Veganism in the Time of Coronavirus

Marla Rose
8 min readDec 11, 2020

Pandemic or Not, Our Flawed World Means that Our Choices Are Also Imperfect

Credit: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

I’ll just get this out of the way right from the get-go: On the last day of February in 2019, my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. There is no way to spruce up how this news landed. Sitting in that examination room, it is no exaggeration to say that I felt like the floor could have swallowed me up whole. This man — the father of my son, the guy who makes my fanciful ideas a reality and takes my turbulent moods in stride, this doggedly youthful and easy-going man — had a very stark and serious diagnosis. I went to bed on February 27 thinking one thing about my life and by the afternoon of the next day, everything suddenly and dramatically changed.

I met John when I was 26 in 1993 and we have been carving out this life together ever since. One of those things we did together was go vegan in 1995, full of heartfelt conviction, youthful naïveté and stubborn determination. We navigated those early days pretty easily, as people often do when they don’t know any better, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can feel just a little proud of how resourceful and sanguine we were during a time when being vegan was a lot less easy and convenient. We have remained happily vegan ever since, raising our son in the same way and helping to create organizations, festivals and websites to spread the message and share the tools of joyful compassionate living over the past 25 years.

Despite having entertained some pretty questionable notions at different points, I have never been one of those true believers who push the narrative that vegans can’t get diseases. My own life was touched by cancer at a young age, when my best friend and next door neighbor’s father died of cancer at the age of 37. While he wasn’t vegan — this was the 1970s — he was young, vibrant and so very kind, a true salt-of-the-earth type who also had a seat as a percussionist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Lane had a wife and two young daughters. He was the father I daydreamed about having, a gentle, kind, funny and warm man. I saw this disease ravage this wonderful person in the prime of his life.

Perhaps it is because Judaism, the faith I was raised in, is stitched through with the understanding…