If you’ve ever met a vegan, you’ve probably heard various arguments about the issues with eating meat. You’re also probably familiar the stereotype of vegans being anything but persuasive in their approach. Why are vegans annoying? Why do they feel the need to argue? Their constant moaning about animals and heart disease, their claims of a better environment and tastier foods... It can't be all be truthful, can it?
Wait a second; what even is a vegan? Apart from a self-righteous, gaunt-looking greasy Muppet with no friends…? It seems like they trawl the internet looking for the tiniest glimpse of hope that their way of life is better than everyone else's and then flood their Facebook pages with incessant nonsense, trying to make their social circles feel bad.
Do they not know that plants have feelings, just as our farmyard animals do? Do they not realize that they're killing themselves slowly with the lack of nutrients and vitamins that humans need!?
Enter: Merijn, Chris and Finn of Beyond Binary Thinking, to speak candidly, and openly. Exploring the nuance, the stereotypes, and some hard truths, all with a good sense of humour.
To join them as their guest speaker representing vegan activism was a tad nerving, especially as these guys enjoy arguing in their spare time. Having read the headline “Why Does Everyone Hate Vegans?” I couldn't help but wonder what I'd got myself into.
What fallacies would be thrown my way? Am I going to have to fight against bro-science?
Well, well. Some logical and legitimate points were raised. Merijn and Finn seem to have grasped the concept of Veganism extremely quickly and hearing them discussing it at length was kinda eye-opening (or ear-opening, if you will).
However, it was refreshing having Chris on the mic as the pragmatic, conservative one. He argued with me, but he listened too. At one point he asked the group:
"Is taste really more important than a life?"
That hits you in the feels, but what exactly does it mean?
If someone chooses to eat part of an animal, they've condemned that animal to death? You could argue that one person hardly makes a difference, but on average, meat-based diets kill 200 animals a year per person.
It is a fact that humans are capable of being inherently compassionate. We love our pets and companion animals. We go on safaris and whale watches. It’s why we have hundreds of conservations, charities and rehabilitation centers for orphaned animals around the world.
What's the difference between a pet, a rescued animal and a farmed animal? It sounds like the set up to a joke, but they’re not going to walk into a bar. Especially one that serves up their brothers and sisters for dinner!
The common notion is that "they all want their basic right to live". They would obviously choose their life over our taste. They can't voice their opinions or fight back against us but it's kinda obvious from their behavioural actions that they're not too eager to step into a slaughterhouse... Just like what you see in documentaries that are now accessible on the internet, such as Dominion and Land Of Hope And Glory, showing the treatment of animals before their inevitable slaughter.
We’re compassionate animals ourselves, and it hurts us to see suffering. Maybe that’s the point.
Taste, or life?
Vegans, of course, will harp on about how vegan food is amazing. Because they're hoping to save an animal that way, or maybe, in typical "Jehovah's Witnesses" fashion, trying to pave own way to Vegan Heaven. Something like that!
Scrolling through my nearest vegan restaurant's Instagram page, there are some banging dishes available. Vegan burgers? With vegan cheese? And vegan bacon? Are you kidding me? How is this allowed?! But wow do they look delicious...
It helps that the Beyond Binary lads are so open-minded. All of them have accepted that ethically, environmentally and nutritionally, a vegan lifestyle CAN be the catalyst to a better future… It's just gonna take a lot for people to fully grasp the concept in order for it to have such a profound effect on society.
To some, baby steps will be the way. Not many vegans have been vegan their entire lives and it is important to remember that. Everyone is on their own journey and sometimes it takes longer for people to make the connection between what they're currently eating and using, to the vast "cleaner", "more ethical" alternatives. Some will go meatless for a couple days a week to start with. Some will delve into vegetarianism. Others will take the full step straight into veganism.
However, as soon as the full spectrum of animal exploitation and suffering is understood and accepted, when the flailing environment finally grabs your attention, that's when veganism kicks in for those on a "baby steps" journey.
To be a true animal lover and someone who condones animal cruelty, to have morals aligned with future actions, that's where vegans need to encourage people to be. No one in their right mind likes seeing the suffering of another being. Even knowing about it makes most people feel uncomfortable. There is no humane way to end an animal's life if it's the very thing they're fighting for. Yes, there are some arsehole vegans out there who will spew out aggressive rhetoric non-stop until they go blue in the face, but they are frustrated.
They are angry, and if you empathize with them, you can understand why.
People have been told lies for much of their lives about health, environmental impacts from eating meat and consuming animal byproducts, and the well-being of animals. The vast number of deaths in the animal industry is insane, we can all agree on that. Quotes of 55 to 80 billion land animals are killed every year for human consumption. 2 to 3 trillion marine animals are killed for the same reason or as a byproduct of the meat industry. Imagine that for a second... can you picture all those animals in your entire peripheral?
Those numbers are incomprehensible. Let's use time, something we can easily grasp: 1 million seconds is approximately 11 days. 1 billion seconds is approximately 31.5 years. Wow.
So what can be done to change people’s eating habits?
The world is getting fucked by human greed and individual attitudes are preventing a much needed change across the board. Yes, large corporations have a responsibility but they will always follow the money. If we don't demand something any more, it will cease to exist on our supermarket shelves.
It's "supply and demand". If there is no demand (or a demand for something else) customers will win. Industry adapts, people adapt.
However it isn't all doom and gloom. We live in the information age now, we are able to learn quickly and be effective in making changes. So if there's anything that this podcast aims for in terms of a "take-home message", it's that people should be encouraged to find out for themselves that THEY have the power to force positive change.
Do you hate vegans?
Why? When they talk about cruelty, does it make you feel uncomfortable?
Are you sure it’s vegans that you hate?
Maybe it’s the consequences of some of your actions?
Have a think about it. Maybe go Beyond Binary Thinking. Try a vegan meal. The animals will thank you for it. I’ll thank you for it, and I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.