When I explain my move to a plant based diet, inevitably I receive the question, “Are you vegan?” That’s when I make contorted expressions as I try to find a way around that term. I would usually explain that I am striving for nutritarian (or nutrarian if wanting a shorter name). Usually it doesn’t matter. When you eat mostly plants they are going to label you.
I avoid the quagmire of nuanced reasoning with a label maker. I now respond with “Yes, but an unethical one.”
I dislike using vegan as a term and I think most vegans would be happy for me to not use it as well. I strive to eat a diet that is free of animal products including the removal of eggs and dairy, but my reasoning behind it does not match veganism.
Most vegans approach their eating less from a desire for health and more on moral views. The morality centers mainly on animals being life and deserving of it as much as humans. It also embraces environmentalism for most vegans. It always includes a heavy doses of vegan activism – veganism.
How does this play out? Consider a recent post in a Facebook group for vegans. A woman who recently embraced vegan living raised a question on this group. She has a teenager who is not interested in the lifestyle. Her question: Should I force him into it?
The responses were facepalm worthy:
“Not if you want to support the murdering of animals.”“Maybe you should make him work a livestock factory and see how bad they are.”“I guess it depends on how much you care for the environment.”“Monsanto sucks.”
To be fair, there were helpful and empathetic ideas as well, but their voices drowned in a sea of self-righteous comments. I have no doubt that there are many, perhaps most, vegan eaters that who felt frustrated at the responses and try to not be that way.
I also am certain that most of those who are that way may feel fully justified in their position after having met so much resistance among friends and family. I face it as well. It’s easy to get there when you deal with the push-back. You feel the need to dig in deep and prepare for battle.
The problem is that it does nothing to help others trying and struggling to do this or who may have differing views about the reasoning. Veganism includes a holier than thou attitude that would make Dana Carvey’s Church Lady feel unwelcome.
It frustrates me because my lifestyle qualifies as vegan without veganism. As much as I want to permanently live a plant-based eating lifestyle, it has almost nothing to do with animal kindness and being Captain Planet. I eat this way without regard to the animals I save.
The worst part is that it does even less for those on the outside trying to understand things better by looking in. It puts up a wall that Donald Trump listening to Pink Floyd while reading about the third little pig couldn’t imagine.
These are barriers to valuable lifestyle for to the species of animals I cherish the most: humans.
As near as I can tell, veganism doesn’t favor humans. They are disgusting; there are too many of them; they have no interest in other creatures; they prevent aliens from visiting the planet.
Me? I’m kind of into them. I work with them happily. I eat with them. I sleep with one regularly. We’ve even copulated innumerable times and have produced a good supply of spare humans for when we are gone. I know there are humans that poorly represent the rest of the race, but we elect them anyway.
Humans do a lot to harm the planet, but they do a lot to reclaim it. The more aware humans become of better ways, the more they move towards them. It’s an imperfect, multi-generational shift, not unlike evolution itself, but faster. The only time it all becomes a disaster is when humans try to force other humans to think their way.
That’s what veganism feels like. A combination of cajoling, shaming, and legal forcing to get others to think like them. What they really need is to just be happy vegans.
Things are changing without all that. The number of fast-food places that actually serve quality plant based options is growing rapidly. McDonald’s may have stopped salads due to lack of sales, but sales of their burgers are also declining. The USDA food pyramid is crumbling from an excess of independent research and three decades of failure to help the American dieter. Farmer’s markets are growing.
Many of us are watching diabetes and heart disease not only take our loved ones away, but make their latter years so miserable that the death feels like a burden lifted. A lot of those children will repeat their mistakes. Others, myself included, realize they’re next in line for a decades long, Jazzy Scooter ride to a bed ridden death unless something changes.
Common folks see how real the obesity epidemic is. They are trying to not catch it. They need a bright, hopeful, and doable path that not only removes animal fat, it removes sugar, oils, and processed food. Too many vegans fail to recognize these are dangerous as well.
Vegans can be that path. They can be the bright and vibrant hope. They can show much there is to love with this lifestyle. Condemning meat as murder is the exact opposite of that.
If they but shine their beacon, there may come a time when we all think eating animals is wrong, not because we were once called murderers, but just because we stopped doing it for us. In the process, we spare the animals regardless of the moral reasoning.
For now, I would just settle for feeling better about calling myself vegan. It’s a much simpler term.