Discussion: Failed vegan experiments don’t have to be total failures »
I know, I know, we’ve already asked this a million times, but reading the banally sad summary of Grist’s four-writer, 30-day vegan challenge, I have to conclude that either a vegan diet isn’t for everyone. Why it isn’t for everyone is debatable—not knowing the benefits? Not caring? (Not able?)
Regardless, it seems pretty clear that until global warming forces the rest of the world to go animal-product-free because we no longer have the resources to keep animals for food, vegan diets will be the domain of we few. But the way I think of it is, for every “How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you” joke, there’s another tofu scramble option at a café. People may not be going vegan forever, but they’re trying it out for a meal, or a month. And that’s not nothing. People know we’re here and that we want almond milk in our coffee, and we’re going to keep asking for it until we get it—or patronize the places that have it. Bring on the vegan challenges; maybe they won’t turn most participants vegan, but most of them will learn something.
Unless you’d rather not see them at all, because “I didn’t want to be rude” is the stupidest answer when the question is “Do you want this hunk of dead animal (whose entire life and death is a testament to humanity’s utter disregard for the earth and its inhabitants)?”
[Photo by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr]
Discussion question: Why is a vegan diet so contentious? »
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]
Vegans represent on Dear Abby! »
A few weeks ago, Dear Abby published a question from a reader with an obnoxious brother who insisted that an entire holiday meal for 13 people be vegan because he has two vegan daughters. Dear Abby was horrified and told the dude to tell his bro and his daughters to stuff it and if they want something vegan at the meal, they should bring it them damn selves or just not come, i.e., MERRY CHRISTMAS, MOTHERFUCKERS. Fine, but Imma tell you something: Obviously those brothers have some other issues between them that stem far beyond the vegan meal. I can’t think of any vegan I know (and I know me some vegans) who would ever EVER insist that a holiday meal be entirely vegan. Some vegans have families who are ultra-accommodating and prepare an entirely vegan meal out of choice, some have awesome families who make sure there are plenty of vegan dishes, and some have to bring the vegan deliciousness with them, but I don’t know one vegan who is all, “MAKE THIS SHIT ENTIRELY VEGAN OR I AIN’T COMING AND YOU CAN EAT A DICK!” Letters like this perpetuate the mostly false stereotype of the “Difficult Vegan” AND in this case, it wasn’t even the vegans who were being difficult, it was their weirdo dad! If it even went down exactly how the poor victim brother who wrote the letter says it did, and I have my doubts. Can I get a witness?? Literally!
Anyway, I fumed about this for several days BUT TODAY, I saw that Abby (who is really named Jeanne now, that’s gotta cause some identity issues!) published some letters from awesome vegans who were all, “Hey! I’m not like that! And my eating choices are valid!” and so, that’s rad and all is well in the world and I don’t have to go ‘Mel Gibson in Falling Down” on your asses. Or “Mel Gibson drunk on a police officer.” Or “Mel Gibson sober on his wife.”
FINALLY, if you ever need any vegan advice, hit me up at Ask Laura (my advice column in VegNews!) and I’ll solve all your worldly problems and then some. And by and then some, I mean, I’ll also make fun of you and if you include your address, send you a coupon for a 50 cents off your next Wildwood tofu purchase, I’ve got a million! Ask away!
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.