vegansaurus!

04/21/2009

“ The way Americans eat has lots of problems, to be sure, but telling people that the historical basics of their diet are gross and unnatural isn’t the best way to get people to change. Maybe if Masson were more interested in reform, he’d recognize that, as much as animal life deserves respect, so does human culture. It’s reasonable to ask people to eat less meat and dairy — it’s even reasonable to ask them to go completely vegan. But we have to understand that this represents an enormous shift for people, a break not only with habit but with history. Sometimes it’s good to break with history, but it’s always hard, and animal rights advocates need to recognize that. „

Maria posted that quote from the Jezebel piece on Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and veganism.

Jezebel - Animal Advocate Doesn’t See Why Veganism Is So Difficult To Do - Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

I have some thoughts on this. They are posted below (with a little help from Meaverly!) I’d love to hear other thoughts on the article, as well. Unless they’re different than mine. If that’s the case: you’re wrong, go away!

Okay, Jezebel piece on veganism. I’ve got some issues witchu.

In the post, the writer talks quite a bit about our substantial “human culture”* in relation to meat eating. In the history of “human culture,” meat and dairy weren’t a part of every meal until very recently. Whether because of culture, cost or convenience, that’s just how it was. Relatedly, the modern factory farm couldn’t be further from how things were even just 30 years ago. It’s a big leap from hunting animals ourselves to buying them wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic at Safeway. This “human culture” argument reeks of b.s. to me but I’ll still point out that a break from the status quo in “human culture” is how most of the great things happened in the history of the United States.

I think Jezebel has a stronger argument for the difficulty of becoming vegan with the communal act of sharing a meal. It’s hard to order something different than your friends and then respond when they ask you, “Why did you get that?” It’s hard to say no to your grandmother’s pot roast or famous apple crisp**. Food is often how we show our love to those around us. Sharing a meal with your family can often be one of the best memories a person has. It’s a difficult thing to deal with because when you turn down Grandma’s food, it’s like you’re turning down her love. My friend actually told me that he didn’t know if it was harder to come out to his parents as being gay or being a vegetarian! Craziness!

So, yeah, it is hard. It might be the hardest thing about becoming vegan or vegetarian. But you can do it. You can bring your own food to the meal and still participate with your family. It’s different but you can do it. It’s likely that once your family sees that you are for real about this and it’s not just a phase, they’ll most likely start making food that you can eat and might even change their relationship with what and how they eat. My dad who is WAY into meat, pretty much only eats it a couple times a week now because of his health and also because that’s just how my parents eat now. I like to think I had some influence on that. Also, now he’ll live longer and not die from fat clogged arteries, another delightful side effect from his meat consumption (and that’s not just me, that’s his doctor! Who isn’t vegan! Snap! Kinda!). And at the risk of sounding slightly preachy, it feels REALLY good to live in a way that you’re not supporting animal torture and killing. I don’t know how else to put that last part to make it sound not as in your face because that’s what it is, it’s animal torture and then it’s animal murder. Hm, I guess murder is worse than killing? But also more appropriate.

Another problem with the Jezebel argument is that she’s talking about younger kids, in particular college students, and unfortunately there are a lot more VUGs than LUGs. Then two months out of school, they quit being veg when they find a new partner who loves to eat steak. Those former vegetarians/vegans are actually the most dreaded people to deal with for two general reasons. First, because their vegan lifestyle was another trend to follow, like spending your weekends getting high and making out with other ladies in front of dudes to the sweet sounds of the Dave Mathews Band. That’s fine, we were all experimenting in college (er, except for that Dave Mathews Band part) but that’s not how your everyday, committed vegan behaves.

Second (and remember the “generally” that preceded all this), there is the ex-veg who liked the animal-free lifestyle of their youth, but didn’t keep it up after school because of lack of support/willpower/spine/empathy. These people tend toward the jerky side because of their guilt, and some of them like to talk about how their doctors prescribed them a meaty diet because they “got all weak and sick and anemic” during their veg years***. Sometimes they come to their senses and return to their ethical lifestyles; those who don’t can get kind of obnoxious in their justifications of why not.

Now listen: long-term vegans and vegetarians aren’t preachy. You hear A LOT about the preachiness because the self-righteous vegans are the ones the media love because, guess what, they make great news! Talking about all of the vegans and vegetarians who comfortably live amongst us? Not so interesting.

I am open to any questions from my omnivore friends about veganism and I think (hope) they know that but that’s the extent of my outreach to those directly around me. If someone wants to become vegetarian or vegan (for the right reasons) then no matter what stands in their way, they will do it. The fact that it’s harder to find vegan food (which really isn’t that true!) or that they love the taste of bacon too much or that it’s a part of their “human culture”—those things don’t matter. You become vegan because you don’t want to contribute to the wide-scale suffering and exploitation of animals. That’s it. I hope that people who are truly interested in vegetarianism or veganism don’t come across the judgmental vegan (or the very common judgmental meat-eater talking waxing obnoxious about the judgmental vegan) and it scares them off veganism. I hope that even if they do, they’ll reach out until they find the thousands of us who aren’t. I want to think if someone really wants to be vegan, it will happen. But I don’t know how true that is. I want it to be. Argh! Damn humans being all crazy and shit! I’m off to have a delicious vegan cupcake before I get all super bitchy or cry-y.

*I believe that “human culture” deserves respect, but I’m willing to side with an animal life vs. “human culture” as relates to food. I’d be curious to ask the author—who obviously doesn’t think veganism is the problem, but rather the people who are vegan—how do I help others make the decision to become vegan without sounding preachy or judgmental? I mean, I can ask my omnivore friends how to do this, but obviously I’m not very successful; they still eat meat. When I first became vegan, I thought I would show factory farm footage and explain the things I learned about animals in horrible situations and everyone around me would immediately go veg. To be honest, it still boggles my mind that they don’t.

**my grandmother, bless her crazy ass heart, was a certifiable anorexic so I never had that problem. Maybe that’s why I’m vegan???

***Secretly, most of us don’t buy it. Collectively we have a lot of friends with a unfortunate genetic tendencies and/or diseases who are also vegan or vegetarian, and their diets are 0 percent detrimental to their health. If you’re worried about your health, talk to a (real, with-a-degree, licensed) nutritionist before you talk to any doctor. MDs don’t get much training in nutrition; their advice isn’t the best you can get.

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