 years ago. She told me that they refused to accept her into their ranks, despite her credentials, strictly because she would not consume animal products. It seems like “helping” other cultures and people means helping them eat more animal products, which is the undoing of human and environmental health, not to mention ethics.

  • Anonymous

    I was speaking with a vegan today who was rejected by the Peace Corps for the very same reason. It makes me think far less of the Peace Corps than I once did.

    Lala Stone made the correct decision by asserting her right to maintain her commitment to non-violence and I find it astonishing that the Peace Corps would ask volunteers to be ‘flexible’ about participating in violence out of ‘respect’ for local cultural norms.

    As I’ve said, this policy certainly makes me think less of the Peace Corps. There are other ways to offer global service that do not demand the relinquishment of a personal commitment to non-violence.
    With such an anti-vegan policy, the Peace Corps eliminates a pool of candidates already experienced in personal sacrifice for a greater good. How sad for the Peace Corps and for the people it is designed to serve.

  • B Holbrook

    Why would you think anything different? Refusing to eat offered food in most cultures is considered incredibly rude. Vegans are in the extreme minority of another extreme minority. 98% of the people on the planet eat meat. You don’t. Sometimes there are consequences to choosing to live so far outside the mainstream. Stop whining and suck it up, princess.

  • B Holbrook

    Of course it’s a choice, you intentionally obtuse buffoon. Unfortunately your choice to apply a hyper-moral set of ethics to yourself means that your presence would likely be offensive to other cultures and therefore you cannot serve in the Peace Corps.

  • guest1

    Since this is never going to happen in our time this thought is hypothetical, but if the world is starving from lack of food so they MUST eat animals, what are those animals eating? Cows do not live off of sparsely growing grass. It takes more grain (land for grains and vegetables) to feed one cow than it would for dozens of people.

  • Current Volunteer

    As a vegan and current Peace Corps
    volunteer I wanted to add my 2 cents:

     

    I have been vegan for 6 years and
    vegetarian for over 11 mostly for animal rights reasons but also for health,
    environmental, and human rights reasons as well. When I applied to peace corps,
    my recruiter said I had to be flexible about being vegetarian not just vegan
    aka I had to be willing to eat meet. I decided to lie and agreed to the
    proposition though secretly I was planning on sticking to the veganism.

     

    I have been in country for almost a
    year. Luckily, I have been able to completely avoid animal products and still
    be culturally sensitive and more than nutritionally sound. Once I got to
    country, staff was completely supportive of my veganism. They set me up with host
    families willing and able to handle vegan cooking. I can’t say its always been
    easy and yes I have had to be flexible meaning – going hungry when only options
    are meat, possibly paying more to ensure my health (though I think being veggie
    is cheaper here), working a little harder to make sure I am eating
    nutritiously, being patient explaining to others why I am veg. I can’t say I
    have been perfect ie when I am served something could have been snuck in but
    the same is true in the states. I also reject non-vegan food in a very cultural
    sensitive way. I am not in your face about it but I feel as part of the PC
    mission I need to also represent USA culture which does include the minority
    population of vegetarians that is growing quickly. So the cultural exchange and nutritional arguments don’t work. PC could select countries that are vegetarian friendly for example I am in Honduras and most meals are vegetarian and can be made vegan just by taking out the cheese. Also for cultural sensitivity I agree, I am Nicaraguan (borders Honduras) and find it border line offensive to say people cannot understand/appreciate vegetarianism in poor countries. There are vegetarians in latin america too! and prob in most countries though I do agree in can sometimes be a privilege. Also, in response to the comment about Kenya and Tanzania, I also did volunteer work for several months in Tanzania and ate vegan there too – in a Maasai village! The food was 80% vegan as well and its due to the poverty too… dairy and meat are costly because you must use the land and water to sustain the animal instead of using those resources to produce grain and veggies directly. Much more nutritious and efficient in resource stricken areas. 

    UGH and also for the village slaughters there only cow for you argument doesn’t work in terms of Peace Corps. Peace Corps meets with counterparts and your host family in the village before hand so they can easily inform them that a vegetarian is coming so as to avoid the whole incident. 

     

    I can’t speak for all of peace corps
    and all countries but I do want to give my voice that it is possible and can
    work if Peace Corps made an effort to accommodate this American minority.

  • Guest

    A serious question: if you’re an observant Jew, would the Peace Corps expect “a little flexibility” when it comes to eating pork?  Or, if you’re willing to be flexible on everything but that one restriction, could there still be a place for you in the Peace Corps?

  • Guest

    You said, “Not every culture can or will accommodate those commitments.”  So, why not match the volunteer up with a culture which can accommodate those commitments?  Legumes and grains are staples in big parts of the world.

  • Mialilyuno

    What is the MOST offensive to me is not that the PC wouldn’t advance a vegan… what is most offensive is the belligerent, condescending, and ill-informed attitude of the many PCRV’s replies on this post.  You are painting an unfortunate picture of the program and it’s volunteers as intolerant and offensive. 

    It’s also unfortunate that in this particular instance, the PC chose to turn away a potentially great volunteer instead of working with her to find an appropriate placement. 

  • TT

    And why not accommodate the applicant that doesn’t want to be in cold weather? Or the applicant that wants to be near an ocean? Why not accommodate the applicant that wants to serve in a country in which all the roads are paved? Or accommodate the married couple that will only serve in a country in which they will have 24/7 access to the internet? Why? Because these luxuries aren’t available everywhere. Working to accommodate EVERYONE’S picky little privileges is time-consuming and pointless… which is why applicants need to be flexible. Because they may not have access to internet, paved roads, great weather, a beach, or all the vegan foods that want. 

  • TT

    When I applied to the Peace Corps, it was made very clear that I stick to a strict Muslim diet. In my interview, I was asked about my willingness to consume pork or alcohol, since both these things are forbidden in an Islamic diet. I was also asked about how I’d feel eating meat that wasn’t prepared according to Islamic ritual. I told them honestly that I would be flexible, but if I were offered pork/alcohol, I’d explain to the locals why I wouldn’t eat/drink it, and politely ask for the next available alternative. The fact that the meat wouldn’t always be kosher didn’t bother me. You must show that you’re flexible, and ready to respond politely rather than stubbornly. The Peace Corps won’t take the time to make everyone happy, or make anything easy, but I got lucky. I was assigned to a predominately Muslim country. Peace Corps tries if you try. If you’re not willing to accommodate them, what makes you so special that they should try to accommodate you?

  • Robin-godfellow

    It isn´t just a diet, you should know that…so if the people there want you to participate in circumcision of little girls because it is tradition an a great honnor to watch, would you be flexible enough to attend and watch?

    If they say, either eat meat or go away, I would go away too.
    There are other ways to go and help people without bending down to others  and giving up your principles.

    Why should I consinder doing something that is against my moral when I have other choices and ways I can choose?

    I wouldn´t eat whale or seal with the inuit because of their tradition and honor, I wouldn´t eat gorillas and other bush meat when in africa..I wouldn´t participate in head hunts…

    I bet you too have your morals you would never abandon  and not think that you deprive yourself of an experience and instead go somewhere else where you can have a great time, help other and bring positive change without throwing your morals out of the window.

    There are other organisations who would give a damn about what you eat, instead they would be happy that you are easier to feed..or should I say”More meat for me if you don´t eat it”?

  • Lesley

    No, you are wrong! Diets high in animal foods are the diets of privilege, many ppl are closer to vegan in diet even if not in ethics in poorer places because meat is quite a rare luxury!

  • Lesley

    Well they should have replied to her shouldn’t they and not ignored her if they wanted their side presented, they did themselves no favours at their head office by ignoring this and expecting it to go away!

  • Kismet

    It is possible to be vegan or vegetarian and serve in the Peace Corps.  However, it seems that the author was being rather obtuse regarding what Peace Corps service is like.  The first 2-3 months of training are usually in country and with a host family (if not your entire service).  While they can be informed about your vegan/vegetarian status, there is no guarantee that your meals (with the family to help you integrate culturally and increase language skills) will be prepared in such a manner, especially in the beginning.  Though eventually, with time and effort on both parts, there is definitely a possibility of teaching about the benefits/ideology of veganism.

    Finding an appropriate placement is about matching skill sets in the Peace Corps, even once you arrive in country there is a second placement process for your final site.  If you are inflexible, it makes it difficult to match you with your final site.

    I’ve known great PCVs who served as vegans/vegetarians.  I’ve also know people who quit because they weren’t placed in specific regions that were perceived to accommodate their dietary requirements.  These PCVs were placed less than 50 km from each other.

    I’m certain the author could have adjusted and had a vegan diet in some PC countries, but I’m not certain that the author would have stayed long enough to try.  After all she didn’t even call back to argue that she valued being in the Peace Corps just as much as being a vegan.

    To me, that’s a sign that she didn’t have what it takes to be a PCV, not the lack of flexibility, the lack of determination.

  • Solotoro

     I disagree, JMC’s comment shows that they DO understand that commitment, and that it is incompatible with life as a Peace Corps volunteer. I do know a volunteer who was a successful vegan, but it took a LOT of exchange with her village for them to accept – declining gifts of food is a BIG DEAL in some parts of the world. And if you are so committed to veganism (and good for you!) that you will put it above integrating into the culture you are living in, it will very often cause material harm to your service, and Peace Corps is doing you both a favor by trying to avoid that. The are RESPECTING your decision.

    Part of making a commitment to veganism, or religion, or anything like that, is accepting the real-life consequences of that decision. If not being able to join Peace Corps is one of those consequences, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with Peace Corps, nor does it mean there is anything wrong with veganism. It is just that the two don’t work well together.

  • Kismet

    The flexibility is not in refusing.  It’s in how you refuse, and how you communicate the why.

  • KAM

    As a vegan (6 years and running) currently serving in the Peace Corps, I can really appreciate your personal experience. I underwent the exact same thing during my application process (even going so far as asking PETA to harass Peace Corps for me), which finally ended in me saying that if I were on the verge of dying, and nothing else were available, I would consider eating meat. After this I was informed that I would be sent to a place with good hospitals “just in case”. I’m not sure how many vegans have actually died abroad, but having lived in the Philippines for about a year (in circumstances that aren’t exactly packed with vegan food stuffs) I’ve found a nice niche and am surprised how easy it is to maintain my diet and how understanding the locals are (though, I’m very consistent. I’ve noticed that anyone who waffles on and off of being veggie gets little consideration). Anywho, I’m always trying to myth bust by preach the feasibility of being vegan in the Peace Corps. I firmly believe it is the scare tactics of the Peace Corps (rather than the reality of life abroad) that intimidate most vegan applicants into not applying, which is a shame because the world can always use more compassionate vegans in it 🙂

  • Lauren

    Thanks for writing this. After reading some of the comments I feel that some people are missing the point. But I also understand why they would deny you. I agree that they should have told you more forwardly to save you the time about their stance on vegans (or religious values etc.). I am so glad you wrote this as a fellow vegan, I am not willing to give up my lifestyle (potentially the milk and eggs but meat is a no-go), and I am glad I didn’t have to waste my time.

  • spindra

    Would abstaining from animal products be offensive to a Buddhist or a Hindu? Of course not. And would you call those people obtuse buffoons? Of course not. Have you actually interacted with the rest of the world? They don’t all eat hamburgers like you.

  • spindra

    Taking into account externalized costs, the standard American diet is far more expensive and far more luxurious than a plant-based vegan diet. The proper analogy is not “should you have to forfeit your nudist habits to be accepted into the Peace Corps” but rather, “to what extent should a Peace Corps member have to forfeit their ethics?”

    It’s not as easy of a question as you’d like to make it. If as a PC volunteer you witness someone doing something that’s unanimously considered unethical within their OWN society, for example committing rape, then are you going to intervene? Of course. (I hope you agree.) But there are few issues that are so unanimous (consider female genital mutilation). I find it very troubling that pro-PC comments on this forum paint all foreign countries as essentially being unanimously offended veganism, when in many countries plant-based foods make up a much larger portion of the diet than in the U.S. As an Asian American, I think it is insulting for you people to not only speak on behalf all of these different so-called developing nations, but for you to further presume that they would be less able to come to terms with my personal beliefs than Americans are.

    The bottom line is, no one should EVER let themselves be pressured to compromise something that they so strongly believe in, and I applaud the author for standing her ground.

  • Olivia

    This is a very biased comment. Being vegan isn’t about looking out for yourself as number one. For many, it is about living a life of nonviolence, environmental activism and more. Being vegan is the biggest part of my identity, and before it, I was vegetarian for my whole life. If I were to eat meat, my body would reject it and I would get very sick, so it’s not exactly easy to just suddenly consider yourself “flexible.” Reading this article has pretty much crushed me since it was my dream to join the peace corps after college. But I guess now I just need to find an organization that ITSELF is more flexible and willing to let compassionate people contribute to helping others. I’m not saying that this policy is horrible, but I believe it is very flawed. I have dedicated my life to helping others and this planet, but I am also not willing to compromise my values. I believe I can do good in this world without doing so.