Sometimes I get asked why I am vegan. This was more common when I first transitioned into abstaining from animal products. Nowadays I am more likely to get what seems like polite and accommodating indifference. I sit at tables longing for someone to pop the question and give me permission to discuss something that is very close to my heart. I don’t know why the opportunity is so rare, I get the impression that veganism is still considered to be a bit extreme and I also live in fear of putting people off by claiming a moral high ground – which it is hard not to do.
If I’m feeling belligerent I want to throw back the question, “why aren’t you vegan?” It seems odd to me that I should justify choosing not to consume certain things rather than asking others to justify why they do consume certain things.
On the rare occasions when I do get asked, I feel as if I have just a sentence or two to summarise a multi-faceted and very profound lifestyle choice and hook people into the fascinating conversation that may follow. The door is open for a moment to talk about non-violence as a way of life, about the glory and riches of a vegetable-based diet, to uncover the moral contradictions that appear on our plates and, hopefully, help that person to come a step closer to deciding to change one thing that will change a thousand other things for the better.
However, since that door opens very rarely I have to store all my openers somewhere, so please forgive me, dear reader, if I dump a few of them here. In all this I need to remember that I was once a fully signed up carnivore and a practitioner of polite indifference myself:
Actually, I’m not “a vegan” and I don’t consider that I belong to a certain category. I am simply someone who chooses as a matter of preference on a moment by moment basis not to participate in all that consuming animal products entails – for all sorts of reasons that I’d be happy to discuss.
Because I am an incurable epicurean hedonist and I have to confess that living animals give me a lot more joy than dead ones, and no amount of mint sauce is going to change that.
Because I am morally opposed to violence and the exploitation of all sentient creatures for the transparently frivolous ends of my own personal gratification.
Because I ran out of reasons not to be.
Because my body can get all it needs from delicious fruit and vegetables and no-one gets hurt.
Because I was vegetarian for a few weeks before I discovered that it was a meaningless gesture.
I don’t like violence in my food-chain or anywhere.
Because being vegan is probably the biggest single thing I can do to reduce my carbon footprint.
Because I can’t morally justify our use of animals.
Because if everyone isn’t vegan in ten years time then the world food crisis will be much worse and society will be sicker than ever.
Because meat is dead flesh, milk is for baby cows, eggs are a chicken’s menstruation and leather is somebody else’s skin.
Because I think consuming animals and animal secretions is wrong.
Because I wouldn’t eat or milk my dog or wear her skin, why should I do that to any other creature that has an equal interest in living and thriving.
Because I live in anticipation of a day when God says “nothing will hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:9)
Because I think scripture teaches that the shedding of all blood is an extremely serious matter.
Because I think it is self evident that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak whoever they are.
Because being vegan helps me to integrate my beliefs with my actions in a concrete way.
I think most people would be vegan if they really thought through what our use of animals involves.
Because it is about a lot more than what we eat or wear. Veganism implies an integral commitment to non-violence and fighting all forms of oppression.
Because the only argument I can find in favour of continuing to consume animal products is that they taste nice and as an anthropologist I am convinced that taste is cultural and not chemical.
For people, for animals, for the planet and for my own health.
Because it is fun.
I guess that’s my starter for ten. Being vegan is very easy and simple, talking about it is difficult and complex. What would be your answer in a nutshell as to why you are or are not vegan?
Here are a couple of good websites about veganism that have some great resources: