How do you know someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
I used to be too embarrassed to tell people that I was vegan. I’d order something from a menu that appeared to be vegan, often to find that the side salad was smothered in mayo or such like, but I’d just leave it untouched rather than go through the rigmarole of having them exchange it, because I didn’t want to be one of those vegans. That’s why the above joke is a little unfair; we often have to mention that we’re vegan just to get by, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t eat.
I think part of the reason that I didn’t like to tell anyone was because, well, vegans are not very well liked, generally speaking. It was in the news last week that a freelance writer had pitched an idea to the editor of Waitrose’s in-house magazine, William Sitwell, to run a series of plant-based recipes. The response that she received from him was nothing short of hateful, proposing instead to run a series with ideas on how to kill off vegans one by one. He likely meant it as a satirical joke, but if you replace the word “vegan” in his response with another minority group, you’ll quickly realise why he had to resign from his post. He publicly apologised and said that he didn’t hate vegans, but his opinions are clear as far as I’m concerned, and it isn’t the first anti-vegan comment that he’s made.
I remember getting into a discussion once when a friend enquired after my husband. I explained that he too had become vegan, but was a little more vocal in his views than I was. For example, if I were eating a meal with someone and they ordered steak, I would sit at the table with them and not say anything, whereas he would probably have to put in his two penn’orth. My friend grew agitated by this and pointed out that what she chose to eat was nobody else’s business. I can understand why non-vegans have this viewpoint and she’s certainly not alone. I’ve heard countless times people saying “if you want to be vegan, that’s fine, but don’t push your views onto others, eating meat is my personal choice.” I would counter with individual choice: yes, personal choice: no.
“Personal” implies that the choice doesn’t affect anybody except for the person making the decision. The reality is that the choice to eat meat is destroying the planet, a planet that I (and 7.5 billion other people) share. I wouldn’t call that personal. Furthermore, the grain and crops that are fed to farmed animals are grown in the same countries where there are starving people; every time you eat meat, you take food from someone else’s mouth. Would you tell those starving children that your choice to eat steak from a cow fattened up with food that could’ve been fed to them, is a personal choice? And without wanting to state the obvious, if you say that eating meat is a personal choice, then you’re forgetting the animal on your plate that died for those fleeting moments on your tastebuds.
It’s not me, it’s your conscience
I’ve had several conversations with people who have strangely attempted to use the fact that they “don’t like how smug vegans are” as some sort of justification for their eating meat. I can’t speak for all vegans, but I don’t feel superior to anybody else because of my choice not to partake in these cruel industries. If that were the case, then I wouldn’t be trying to convince others to go vegan too, I’d just sit up there on my pedestal by myself, looking down on the masses. If that’s how vegans come across to non-vegans, I believe it’s more of a reflection of them. Maybe they feel that way because deep down, they know that veganism is the correct moral position. They don’t agree with violence towards animals, yet they understand that one had to die in order to sit on their plate. Where are they supposed to put that? They’re at odds with their own beliefs and this manifests itself as anger towards those who are a physical representation of that malalignment.
I don’t feel smug, it’s really not about that, it’s about taking a stand against injustice. I obviously believe that what I’m doing is the right thing and I believe that eating meat is wrong, so there’s really no getting away from me looking “self-righteous”, but I don’t believe that I’m better than them. The meat-eating default is not their fault; the decision to eat meat was likely made for them when they were weaned off milk. I ate meat for a long time until I learnt the truth. I think the reason that most people eat meat is simply because they’re a product of the system, killing animals for food has been normalised and the truth has been concealed. Once people take a step outside of the system and have their eyes opened to the horrors, I believe most people would make the right decision, so that’s what I want to do; reconnect people with their conscience.
I believe there are some people who genuinely don’t care and would be happy to kill and eat an animal themselves (if not, relish it). But I appeal to those that recognise that it’s morally wrong, for those who couldn’t kill the animal themselves, who cover their eyes when slaughterhouse footage is shown. If you have to look away, you know in your heart that it’s wrong and you should question why you’re still paying for this to happen when you don’t have to. You may not be the hitman, but you’ve paid for the hit by purchasing the products, which makes you equally responsible for their murder. It’s to those people that I appeal, because they’re already vegan at heart.
The “Angry Vegan” Stereotype
There’s a sweeping generalisation that all vegans are angry. It’s difficult not to be angry when it comes to something that you’re so passionate about. But let’s not forget that it works the other way around too, non-vegans equally can be angry when having a discussion with a vegan. Carnists don’t want to hear about the vegan agenda, I get that. But at least they can mostly avoid it.
Vegan: in a non-vegan world
During the Summer Solstice and over a period of 10 days, a dog meat festival takes place in Yulin, China. It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 dogs are consumed, some after public slaughter, as it’s believed that eating dog meat during the Summer months brings good health and fortune (to the consumer, not the dogs). You’ve likely heard about it because Westerners have petitioned against this since it’s beginnings in 2009.
The Chinese have been brought up to eat dog meat just as we have to eat pork, beef, lamb and chicken, etc. Dogs in China are bred for meat in much the same way as our “meat” animals are factory-farmed. But when we hear about the Yulin Festival, we think it’s abhorrent. People get so angry when they read about it or see images on social media. A lot of these are the same people that go to Christmas markets and chow down on hog roasts rotating on a spit. There’s a hypocrisy in that, that goes unrecognised. How is it worse to kill and eat a dog than it is to kill and eat a pig? The only difference is perception.
Remember how angry you were when you heard about the Yulin festival and how upset you were at seeing those images. That’s how vegans feel too, but what’s worse for us, is that we don’t just see this surface on social media once a year, we see it every day, everywhere we look; in the supermarket, in a cafe, in people’s houses, at parties. We cannot get away from it.
Imagine that you’re at a restaurant with a friend and they’ve just ordered a Spaniel sandwich. Would you look away while they were eating? Would you be able to put it out of your mind? Would you lose your appetite? Welcome to my world. I sit and eat with meat-eaters because I still have to live my life and get along with everyone, but it can put me off my own food. I have to use cognitive dissonance myself just to get through the meal. Some vegans can’t. They refuse to eat at the same table as someone who’s eating meat. I can understand that.
Another time when out to dinner, soon after I’d announced that I’d turned vegan, the person I was sat directly opposite ordered a sizzling steak platter. Maybe they were trying to make a point. Their meal arrived and meat juices were spitting everywhere, all over the table, inching increasingly closer to my plate.
The reason I’m recounting this story is to demonstrate what vegans go through on the regular. Non-vegans don’t have to deal with things like this. The situation simply isn’t the same when the roles are reversed. A non-vegan wouldn’t be sickened by vegan food in the same way that a vegan is sickened by someone eating the chopped up dead body of an animal.
I hope this helps to explain why sometimes vegans come across as being angry. I can’t speak for all vegans, but I personally sometimes struggle to cope with the injustice. It pains me that I live in a world where I’m the one constantly having to defend my decision not to cause harm to animals, surely it should be the other way around?
People would want to know… Wouldn’t they?
It’s actually incredibly difficult to tell someone that you’re vegan. You feel apprehension, mentally gritting your teeth, wondering which way the conversation is going to go this time. You quickly learn to gauge people’s reactions. Some people are really receptive and genuinely interested and you know you can talk about it. Others, however, get angry very quickly and you know to let the subject drop. I’ve found that this can be the same whether talking to a stranger or to someone you’ve known all your life. In some ways, it’s more difficult to tell someone you’ve known all your life that you’re vegan. It can, I guess, seem a little hypocritical. “You’ve always eaten meat and dairy, so don’t start preaching to me now.” But the thing is, it’s the very opposite of hypocritical. You see, the day I learnt of the horrors of the meat and dairy industry was the day that I stopped funding them.
The horrors I refer to are threefold. Firstly, are the animals, that’s a given. Secondly is the environment (for more information on how the meat and dairy industry is bad for the environment, see my previous post HERE). Thirdly are the dangers to human health. As soon as I learnt that processed meats are classified by the World Health Organisation as being as carcinogenic as cigarettes, I stopped feeding them to my children. I learnt that eating meat is linked with Type II diabetes in later life as well as heart disease and strokes. These are all preventable illnesses that can be avoided by eschewing meat. I also learnt that casein, an animal protein found in milk and cheese is the most relevant carcinogen ever identified and that your chances of developing certain cancers can be reduced by a third on a plant-based diet.
If you want to know more information on the health impacts of eating meat and dairy, watch Forks Over Knives and What The Health? both available on Netflix.
When I learnt these things, I wondered why it wasn’t more widely known and I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it. Surely everyone would want to know? Turns out people don’t want to know. They really strongly don’t want to know. There are some that do. So I tell them. I chip away at my family and feed them small bits of information about how eating meat and dairy affects health and slowly but surely it starts to make an impact.
Because I care about you
I won’t be a quiet vegan because I care about people. I don’t want to watch them suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and any other preventable diseases. I don’t want to see my mum and dad succumb to illness and suffering when I could have opened my mouth to warn them and stopped it from happening. So the next time I attempt to “ram my vegan agenda down your throat”, take it as a compliment, it means I care about you.
Because I care about our world
I won’t go into detail about this one as I covered it quite extensively in my last post (read about it HERE). We need to do everything we can to prevent global warming to continue on its current path. We’ve literally been told to reduce our meat consumption or the world as we know it will end by mid-century, so yeah, for the sake of my children, I want the world to at least reduce meat consumption, and I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to. So many people have thanked me for alerting them to how their food choices are impacting the environment and they’ve made a few changes to their diet. The more the movement spreads, the more chance we have of saving the planet.
Because people don’t want to be in the dark
Until last year, I was blissfully unaware of exactly what went on in the meat and dairy industries. I was shocked to find out for example that the dairy industry was worse than the meat industry in terms of cruelty to animals. I naively thought that milk was fine “because nothing dies”. But then I found out that the cow is still slaughtered for meat at the end but endures a lifetime of torture before then; being forcibly impregnated every year to maintain high milk yields and having her babies stolen from her; being hooked up to machines that milk the life from her until she collapses aged around 6 years when she will be killed for hamburger meat rather than living until her natural lifespan of around 20 years. The boy babies from the milk industry are a ‘waste product’ and so become veal, whereas the girl babies will endure the same terrible fate as their mothers. We don’t know this stuff because it’s hidden from us.
I was also really upset that my friend who has been vegan for 10 years hadn’t told me any of this. I, without doubt, would’ve become vegan sooner, had I known. So I go on about it to anyone who’ll listen because I don’t want people approaching me in years to come asking “why didn’t you tell me?”
Because I care about Them
Whilst there are literally hundreds of reasons to go vegan, the most obvious one is to save the lives of these sentient beings who have been bred into a miserable existence; where they’ll live in nasty conditions, worse than a prison, with health issues, until one day they are sent off to slaughter, where they’ll cry, experience fear as they smell the blood on the kill floor and watch their brothers and sisters being strung up by their ankles and having their throats slit to become someone’s lunch… When that person could’ve just eaten something else.
According to PETA, by being vegan, I’m saving 198 animals per year. Or rather, 198 animals per year are not bred into existence. By talking about it and giving information and educating, the movement is spreading. Because of my inability to stay quiet about these issues, my husband is now vegan, as is my brother, my Mum is pescatarian, my sister and my Dad have reduced their red meat consumption, my friend has become flexitarian and some of my work colleagues have stopped eating certain types of meat too. If I had kept quiet, I would have been limited to saving just 198 animals per year. By being a vocal vegan, I’ve saved countless more. And it has a knock-on effect. My husband has been talking to people and raising awareness with his work colleagues, some of which are researching veganism themselves and have already started to make some changes.
Try to stop me
I’m going to continue to spread the vegan message for the sake of people’s health, the planet’s health and the animals’ lives. If you want to shut me up… go vegan!
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