As a self-professed 99% vegan* for more than five years, I have, in my social filter bubble, been exposed to pretty much every argument, meme and statistical fact in favour of veganism out there. Everything from the shape of our teeth (or not), to comparing meat and broccoli proteins, to those hilarious 9GAG cartoons bemoaning the vegan’s lot when it comes to socialising among ‘normal’ people.
While I generally applaud such efforts to wrench people’s habits and attention away from this kind of ‘normal’, I am increasingly finding myself a little uneasy in the face of many vegans’ unreasonable denial of the obvious. If you’re vegan and of a sensitive nature, look away now…
Eating meat and animal products is natural and normal. Devouring the flesh of another beast to secure your nutrients is a perfectly reasonable way to behave. In nature, there is no right or wrong way to eat. All organic creatures must devour other organic creatures to survive. How you compose your menu is entirely up to you.
This is not my argument against veganism. This is physics.
And then there are the arguments about the side-effects of an animal diet, ie. methane emissions, forest-felling, water and grain consumption, etc. To be honest, these are not things most people think about when they sit down to their Sunday roast, so consistently admonishing their ignorance doesn’t really create any winners.
It can also be conceivably argued that such ill-effects on the environment could be remedied in ways other than changing our eating habits. For example, lab meat, tighter controls on forest-felling, greening desert spaces, better water and waste management systems, sequestering methane emissions or modifying feeds to reduce them, etc., are also possible solutions.
Also I don’t honestly believe there’s a valid health argument for going vegan for anyone who eats meat as part of a varied, balanced and fresh-food diet. In fact, there is equally plenty of evidence that a badly managed vegan diet can cause long term health complications if left unchecked. Complications with B12 and calcium deficiency being the most obvious.
So maybe it’s time for me to stop being vegan and go and treat myself to a big bloody steak?
Well, it’s possibly too late for me as I’m already acutely averse to the thought of eating animal flesh, but aside from that, if a vegan argument can be quite readily dismantled, then why be vegan?
Well, there’s still one small problem. One nagging argument which cannot be dismissed so easily – and one that is possibly the most important thing happening in the world today:
The rise of compassion.
As our recent technologically-endowed prosperity has lifted us further and further from the animal domain, something unexpected has happened. We are becoming more conscientious and compassionate about the fate of others. And this is giving rise – not just to veganism – but to a generally higher state of awareness and increased empathy, creating a new wave of philanthropic and environmentally-conscious movements all over the world.
Everything from the Geneva Convention, to the UN Charter on Human Rights, the sixties’ civil rights and peace movements, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, communism and despotic regimes, Live Aid, Greenpeace, Occupy, the advent of post-market movements and veganism – all of which chart the trajectory of a species that is breaking up with old methods and adopting compassion for others as part of its core activity.
I think many vegans fall too easily into the trap of spending their time trying to justify their choice through biology, when in fact this has most likely not been their leading motive for making that choice. Perhaps they choose to hide their true motivation since large swathes of our society still view compassion as a weakness, not a strength. Thankfully this is changing.
In the inexorable rise of veganism I see a species evolving in front of our eyes. Many more now choosing the enlightened, compassionate path, leaving behind the blind brutality of yesteryear.
Veganism is not on the rise. It’s a symptom. Something else is on the rise – a species coming of age, becoming aware of its true power and the ensuing weight of its responsibility to those under its influence.
* Being a 99% vegan basically means you are prepared to forgo 1% of your ideology in order not to make your life an anti-social hell of food pedantry, considering that it is often difficult to avoid certain foods in certain situations. To be honest, it rarely applies and I’m 100% most of the time, but having the 1% ‘wiggle room’ means I don’t have to be a food nazi!