For those of you just joining us, welcome! I suggest you grab a hot beverage of your choice (or lemonade if it’s summer time when you’re reading this) and pick up at the start of this thought tidal wave: click on over to Part 1.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s check back in on our vegan-omnivore conversation…
Lil’ Omni: So let me get this straight – you don’t eat or use anything that comes from an animal? That’s way too intense for me. I could never live without cheese.
Let’s pause. This is, hands down, the most common comment I hear from someone who has just discovered that I’m vegan (aside from the scrutinizing, which I dare say is quite rude). I truly don’t understand this, especially when it’s coming from a vegetarian. Ok, I realize that what is about to follow may win me some enemies since all us “fringies” are supposed to stick together, but vegetarians (the ones who abstain from eating meat for ethical [a.k.a. animal welfare] or environmental reasons anyway) truly puzzle me. Please note, dear vegetarian, that this doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I live with a vegetarian and we’re quite happy together in our little veggie nest (though he’s been mulling over veganism of late…). BUT, let’s get to the point here: are you really telling me that you’re so addicted to cheese, milk and eggs that, while you are against killing animals for their meat and you extol the virtues of abolishing factory farming because of its cruelty and undeniable role in environmental degradation, you don’t care enough about the fact that dairy products and eggs require the perpetual mass-captivity and forced pregnancy of billions of individual animals to provide you with these food items? Really? Because, in this day and age, there’s no way someone can NOT know what it takes to get that well-aged cheddar or omelet to their table. We all know. We just opt to turn off and chow down, and that’s one of the saddest things that I can think of.
A cow’s role (or any domesticated animal bred for food production for that matter) in the world has been so engrained in our thoughts and traditions that the vast majority of us rarely think about it anymore. When it’s pointed out that their actions are causing, at a minimum, discomfort to other creatures, people get defensive (hence the searching for leather bits on a vegan). This defensiveness either results from being directly reminded that they are personally contributing to pain, suffering and pollution by some ballsy vegan who doesn’t mind being called preachy, or, as I’ve found over the years, it results simply from meeting someone who’s vegan. I find it udderly fascinating (heheh I’m sorry I had to) that the very word seems to inspire a strong sense of guilt in most people, yet they will fight to defend their way of life by claiming that humans are meant to eat meat, that humans need to eat meat to be healthy, that free-range animals do not experience pain or discomfort, and that eating soy is worse than eating meat. Trust me, there’s a lot more where that came from, and I’ve heard it all. Clearly though, I don’t think any of these so-called arguments hold any water for a wide variety of reasons, but I’m saving that for another post (or series since that’s likely what it’ll turn into).
Debates still “rage” on in the public media, in scholarly articles and even between friends and family. However, I don’t think any of it matters. The only thing that matters is that we now know that (at a minimum) vertebrate animals feel pain, discomfort, cold and heat just as you or I do. That fact is simply no longer up for debate: it’s biology 101 and denying it is indefensible. That alone should be reason enough to stop harvesting animals that way we do, because there are so many alternatives available to those of us who choose to use them. The unfortunate reality is that we eat meat (red, white, dark, light, whatever) because we like it and we’re used to it. Humans don’t take to change very well – most of us aren’t willing to give up a way of life that we’ve grown up with, no matter how badly the choices we make impact our health and our world. We would rather unplug ourselves from the reality that we’re causing through our consumption, turn down the volume on the suffering that we’re causing, close the blinds on the pollution we’re contributing to, and ignore the blood that’s covering our hands – or rather, the hands of the people who we pay to do the actual dirty work.
Now, chances are those of you who are already vegan are nodding and agreeing, because that’s what I would likely be doing at this point. I’m also betting that those of you who are vegetarian, if you haven’t already thought about going “all the way”, are feeling slightly peeved for being called out by some know-it-all vegan, while those of you who are vegetarians and have been toying with the idea of going vegan are perhaps giving it slightly more thought? And the rest of you darling omnivores – family, friends I’ve met and friends I haven’t yet met (I’m so going to get called a hippy for that statement, but I stand by it) – well, I can only hope that this has given you cause to pause. Cause to think about what you’re eating, to eliminate the distance and disconnect between you and what used to be a living creature with nerve-endings and yes, thoughts. I ask that you do one thing for me (and for the rest of the world, because who are we kidding, we all impact each other): THINK about what you’re eating, THINK about how you obtained it (and yes, think beyond the cellophane-wrapped package because that doesn’t count), and THINK about how you could begin to do things differently. Just think. That’s not so much to ask, is it? Oh, and the next time you’re talking to a vegan, maybe think about how many other people have claimed that they would TOTALLY be vegan if it weren’t for the cheese, before you say anything.
Umm… I didn’t get as far into my “typical” vegan-omnivore conversation as I thought I would, but it’s getting late and I think you’ve read (and I’ve written) enough for tonight. If you simply can’t wait, I suggest that you read about some of the myths that appear to be prevalent about vegans – that should tide you over. Next in our series: honey, Part 3. And nope, I’m not kidding.