“Ethical veganism results in a profound revolution within the individual; a complete rejection of the paradigm of oppression and violence that she has been taught from childhood to accept as the natural order. It changes her life and the lives of those with whom she shares this vision of nonviolence. Ethical veganism is anything but passive; on the contrary, it is the active refusal to cooperate with injustice” ― Gary L. Francione
The most difficult thing by far about my transition to veganism was the social aspects. Initially I just wanted to share what I learnt with anyone and everyone I knew, but I soon learnt that what I thought was good news was often not very well received. I have been laughed at, been publicly humiliated and told the only thing available for me to eat at a party was “the lawn out the back”.
I needn’t tell anyone I am vegan, I just need to spend time with someone and it soon becomes obvious, we spend a lot of time eating. Some people say they think that I have some sort of rare will power that they do not possess that inhibits me from gorging myself on the animal they are eating. Some assume that I think I’m superior to them, or that I’m going to lecture them.
When my friend Katie transitioned to veganism she asked me for every A to every Q and I wish I’d been able to give them to her in a neatly bound thesis – better late than never. Sometimes its hard to find the right response when people ask you about veganism – and they will. I find that being forewarned is forearmed, which makes me less passive and nervous about speaking up.
This blog was started on the premise of answering all the questions about veganism but here are some ideas for Helpful Answers to Predictable Questions, which I have been asked during social situations:
Q – Can’t you just pick the meat out?
A – No, as I feel that by doing that I may as well be eating the animal, which I am strongly opposed to doing.
Q – Why are you vegan?
A – There’s many reasons! I value my health, the environment and animals, so being vegan is the simplest way to live by those values.
Q – Are you still vegan/how’s it going being vegan?
A – You make it sound like it’s a phase I’m going though! OR – that’s difficult for me to answer, it’s like asking you how your food is going. I still love eating vegan food if that’s what you mean?
Q – But my doctor says I need more protein/I’m already on a restrictive diet with my allergies, so I wouldn’t be able to go vegan, would I?
A – There is substantial evidence to say that animal protein is not the best dietary source of protein. You can get protein from all vegetables, soy products have the highest amount but other beans and nuts are also great sources. Have you watched Forks Over Knives or read the World Health Organisations article from last year about meat? Both discuss how carcinogenic animal protein in meat and dairy products are. Forks over Knives talks a lot about the benefits of a whole food plant based diet, including management of allergies.
Q – If you were alone on a desert island with a pig, would you eat the pig or starve?
A – (I saw this ripper of an answer by Andrew Kirschner last night) Hmmm, if you were alone, living on a plant with 7 billion people, had access to unlimited fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and other healthy foods, and knew animals suffer and die horrible deaths so you could eat them when you don’t need to eat them to survive, would you continue to eat them? The difference between our questions is that your scenario will never happen and mine is the choice you face right now. Which do you believe is worth answering?
Q – Don’t you miss cheese?
A – No, cashew cheese is my life!
Q – You can’t eat this, can you?
A – I could, but I choose not to. Thank you.
Q – If you care about all living things, doesn’t that include the plants you’re eating?
A – Plants aren’t sentient. Are you interested in plants and trees? Are you aware of the deforestation associated with cattle grazing?
Statement – I could never go vegan.
Answer – I used to think that. Now my only regret was not having done it sooner. Let me know if you ever want to talk more about it.
Statement – You must have so much will power!
Answer – If you knew what I know about the things you eat, I feel sure you wouldn’t eat them either OR it takes about as much willpower for me not to eat farmed animals as it takes for you not to eat your pets.
Statement – You must be more prone to getting sick being vegan
Answer – Actually, I think its there’s a lot of science to support the idea that I’ve boosted by immunity by being vegan. I certainly don’t get food poising or other illnesses associated with food-borne viruses.
Statement – Eating meat is my personal choice.
Answer – I understand that’. When personal choices harm someone else, they are harder to defend though, what do you think?
Statement – I respect the decision that vegans make, so respect my decision to eat animals.
Answer – We can agree to disagree on this one OR I consider your decision speciesist, so I don't respect it but I can accept that's where you're at right now - I ate meat for the first 20 years of my life too.
Statement – Eat some (insert animal product).
Answer – I don’t eat animals.
Statement – I love meat (once said to me by a zoology student – weirdest comment ever)
Answer – I love animals.
“We live in a culture that has institutionalised the oppression of animals on at least two levels: in formal structures such as slaughterhouses, meat markets, zoos, laboratories, and circuses, and through our language. That we refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating is a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture’s approval of this activity” – Carol J. Adams
Since reading Eating Animals and learning of the work of Carol J Adams I have been empowered to change the language I use when discussing veganism with “meat”-eaters. By simply referring to animal products used as food or clothing as what they are – tortured animals – I have found that I have been able to more clearly communicate to others around me the paradigm shift I experienced by going vegan, and the simple nature of why I actively refuse to engage in such lifestyle choices. I think that once people get an understanding of why consuming animal products is unjust, they can come to see that it is also unnecessary.
I believe some of the most effective activism of veganism I have done is leading by example, but even more importantly, sharing the joys of vegan food with those I love.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
The above Helpful Answers to Predictable Questions are my own but for some more great helpful answers to predictable questions check: http://www.shellethics.com/ethics/ultimate-arguments-against-veganism/#1449280468242-185a3152-a3ef
Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook – Carol J Adams