I don't talk about my veganism much. It's not an exciting point of discussion, and I'm a busy person, so I don't have a lot of time to respond to stupid comments like "chickens wouldn't survive in the wild, releasing them would be cruel".
If you're a vegan, you've probably heard some combination of excuses as to why someone else thinks it's too hard, too weird or too wrong to ditch the meat in their diet -- from "vegans have weak bones" to "you kill ants when you walk", there's no shortage of crazy when someone spots you quietly eating your fried mushroom burger. "Each to their own", they say, as they waft the smell of their soggy chicken sandwich in your direction, eagerly asking if they're offending you.
I pride myself on holding it together as they poke fun at my crispy tofu while simultaneously complaining that "vegans are so preachy". But I've been there. I've heard the excuses. And here's a list of the most ridiculous.
If we all went vegan there would be too many cows. I'm saving them from extinction by eating them. I get asked where 'all the cows' will go, as though my veganism is somehow harbouring a dark disregard for the soon-to-be-homeless animals I don't eat. Without mentioning that it's completely inconceivable that the earth's population would ever go vegan overnight, wondering if switching to a plant-based diet would cause a farm-animal extinction event is fairly low priority on the list of animal welfare concerns you should have by eating bacon. Piglets having their teeth cut without anaesthetic? Worry about that.
I'll die from lack of protein, so I need meat to survive. You need nutrients to survive, and protein is just one of many things your body gets from eating plant-based foods. Lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, amaranth, soy milk, green peas, artichokes, hemp seeds, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, oatmeal, tempeh, green beans, asparagus, almonds, tahini, chickpeas, peanut butter and bread are all really good sources of iron and protein. Eat 'em and you'll live -- I promise.
When someone tells me that plants have feelings. PLANTS HAVE NO BRAINS OR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEMS.
Cavemen ate meat and eating meat made our brains grow. The 'meat made us smart' argument is not rooted in much certainty, and as a scientist I've debated this with my peers until we're all blue in the face. Unfortunately, most people who talk to me about this look confused when I mention the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis (you know, the actual anthropological theory that the emergence of meat in our evolutionary history promoted brain growth). They don't know it's been peer-reviewed, picked apart and ultimately refuted. That's not to say it isn't on the right track, but the point is that the expensive tissue hypothesis is one of several evolutionary theories about human evolution and we still don't know which one is correct.
When someone says, 'lions eat meat, are you saying they're evil, too?' Get back to me when you're wild trapping gazelles. Because right now we're standing in the organic section at the supermarket while you pick out your gluten-free penne pasta. There's caged hen's eggs in your shopping cart and oh my god, is that vitamin water?!
Human beings are smarter and superior to all other animals. We're at the top of the food chain and we eat what's beneath us. Remember that time you wrestled a grizzly bear and won? Me neither. It's because without sophisticated technology, human beings are incredibly vulnerable to predation. If you're questioning that, ask yourself if you swim on the "safe side" of the shark nets. The only plausible argument for human domination is the fact we developed a technological interconnectedness after the agricultural revolution. It's clever that we share ideas, design and build. What isn't smart is how we've intensified animal agriculture, destroyed the environment, displaced millions of refugees, created poverty, started wars, spread diseases, caused extinction and failed to prevent climate change.
But what if I wash up on a deserted island? Can someone give me the coordinates to this place? It seems like a vegan hot spot.
It would be nice if you cared about humans as much as you care about animals. You know that thing called world poverty? It's deeply aggravated by agriculture since the livestock industry diverts cheap grains away from the mouths of the planet's 1.5 billion starving people. Not to mention, eating meat contributes to your ecological and carbon footprint by as much as 50 percent. Cutting meat from your diet isn't just a kind gesture to the billions of non-consenting animals killed for meat every year, but it shows a wild consideration for other people too.
Wasn't Hitler a vegetarian? I don't know. Wasn't Buddha, Plato, Voltaire, Einstein and Ghandi?
"Mmm... bacon!" See? It's stuff like this that makes me think the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis just couldn't be true. It's right up there with "if we weren't meant to eat animals, they wouldn't be so tasty". So clever.
RESPECT MY RIGHT TO EAT WHAT I WANT. STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO. Why do we fight so hard against "bossy" vegan rhetoric but have no issue killing animals who can't and wouldn't consent to their consumption? A vegan can't tell you what to do, but you can sign off on the deaths of more than 56 billion animals every year?
Like arguments against evolution, fighting vegan logic is a battle already lost. If not for the benefits in health and environment, veganism wins for it's careful consideration of other living beings. After all, if you can't recognise the innocence of a pig or a cow or a sheep, it might be worthwhile asking yourself if your empathy extends as far as you think it does (instead of worrying about cavemen and the sentience of flowers).