Monday, March 31, 2008
dannyboy 9:36 AM
Folks, you know how I feel. But allow me to bring out the horse once more so I can just link to this post next time someone brings up veganism/vegetarianism. And it should be noted that the majority of my ire is aimed at vegans, and you will understand why shortly.
Here I will explain all the reasons why veganism is an affront to my sensibilities and intellect.
1. Veganism as morality
Not really worth discussing as there are clearly no absolutes when it comes to moral values. But my personal belief is that it is not immoral for people to eat meat any more than it is immoral for a lion to prey on a gazelle. To deny this part of our nature is to deny we are part of nature, much in the way evolutionists claim that we are too special to be mere animals. It disconnects us from the larger whole. This is why I advocate that everyone who eats meat kill something for food once in their lives, so that you can really understand what it means for something to die so you can live.
2. Veganism as ethical behavior
Animals bred for food can and should be treated in an ethical manner. The problem with veganism is that it is almost always fundamentally militant. Kind of like saying you're a Christian, but you're not pushy about your faith? Well ultimately, Christians still believe that they're the only ones in the room going to heaven when they die. You can obscure that all you want, but at its core, veganism is about being better than other people. If your goal is to prevent unethical treatment of animals, being a vegan will do more to counter that goal than any hamburger, ever.
3. Veganism for environmentalism
Which is worse: a hamburger from grassfed beef raised 30 miles from your house, or organic out of season produce from halfway around the world? I'll give you a hint, the one that doesn't require petroleum based fertilizer, and need to be shipped across the ocean, then trucked to your door. And all the packaged meat replacement products? Did you think about the oil used in processing and packaging your fake meat?
Eating local is way more important than organic for both meat and produce--and once you start eating local, it naturally scales down the amount of meat you eat, which is good for the next point...
4. Veganism for health
Basically, read a Michael Pollan book or two. "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." YES, American eat way too much meat. We also eat WAY too much corn.
5. Yes but how does it taste?
Vegans are, tellingly, universally defensive about their food. When one claims things like "it tastes just as good as meat" or "I don't miss chocolate at all", it is no longer about taste, it is about a self-conscious posture that focuses on meat-substitution rather than the natural merits of your ingredients. Why must you eat tofutti (and insist it is as good or better than ice cream) when there are delicious sorbets and granitas available? There have been people on this planet eating meatless for thousands of years, who have created some of the richest culinary traditions in existence, and yet you insist on making a meatless meatloaf? Yes, I would have a Napoleon complex about my food too.
6. So why are people vegans?
I can only offer personal anecdotes here. Consistently, all the vegans I have met have recited the same talking points that you get with your cruelty-free welcome packet. But underneath it, I have always seen at least glimmers of ulterior motivations. I think as a food philosophy, it draws for much the same reasons that religion is attractive—some people need structure, answers; others want to be righteous; for others it's outright social pressure. Many have had control issues across the board, and food was only one expression.
This is obviously not to invalidate an entire category of people wholesale. Just as it is with religion, there are really good-natured people who are in it for exactly the reasons they profess. But just like religion, is it really wrong to assume the worst of people when the majority set out to prove you right?
7. Who ARE vegans anyway?
The Dali Lama, and white affluent hipsters on the coasts. Ok just kidding! The Dali Lama eats meat. No, seriously—all the Tibetan monks do, and they pray for each animal that they kill.
8. But beyond all this talk
there is the actual experience of hanging out with vegans. Eating is a huge shared experience, one of the few universals that we as a species, and really all animals, have. It is how we express love, friendship, and merriment. It is as basic as you can get, bottom of the pyramid.
Vegans are a pain in the ass to hang out with. It is not impossible, but even in eating disorder friendly Northern California, it is a serious logistical overhead. This unfortunately, is why vegans are biased to spend their time with other vegans, at really terrible restaurants, further isolating themselves from the rest of the world.
9. Okay okay.
This is the paragraph wherein I backpedal and acknowledge that some of my best friends are vegetarian, etc. I have friends who do not eat meat and I respect their choices. It is not a choice that I could ever seriously consider. I enjoy trying new things way too much to ever choose to categorically limit myself to a subset of all possibilities. Others derive their pleasure by other means, and more power to them.
I respect those who don't define themselves by what they eat, their diet being simply an expression of who they are.