Author's note: I originally posted this on my personal blog, and I (and others) feel it's worth posting here as well. But please note that these are my opinions, and while they may be shared by many of my team mates, they do not necessarily represent the views of everyone on the team.
Some of you may have gotten wind of an article posted a few days back on Ecosalon.com, entertainingly entitled "The Conscious Case Against Veganism." In it, the author Abigail Wick lays out eight of the most tired and trite arguments against veganism. She does so after first explaining that while she is no longer vegan, she spent all her vegan years (months, perhaps?) being that vegan - the one everyone dreads to meet.
Well, here are the responses that popped instantaneously into my head as I read her "article" - answers that are likely obvious to pretty much every actual conscious vegan on the planet.
Argument 1: Vegans also eat processed foods and therefore a vegan diet is no better than the Standard American Diet; we should all be slow foodies instead.
Response: Well, duh. Vegans are people too. But we don't eat any more processed foods than anyone else, and in fact we're a lot more likely to be aware of food issues - because we tend to actually be educated about the food we eat. The inference in this paragraph that we are separated from the "local, sustainable, slow food" movement is laughable. I can't count how many discussions I've seen (and begun) about farmer's markets, CSA's, and backyard vegetable gardening. Not to mention that we're OBSESSED with cooking! In short, this argument is a joke.
Argument 2: The oyster argument.
Response: First of all, are you kidding? You really couldn't pull out anything better? When are you folks going to get sick of trotting this one out? Anyway. We don't eat oysters because they are animals, and because we've drawn a line. And just as importantly, it's basically impossible to purchase oysters without monetarily supporting the people who also kill and sell shrimp, crabs, lobsters, fish, those other bivalves you're so concerned about, and (accidentally but just as brutally) turtles, dolphins, and any other number of aquatic life. So no, we don't eat oysters. And we don't put money into the pockets of the people who are completely destroying the aquatic ecosystems of the world. Next?
Argument 3: No one wants to eat food that has to be put in quotation marks.
Response: OK, so we say "chicken." Big deal. Are you telling me that non-vegans aren't eating mock food? (Doesn't that directly contradict the major point in Argument 1?) I have long considered about 90% of what gets sold in any grocery store in the United States to be "food." Have a look at a bottle of Nantucket Nectars or a package of Kraft American Singles lately? If these aren't "juice" and "cheese," I don't know what they are. The author here seems to be laboring under some delusion that vegans eat nothing but processed fake "meat" products all day long. Maybe she never got past that extremely novice phase of veganism, who knows. But personally, I don't know any vegans who eat that way. Those foods are occasional treats, not staples. What I do know is that every time I'm at the grocery store I see plenty of people buying hot dogs and Kool Whip - what is that made of again? Petroleum products?
Argument 4: Not all wool farmers are bad.
Response: Well OK. Maybe there are a relative handful of sheep scattered across the globe that aren't suffering from maggott infested sores so that you can have a snazzy winter coat. But here's the thing: how can you be sure? Have you actually been to the farms, witnessed the conditions and seen the harvest? We make it easy. We just don't buy wool. That way we can be sure that we are not contributing to the cruelty that is behind the vast majority of this favorite fiber. How else is it possible to be certain? Claims of "ethical sourcing" are a dime a dozen for every animal product you can name - that doesn't make it so. Don't *even* get me started on "free range." This is just more of the same. Not to mention the bottom line is that you're still keeping animals in captivity for your own purposes - something that many-to-most vegans consider morally wrong. Finally, I've been living in NYC for the past six winters, and I've done just fine without wool.
Argument 5: Chickens are happy in backyards, and they lay eggs anyway...
Response: Uh, yeah. So, should we talk numbers here? How many BILLIONS of eggs are sold each year in the U.S.? And exactly how many of those come from chickens... that were raised in people's backyards?? Oh, right, none. If they were hanging out in backyards, we wouldn't constantly be battling an enormous industry known as "factory farming" now would we? "...a nice plot of green grass for scratching and pecking, room to roost, and cruelty-free living in a halcyon idyll. Wouldn’t it be tragic to deny a chicken such luxury?" Hello? I've never met a vegan who wants anything else for every chicken on the planet. What does that have to do with you eating their eggs? Is that somehow critical to their backyard survival? But let's get to why our author *really* isn't vegan anymore: "Plus, a fried egg on whole-wheat toast with a side of steamed collard greens is a heaven unto itself – just don’t forget the hot sauce!" Translation: Who needs morals or ethics when you can have a yummy sandwich!
Argument 6: Honey is more sustainable than "cash crop" sugar and agave and bees are important to the environment.
Response: Yes, no bees means no fruit or veggies. Who EVER proposed getting rid of bees?!?! They are absolutely fundamental to plant ecosystems. We actually just want to let them KEEP their honey - their food source that they work very, very hard to collect and create and store. The food source that you want to take away from them, that will be replaced with an artificial food that will shorten their lifespans, so that you can have sweetened tea. Reality check: sweeteners are not a necessity! So if you're so worried about the ramifications of unsustainable cash crops or unfairly treated workers, maybe you should just go without?
Argument 7: Goats are awesome pets who produce delicious milk.
Response: Yikes. How do so many people just not grasp this point? OK ladies, work with me here. You are a mammal. You have breasts. And yet you know that they will not produce milk unless you have have just had a baby. NEWSFLASH! This is how all mammals work! They do not produce milk unless they've had babies! Which means - stay with me now - that if your goat, or cow for that matter, is giving milk, and you're milking her and taking that milk, you're taking the milk away from her baby. Get it? Ohhh, it's all OK? You already sent the calf off to be fattened up for a nice veal steak? Well nevermind then. Problem solved.
Argument 8: Vegans are pretentious jerks who judge others for buying vintage leather.
Response: Doing some self reflection there Ms. Wick? Maybe you were the kind of vegan who vociferously judged other vegans for buying secondhand leather, but I'm not. I don't agree with it personally, because I - and many others - feel that it sends the wrong message. Namely, that it sends the message that it's OK to wear animal flesh. Also, ew? Why would you want to wear animal flesh? If you think about it for about two seconds you realize how hideous that is. But why won't you just be honest? You don't want to buy leather thrift store goods to "support re-use, rather than contributing to a modern-day economy of mass-consumerism." You want these things because you want them on the cheap, because you think they look cool and you don't care where they came from. We do care. We would rather find things that look cool AND aren't made of animals AND weren't made in sweatshops - it's entirely possible you know. You just have to put in the effort.
In the end, this article isn't about why not to be vegan. It's about how to not be an ignorant vegan. These are issues that all vegans should think about and have answers to. In the first paragraph, Ms. Wick states that she "fiercely guarded [her] inflexible morality, never daring to reexamine the orthodoxy’s most illogical presuppositions." Well that was her first mistake, wasn't it? I examine and re-examine the choices I make every day. And every day I come to the same conclusions. I have reasons for everything I do - I don't have to "fiercely guard" anything. The day this article was published was my fifth veganniversary. Have I had questions? Sure. But I've never doubted that I made the right choice.
Thank you and goodnight.