vegansaurus!

02/08/2010

Is veganism really a battle between good and evil?  »

Presenting an op-ed by Brianna, one of our writers! Her views do not necessarily represent those of Vegansaurus as a whole, but as one of our regular contributors, we’re happy to give her the space to express her opinions.

There are a lot of very outspoken activists in the vegan community. While I admire anyone willing to fight/argue/do anything/etc. for their beliefs, I do feel that certain types of arguments detract from the discussion (read: turn it into a shouting match). This includes: making gagging noises when people eat non-vegan food in your presence, ridiculing or belittling anyone for their lifestyle choices, and adopting an argumentum ad hominem debate strategy. PETA often incorporates a lot of these “shock tactics” in efforts to “raise awareness” and promote veganism; but at best, it completely devalues any real discussion going on about veganism. In my opinion, veganism is a very personal lifestyle choice, not a crusade against evil.

Let’s be real here: we’re all hypocrites. If we have access to a computer and we wear clothing, we are supporting the same capitalist measures that we oppose in other areas. Are some of the clothes I wear made in sweatshops? Yes. But it’s not that I support sweatshops, it’s just that I’m a poor college student with little agency. And I try not to buy clothing that often.

My point is, it is impossible to be 100 percent good, to fully adopt the ideal lifestyle we present to the world. It is impossible to be 100 percent vegan. ANY crop will be harvested at the expense of animals’ well being (think about the destruction of their habitats, or the actual machinery that is used to collect the produce that will inevitably swallow them up as well, or the amount of insects/lizards/birds harmed by transport vehicles in getting your food to you—never mind the myriad environmental effects that ultimately bring many creatures to their demise). The farm industry has permanently damaged entire ecosystems, yet we rely heavily on it for our produce and specialty goods. Further, any medicine you take was probably tested at the animals’ expense—yet it is fundamental to your physical well being.

I think that the black-and-white view of the world (vegan: good; anything else: bad) is what makes a lot of people view veganism as a crock. My switch to veganism some three-plus years ago was one of the most incredible life changes I have ever undertaken. It is a beautiful thing to approach all of my meals with a critical eye, with a concern for what is going into my mouth and how it got on my plate. But I am imperfect, and I implore you to admit the same. We all slip up; we are all at the end of the day human. Veganism is a personal choice, a challenge to the body and the mind that takes great concentration and great care. It isn’t something that you should be bullied or guilted into; it is a decision that you should make with a lot of thought and great personal struggle.

I challenge you to challenge those who have differing views—I aspire to do much of that in my life. I am often asked “why?” and I always take great care to give a logical, unbiased answer. I tell whoever asks me about the great harms of factory farming to both animal welfare and to the environment. If they ask further, I tell them of the health implications of eating antibiotic-riddled meat or PCB- and mercury-laden fish. If someone ridicules me for my lifestyle choice, I smile and nod and I understand that there is nothing I can say to change their mind. But there is something I can DO: I can live as exemplary a lifestyle as possible, and hope that they see the positive aspects of veganism. I implore you in your life and in your discussions with others to refrain from attacking them as people, from removing their humanity and mistaking ignorance (as in, an ignorance of your views and why you have them) with evil.

I don’t believe that there is a single “right” or “wrong” way to live for everyone. There is, however, a “right” way for yourself, and you should do everything in your power to find out what it is. But you must also recognize that what is right for you may not be right for someone else, and respect their choice to live omnivorously, just as you expect them to respect your choice to live herbivorously.

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