I haven’t always been vegan. I wasn’t raised in a vegan or even vegetarian household and I started on this journey almost 10 years ago as someone who wanted to only buy ‘ethically sourced’ meat and eggs. Without really meaning to, this evolved into someone who came to feel that there wasn’t such a thing as ‘ethical’ meat and then someone who, 7 years later, felt so hypocritical about ‘caring about animal welfare’ yet still buying into the dairy and egg industries that over a 3-year period I made the transition to veganism. Quite often when I was vegetarian you would hear me utter the words ‘I could never be vegan’ because I thought I loved milk (and therefore milkshakes and chocolate) and eggs too much.
I understand that we’re brought up in a society where it’s normal to eat farm animals yet keep domesticated pets. I get that this is the way everyone has always been, largely without questioning it. For most of the population, they’re not given the choice on whether to eat meat once they’re old enough to choose, they’re just brought up eating it. So, I understand that in many ways this is just habitual and accepted as the norm and not something that most people suddenly turn around and think about.
This unfortunately doesn’t stop me from being perplexed when meat eaters share videos about animal abuse with crying emojis, breaking their hearts over the suffering of a dog or a cat. To me, and to many vegans, the only difference between dogs & cats and cows & pigs is your perception. Some, and I say ‘some’ because animal personalities vary as much as ours do, as some animals are shy or more reserved, so some cows love to play fetch. Some chickens will run outside when they hear the school bus pull up in order to hug their human friends, much in the same way as your dog will excitedly greet you when you get home. We’ve all seen videos of mischievous little goats jumping on one another’s backs and running around. The only thing that sets a cow apart from a dog is the onus that our western society has placed upon that animal. Dogs are to be loved as part of the family and cows are to be eaten, that’s just the way it is.
But then you think about how in China dogs and cats are part of the meat industry. And in India cows are sacred. So why is it so strange to challenge the idea that farm animals ‘should’ just be eaten? If you’re a meat eater that loves domesticated animals, do you not feel uncomfortable about the pain and suffering that’s inflicted on farm animals? Unfortunately, I think that most people do, but we’ve constructed such a removal from the factory farm process that people just shrug it off, they don’t truly understand or care about the consequences.
Maybe you just don’t know what you would eat otherwise, which is fair enough when meat has been making up most of your meals for most of your life. My diet improved vastly and got a lot more varied after I became vegan, yet this surprises almost everyone I tell. Going vegan won’t restrict your diet, it just shifts it somewhere else. At first, you’ll barely know what to eat, but that’s why it takes time. You’ll gradually find new favourite meals, which don’t necessarily have to be a straight dupe of a meal that contains meat, and you’ll build up enough of a repertoire that you won’t miss eating meat for the most part, if at all. I can honestly say that I don’t miss it at all, but I know some vegans do but they’re making the conscious decision that their morals are more important than their taste buds. But again, that doesn’t mean that they no longer enjoy eating food or don’t have favourite meals!
If I told you that you could eat your favourite food without causing millions of animals to suffer whilst also cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, thereby helping to save the planet, I’m confused why you wouldn’t be intrigued. Instead, people are defensive and abusive again and again. Almost everyone has the same ‘arguments’ against veganism:
Vegans kill animals too
No vegan has ever claimed that they’re not responsible for an animal’s death, even whilst being vegan. We’re aware that, unfortunately, wild animals are killed through farming. But veganism is about minimising harm. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to live without causing the death of another living thing, but you can make choices that vastly reduce the amount of living things that are dying.
If your plant-based meal has caused the death of a wild vole family that lived in the field the crop was grown in, whilst that’s unfortunate it’s still caused less harm than eating a burger. This is because farm animals are fed crops, so wild animals are still being killed in the farming of the animals’ feed. Then you’re adding the suffering and eventual death of the farm animals on top. This quite clearly equates to more death and suffering than a plant-based diet.
Saying that animals are dying either way and fuck it we might as well go the whole hog (pun intended) and kill millions more is downright immoral.
Lions eat meat
Humans are in no way comparable to lions. Lions don’t have jobs, don’t live in cities and do eat their young. If you would, however, like to draw this comparison (as many people do) I always say this: Lions don’t have alternatives. Humans do.
Lions don’t have opposable thumbs, they can’t farm plant-based food for themselves. They also don’t have access to supermarkets. Furthermore, they only hunt and kill enough food for themselves to eat – I personally haven’t ever seen a lion factory farming gazelle. They’re killing a wild animal which hasn’t been kept in a cage/pen for its whole life, who has had a far better quality of life than a farm animal and they’re going to use every piece of that animal that they can for their survival. This is in no way comparable to the meat industry, which wastes so much meat and uses barely any of the rest of the carcass. The bottom line is that lions feeding themselves is far more ethical than factory farming.
Of course I don’t expect a lion to eat a plant-based diet. However, lions eating meat doesn’t justify humans doing it because humans have alternatives and you don’t draw any other comparisons with or attempt to justify any other actions with actions of the animal kingdom. Do you forcibly impregnate multiple women? Would you then eat your young if you didn’t have enough food? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Humans have clearly moved on ethically and it just doesn’t make sense to base your ethics on that of a wild animal.
Plants feel pain
The answer to this is basically the same as the ‘but vegans kill animals too’. It’s about minimising harm. Humans have to eat something, so choosing something that can be farmed directly and eaten, rather than farmed and fed to a living animal who then suffers and is killed is logically a better alternative. There’s simply less suffering involved.
These are just some of my pet-peeve arguments against veganism, but there are so many more common justifications of eating meat and animal products that come up that just don’t hold up to scrutiny. I highly recommend reading https://veganspeak.org/guide/ to see the scientific, logical and evidence-based answers to 49 ‘arguments’ against veganism.
Eating vegan food doesn’t mean only ever eating vegetables and sacrificing all the food that you loved previously. I still drink milkshakes. I still have burgers and cakes and ice cream and sausages and pies. I’m still eating all of the things that I did before as well as so much more! I don’t actually like much fruit or many vegetables and although we try to eat fairly healthily, I’m a serial snacker and have a serious sweet tooth. I can also still have chorizo ‘sausages’ and southern fried ‘chicken’ – what you’re mainly a fan of there with the taste is the spices, and it doesn’t matter what vessel the spices are in/on, it’ll still taste like chorizo. As I said, going vegan won’t restrict your diet, it just shifts it somewhere else.
I know it’s uncomfortable to question something you’ve been doing for your whole life, I’ve literally been there. I didn’t just wake up one morning, consider myself a higher being and instantly stop eating meat and all animal products. I felt like I had a sudden ‘what the fuck’ epiphany about eating meat when I was 14 and then again years later about dairy and eggs. I struggled with my morals and uhm-ed and ahh-ed for years before finally biting the bullet and aligning my eating and lifestyle habits with my morals and going fully vegan. If you care about animal abuse your morals are halfway there, so why fight tooth and nail to justify the suffering and death of millions of animals rather than taking a serious inward look, doing some research and making the change?