Full disclosure: I am currently eating a Pepperami, the delicious meaty snack, while writing the intro to a guest post about veganism. Not an ideal start. So I better admit: I’m not a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I actually eat a ton of bacon, and justify it with a whole load of reasons not to be a vegan. But over the last six months, I’ve been starting to think that’s not OK.
This all started in a tapas bar in Barcelona, when I asked what the sensationally tasty food item I was eating was, and was told that it was the liver of a duck that had been violently force-fed until its engorged liver made it impossible to stand upright, and it started to tear out its own feathers from stress. Which made me feel completely awful. I swore on the spot never to eat meat again, but obviously this hasn’t happened yet. (Hence the Pepperami.)
But what I have done is start taking notice. I now follow the brilliantly clever comic strip Vegan Sidekick, which makes fun of common arguments used by non-vegans to justify eating meat and animal products. And one by one, all the reasons not to be a vegan that I’ve been using have started to seem pretty silly.
So that’s why today I’ve decided to host a guest post from a good vegan friend of mine, Kelsey Azoubel-Mitchell. Because I’m starting to realise that asking vegans to keep their personal choices to themselves doesn’t make any sense. Vegans are standing up for something they believe in, and trying to make a change. (For comparison, if someone said to me, “it’s great that you’re a feminist, but keep it to yourself and don’t ask me to be a feminist”—well, I’d probably want to punch them. Because I believe in feminism, and I believe in changing the world with it.) So let’s start listening to vegans. Starting now.
Hi! I’m Kelsey and I’m the vegan you’re all going to listen to.
I should start by saying that I’m actually still trying to get the whole vegan thing down. I still slip up sometimes, like when my housemate makes buttermilk pancakes and then brings me one. Or like when I get drunk and then I ask for cheese on my veggie burger. It can be hard sometimes. But I’m trying and I’m getting better, and I do it because I really believe that we just don’t have the right to use animals the way we do.
In my perfect world, the fewer absolutes we hold to, the better. Sure, inalienable truths like equality and our inherent rights as sentient beings are ones to live by, but setting lots of black and white regulations can actually be really dangerous. I’m not here to tell you that you have to be vegan (though I definitely would really like it if you were), I can only tell you why I do it.
Back to the point at hand. Being “listened to” is great! Of course I love talking about myself, who doesn’t? The sound of my own voice is great, and I’ve been heard more than once saying that I have an “award-winning” personality. But as a vegan it can also be scary sometimes. When people hear that I’m going vegan they tend to switch off because they think I’m a hippie, or that I probably have no tastebuds or something. And often that’s the nicer option. The other is that people immediately tell me why I’m wrong, why they don’t think being a vegan is necessary, or why it’s unhealthy, among a whole host of other rebuttals. I often don’t reply, for fear of being called an extremist, or a tree hugger or being asked questions like “but don’t you miss bacon?”. But now I’m going to. Here are my answers to the reasons not to be a vegan I hear the most.
1. Vegans don’t get enough protein
Protein is in literally most foods; it’s everywhere. Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, even cacao has protein in it! CHOCOLATE. I can eat chocolate and get protein. Hummus? Tonnes of protein there. And that’s not even including things like tofu and tempeh! I’m not that big a gal, I’m pretty short, built pretty small, so you may be thinking that’s why I find it so easy to get my fill of protein. But my ex-boyfriend (who has been fully vegan for many years now) is pretty ripped, and he’s also a mixed martial arts fighter—and all that protein for those big muscles came from a plant based diet! Still not convinced? Try googling “vegan athletes”. There are loads! Of all the reasons not to be a vegan, this is probably the worst.
2. Using animal products like butter/eggs/wool won’t kill any animals
My answer here is twofold. Firstly, no it won’t kill them*, but they’re still horribly and completely mistreated for their eggs and milk and wool. They’re kept in tiny cages, force fed and torn away from their mothers or children. Secondly, why are we using animal products? They’re not ours. We don’t have a right to take them and use them. Commodifying things like lactation and reproduction is just wrong. And anyway, wool is itchy and impossible to care for, so if I can’t convince you on other grounds, maybe I can appeal to your desire for ease and comfort in your life?
*not directly, anyway. Laying an egg will not kill the chicken that laid it. But male chicks are killed within hours of hatching because they can’t lay eggs.
3. Animals don’t feel pain like humans do
I don’t know the science behind this at all; I last did science when I was like 16 (and even then it was dual award GCSE science). But here’s what I do know: whether or not animals would feel a cut in the way that I feel a cut, or experience the same sensations I do when I touch something too hot or whack into something, I still don’t want harm to come to them. Have you ever seen that documentary The Cove? If you haven’t, you should. There’s a horrible scene, filmed by underwater cameras, where dolphins are herded into a small area and killed. Tell me those noises don’t sound like they’re experiencing pain.
4. If the animal was killed for its meat, it’s wasteful to throw away its skin
Short answer here. Would you say this about a human? Probably not, because that would be gross and creepy, right? Well that’s kinda how I feel about fur or leather.
5. It’s impossible to fit it into my social life
Eating is necessary to survival, so it makes a lot of sense that it features heavily in our social lives. But as a vegan, this really isn’t as hard as it sounds! Most restaurants have vegan options, and if they don’t, it’s often pretty easy to make their vegetarian options vegan. Still nothing? Choose somewhere else to go! In terms of going over to people’s houses for meals, it may seem unfair to request that somebody make a vegan dinner, and a non-vegan may find the prospect of cooking for a vegan daunting, but you’d be surprised at how many standard meals already are vegan friendly! Thai green curry with vegetables? Vegan. Vegetable stir fry with noodles? Vegan.
And in answer to that pesky question: “Don’t you miss bacon?”
This one comes up A LOT and my answer is a little complicated. I was raised an omnivore, and in a country where meat is a pretty big part of every meal, so for a long time animal products were a part of my life, and I didn’t really question that. So, like most people, I know how delicious a burger can be, and I know how satisfying a meaty pizza is, particularly if you’re drunk/hungover. And of course, I know a bacon sandwich does sometimes just hit the spot. I know these things, and I know I won’t have those foods again, but I don’t think I miss them, per se. I’m really really happy with my diet; the food I eat is delicious and I’ve never felt like anything was missing from my plate. If I ever did, I still think I’d be OK with that, because if it means that a living being somewhere is living a life free of cruelty, it’s completely worth it!
So with all that in mind, why am I still eating meat? To be honest, I’m running out of reasons not to be a vegan. The reality is that eating has never been totally straightforward for me anyway, and I have a lot of anxieties surrounding food which I’m currently battling through at my own pace. The idea of adding further restrictions to my diet makes me panic, and so at the moment I’m putting it off. Which is completely selfish, I know. But I’m working on it. Consider me a vegan-in-training.
Have you ever used these reasons not to be a vegan? And do you feel persuaded yet?