Discussion question: Why is a vegan diet so contentious?  »

The internet loves a controversy!

Donald Kaul is a Pulitzer-nominated journalist and super-liberal who lives in Iowa. Last month, he wrote a column called "Vegan Confessions," about how he’s trying to eat a more vegan diet, because of health, and how he’s found it difficult, so he doesn’t follow it 100 percent. Alternet picked it up and the commentariat went nuts: Some people excoriated him for not being vegan enough, some people were offended because his (stated) motives were health instead of animal welfare, and nearly all the Defensive Omnivore Bingo squares were filled in by the rest of them. It was, not to mince words, a shitshow.

Kaul, naturally, feels a bit wounded by the giant pile-on of mean comments, which he discusses in his latest column, "Bitter Broccoli."¬†As a vegan, an “animal welfare first” vegan, I feel bad as well. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the search for perfection, in the vegan community, but more and more people are trying out a vegan diet, and even if it’s only part-time, I think it’s great. The more people make issues like animal welfare and environmental protection priorities, the better off we’ll all be; even if our allies came over to our side for health issues, they’re still on our side! And we’re all on the animals’ side.

This writer seems like a nice, reasonable person. He co-founded RAGBRAI, a “non-competitive bike ride across Iowa” that’s all about fun times cycling with your fellow citizens. He just wants to eat healthier, and recognized that a vegan diet is a superior way to do so. He wrote with honesty and humor about his failures. Is that a reason to scream at him on the internet? Of course not. I can see why this might make other vegans cranky, but I don’t understand why a vegan diet makes non-vegans so mad. We’re not hurting you! We’re just over here, eating vegetables and signing petitions to stop hunts and close abusive circuses and end systematic, socially accepted animal slaughter. Why are you so angry when a nice gentleman cuts most of the animal products out of his diet?

Vegansaurus readers, I put it to you: Why do non-vegans get so riled up when another person joins the vegan ranks? My gut says “total jealousy seeing someone actually act according to a moral code,” but that can’t be the only thing. What do you think?

[photo by Carly Lesser and Art Drauglis via Flickr]

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