In the beginning, there’s OMFFGGGGGWHHHYYYYY???
Since I would reckon more of us came to the big V based on our own decisions, and not because we’ve been raised that way from birth, we undoubtedly will face the original question: WHY??? Hiss what you will about Mr. Bourdain’s Hezbollah vegan quote, right or not, he voices what a lot of people outside our tofu bubble think: vegans are wacky, proselytizing, fringe-y martyrs who use crystal deodorant, let rats out of cages, and don’t know nothing about good eatin’.
I grew up on a farm, where animals are respected and well-treated but not anthropomorphized. The first rule of Farm Club? Don’t name any animal that isn’t allowed in the house. My family adapted to my coming out…admirably quickly, but I’ve answered my share of questions. I’ve stood in a country kitchen, the circus freak/bearded lady fielding queries like, “will you kiss a guy who’s eaten meat?” Answer: “The standard rates of oral hygiene still apply.” I’ve sat around fancy foodie dinner tables and answered the “NO FOIE GRAS? What’s the point of living?” And I’ve had to “pass.” And by “pass” I mean: I’ve hidden my reasons for being vegan because if you’re not an animal rights-er, you’re seemingly null and void within the V-world clubhouse.
It’s not only prejudice from within—omnivores also usually assume you’re vegan because of the rabbits, George.
I don’t have a slew of vegan friends—but my mixed crowd has proven a perfect testing ground for all of the WHYYYYYS, and how important it is to distinguish between and embrace all of the:
Six Kinds of Vegans
The T. Boone Pickens (or, the Van Jones, if you prefer.): This one is all about the environment. Growing a varied vegan diet takes only a fifth of the land that a typical omnivorous diet does. Methane gas and manure aside, that’s land we can be using to grow windmill farms, not hamburgers. It’s all about energy, the first country who figures out how to get their energy for free—from the sky, the wind, water—without burying themselves in pig dung, wins. Meat and oil go together in way more ways than fondue, and it’s a great reason to go veg.
The Penn Jillette: Penn Jillette is an outspoken Libertarian, a “not in my name” advocate. He argues if he’s morally opposed to offing a cow himself, he can’t outsource that dirty work. It’s the personal responsibility, conserve and help yourself, man-as-island argument. Do your own thing, sir.
The Matthew Scully: The religious, George W. Bush-connected, like Lambs-to-slaughter vegan. Scully is a Christian vegan, but Hindus and Buddhists also give up the Surf-and-Turf for Salvation and Enlightenment.
The Posh Spice: Yes, the Spanx in the center of the book Skinny Bitch is the Cher Horowitz (see below) but the outfit it’s dressed in is all Posh. Meat is unhealthy, it’s pretty gross when you think about it, and you’ll be healthier and skinnier if you don’t eat it. So soy up and slim down. The very act of her carrying a copy of the book inspired more than a few converts, even if David Beckham didn’t come free with purchase.
The Rich Uncle Pennybags: It’s all about the Benjamins. A pound of $teak vs. pound of beans? There’s your five-to-one ratio from the T. Boone, just in dollars.
The Cher Horowitz: Finally, here’s your traditional, animal rights, Alicia Silverstone-for-PETA reason. You like animals, you don’t want them treated cruelly or killed. This can also apply to those against factory farming, but you have to say you’re a Horowitz with a twist of T. Boone, just to be fair…
First, I would love to put of these people in a house, Real World-style. Second, as long we’re all camped out here on the fringe of society, fractures and judgments from within, don’t help us none. Can’t we all just get along? Think about it: which is a more compelling group to join: one where it’s all hard and prejudiced and unwelcoming—or one where it takes all kinds? The more reasonable reasons exist, the more will embrace them. Let’s entice by example. If we’re accepting of all the reasons someone would become vegan, the more vegans there will be.
Inclusionary = fruitful and multiplying.
So yeah. I’m a T. Boone/Penn Jillette with Posh rising. Wanna make something of it?
This is the first article in a recurring series, The Vegan Diplomat; The Art and Politics of Being Vegan in any Situation Society Throws on Your Plate, brought to us by the lovely Zoë Stagg. Zoë writes about politics, pop culture, and social media. She went cold-tofurkey—total omnivore to vegan on April 26, 2006 and never looked back. Despite her rural upbringing and the fact that her dad may have wanted her to enter the Dairy Princess pageant in high school, she firmly believes in the conservative nature of veganism. Her last non-vegan meal was a Turkey Lean Pocket. Ew.