Welcome to part 4 of 4 in my Conversation series. This one took a lil’ while longer to produce because my sweet tooth recently went bananas and I’ve been busy baking up a storm. Today is WAY too hot for baking though, so I thought I’d finish up the series with one last piece of the typical vegan-omnivore conversation. For those of you just joining us, please check out Parts 1 (A Simple Conversation), 2 (Why Vegetarians May Hate Me) and 3 (Honey?! Are You Kidding Me?) before feasting your eyes on this last post.
Lil’ Omni: So what do you eat if you don’t eat meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or milk?
Lil’ Vegan: I eat a greater variety of foods now than I did when I was an omnivore. Look at me – do I look like I’m starving?! My culinary skills and tastes have expanded exponentially since I became vegan. I spent my childhood eating my favourite meal: white macaroni noodles with butter, salt, and knackwurst, despite my very healthy parents’ fervent attempts to get me to eat something that had even one iota of nutritional value. As a result, I was a tubby little kid, and an even tubbier teenager. Now, having reached adulthood and a healthier understanding of human physiology and ecosystem functioning (among other things hopefully), I inspire myself from different cultures, am open to trying anything (that didn’t have a face/mother) and I enjoy eating every mouthful, to the point that I’ve created a blog to celebrate it. My cupboards and fridge burst with creativity (and 8 billion types of sauces and spices) and yet I eat pretty “normal looking” food (or so says my omnivorous roommate who is open to my lifestyle and refreshingly willing to try anything I throw at her). There is a wealth of foods out there that doesn’t cause pain to other creatures, tastes great and is, for the most part, extremely nutritious and highly digestible. Why would I restrict myself to eating meat, fish, chicken, eggs and milk when I have all of these other foods at my fingertips?
Lil’ Omni: Well what about the plants? Ever think about how they feel?
Lil’ Vegan: The simple fact is that plants do not have a central nervous system (CNS) and so very likely do not feel pain the same that creatures with a CNS do. However, if The BFG was telling the truth when he said he heard trees scream when they were being cut down and flowers crying when they were being plucked, well, then we’ve got way bigger issues than me being vegan. This world could not exist without plants. They filter the air, provide food and shelter, stabilize the soil… The list is practically endless. But I digress – one of the more relevant points directly related to the above, usually snarky comment, is that omnivores consume both plants AND animals, and will therefore consume more vegetable material because they eat the herbivores that survive off plants. If you don’t believe me, look at a basic food web or ecological pyramid. So, if a snarky someone comes along and asks about plants, you can smile sweetly and say that they eat more than you do – they just don’t realize it.
There are several websites that address the “vegans are plant murderers” joke and other related replies to an interesting and seemingly controversial NY Times article portraying plants as noble creatures fighting to survive. I find the debate and controversy over the whole issue pretty funny and will therefore leave it to others to delve into. Instead, I turn my attention to the last question in our series.
Lil’ Omni: So… Why are you vegan anyway?
A final lil’ pause here. Unfortunately, when some folks ask you this, they are not actually prepared to hear the answer, since it usually involves you bringing up your aversion to killing, using and/or being cruel to animals, which they do on a regular basis without really thinking about it. Others are honestly curious and are prepared to listen to your reasons. Until recently I had a standard response that I trotted out whenever someone asked me why I was vegan. As you may well imagine, it started out long and complicated as I verbalized and sorted through all of the reason, but got shortened after being repeated a million times and realizing that some people don’t actually want to hear the answer in any great detail. After a while I just got used to spouting off the shortened version, which was, thanks to all the chopping and condensing over the years, rather blunt. I never really thought about it until I was describing a recent encounter with someone who had asked me that very question in the middle of a work lunch. I wanted to avoid the question because I knew that as soon as I answered there would be a myriad of questions that would follow, and I was in a work environment and didn’t really want to get into my personal choices as the rest of the bunch happily ate their omnivorous meals. This was no time to delve into details. Not thinking, I spouted off my pro forma response: “I know that I can’t kill anything so I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to get anyone else to do my dirty work. I also think that supporting factory farming through the consumption of animal products is one of the worst things you can possibly do for the earth and everyone living on it”. Not terribly subtle, am I? When I described the event to my sister and then complained that I then got inundated with rather pointed and defensively phrased questions and comments, she shook her head and said: “Well no kidding! Think about your phrasing! You’re guaranteed to put someone on the defensive if you use the word kill”. She’s totally right. Though I argued that people should be aware that they’re responsible for killing the creatures that are on their plate, she rightly pointed out that it was still one of the worst ways to start a conversation, true or not. I can’t believe I’ve been so oblivious to my phrasing over the years. So, from now on, my response will be…
Lil’ Vegan: Why not?
We’ll see what kinds of conversations the future holds for me now.