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In defense of veganism

January 17, 2011
Gestation Crates

"All I could think of was pigs in cruel gestation crates and how terrible their lives must be..."

I swear. Some days are better than others. When you start thinking about meat consciously throughout the day, you start to realise how often it comes up in conversation. I imagine it does so more than sex, for instance. Of course, the most common time for “meat-talk” is around the lunch table. People–usually men–insist on bonding over beer, ogling or misunderstanding the “ladies”, and eating meat. It’s so obvious that I am surprised it’s still done into adulthood. I’m a man, but I hardly ever drink, am gay and get along quite fine with the “ladies”, and don’t eat meat. I’m pretty much a weirdo according to your average macho straight male trying to fit in with the rest of the pack. Needless to say, when the topic of meat comes up around the testosterone-loaded lunchroom, I don’t have much to say. Today it was a discussion about how great bacon tastes on everything and how they should learn to make a type of bread out of meat. All I could think of was pigs in cruel gestation crates and how terrible their lives must be so that we can bond like real men about their tasty flesh around the lunch table. “Meat” is an ongoing topic in the lunch room. That may explain why lately I’ve been spending more of my vegan lunches alone in my office.

Recently, I had a conversation with another gay man regarding food. When I mentioned I had dietary restrictions, he wanted to know what kinds. I told him that I was vegan and he rolled his eyes, sighed, and told me somewhat jokingly, that that was terribly sad. Of course, this is the point in any “coming out as vegan” conversation where you wished you hadn’t said anything at all. Now of course, you just confirmed that you are the weird one in the room and the potential of a budding friendship dissipates in the eyes of both parties. After having just drunk a pint of beer, I easily had the courage to counter that I believed it was more “sad” to torture and murder animals just for the sake of an excessive luxury. He continued to disparage and criticize the vegan diet without much reason aside from “meat is good” and “you are depriving yourself of good”. I explained to him that being vegetarian was like being gay in the sense that it’s something that we sometimes keep to ourselves because we fear that others may not accept it. And when we finally do let others know about our “difference”, we are pained and offended to hear someone say something like:

“What? You’re gay? Oh, that’s so sad. I’m so sorry. What a terrible existence you must endure.”

(Substitute “gay” for “vegetarian, and my point was made.)

He disagreed and told me that the main difference between homosexuality and vegetarianism is that with the latter, you have a choice, with the former, you’re born with it. That’s when I truly pulled out my soapbox, stepped atop, and let him have it.

“I have two things to say about that. Firstly, my being vegan is not a choice, though it may seem so. I grew up eating meat as a naive individual, but as soon as I learned of how animals must suffer, especially those raised in factory farms, and what has to happen to the animals so that we get meat on our tables, I morally and ethically no longer had a “choice”, just as I don’t have a choice regarding killing other humans. Secondly, your dichotomy between respecting what is natural (e.g., gay) and disrespecting–or at least allowing yourself to disrespect–what is chosen (e.g., being vegetarian) is shocking. Choice is irrelevant. If it really matters to a person, then you should respect it. I am as committed to my sexuality as I am to my veganism. It matters just as much to me.”

This caused a bit of awkwardness, as you may imagine. He really didn’t have much to say after that. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken it so far, but the situation allowed for such a passionate rebuttal. You’d think that proving my point would have made me feel great. It didn’t. I ended up being sad that I had probably sabotaged a potential friendship. I do like this guy, I just differ with him fundamentally. Does that make us completely incompatible? Most likely. So I was sad, and realised that ultimately, my being sad added weight somewhat to his original statement.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    January 17, 2011 9:49 pm

    I clicked on “comment” with the intention of offering some words of encouragement. But I’ve got pretty much nothing. Except maybe to say that you’re not alone. And never feel bad about speaking up. That’s one thing I’ve come to believe as I’ve aged (and achieved iron-clad federal government job security). Say what you feel. A bit of awkwardness never killed anyone. And maybe he’ll think twice about blithely making hurtful remarks to the next vegan he enocunters. Hell, maybe he’ll even think reconsider veganism itself. You never know…

  2. shawn permalink
    January 17, 2011 10:35 pm

    This post made me sad. Not because you are gay and vegan, but because unfortunately how this man acted is how many do when they hear of dietary restrictions.

    I had the displeasure of reading an article in the paper about dating & dietary restrictions. The article was basically saying how much of a deal breaker they were. It upset me very much because I have a few allergies, some major & some minor. It really threw me because I would hate anyone to think that I desired them to go out of their way to please my restrictions, they are free to eat whatever they want, we just wouldn’t necessarily eat the same thing. From living my life so far with these restrictions I’m sure it’s given me an extra sensitivity to those with restrictions or preferences, but I really don’t see them as being a big deal, and it shocked me to realize how many people thought they were “deal breakers”.

    Albeit my allergies aren’t nearly as broad and far reaching as veganism, I feel your pain. It’s too bad this encounter turned into such an awkward experience for both of you, and unfortunate the almost hostility that vegetarian & veganism is greeted with.

    Chin up, this individual clearly does not deserve your time.

  3. James permalink
    January 18, 2011 6:23 pm

    When you initially reported him as saying “that is so sad” I immediately thought he had made the same leap that you made at the end of your blog, and that he was recognizing the difficulties you must face. I thought it was going to be a feel-good story, rather than a story about non-connecting with another person. I admire your ability to stand up for what you believe in, knowing the likely consequences.
    I have some personal stories to share with you as well and hope we can chat this week at some point. Thanks for the story!

  4. January 30, 2011 6:35 pm

    I’m surrounded by so many wonderful and open-minded people that it’s often jarring to realize that there’s still a whole other world out there of jerks and ignoramuses. Focus on the good things, and making a difference with those for whom there’s hope. It’s the only way to stay positive, I find!

    <3

    Pamela

  5. February 3, 2011 11:49 pm

    You being sad is almost ironically true.
    Well written post. Please never compromise nor change! You’re an inspiration and I admire your choices (or lack there of ;) haha)

  6. Rasitha permalink
    January 12, 2015 10:28 pm

    I for one think it’s a good thing that you argued back. too many times we just let other people insult veganism just to make them feel good about their choice to eat meat.

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