June 21, 2022•1,497 words
Surprisingly, I haven’t written anything about one of the most meaningful decisions I've ever made. About six years ago I became a vegan!
This isn't a secret to anyone who knows me, but I also don't really bring it up unless it's absolutely relevant (like when making sure I'll have food to eat at various events I attend). I would like to bring it up more often, since it's an ethical belief that I hold dearly and I want others to consider making the same choice, but talking about veganism can be a bit touchy.
Part of this is due to the stigma/discrimination vegans face when bringing up the topic. On the Internet you run into a lot of "found the vegan" comments with an eye-roll emoji anytime animal rights come up and a vegan stakes out an ethical claim. Some men find veganism challenging to their view of masculinity. Other folks just don't like to think about where their food comes from and any reminder causes them to lash out at vegans because of the cognitive dissonance they feel when being reminded of the suffering their food choices cause. And a good chunk of people are just afraid of change.
But the biggest reason I haven’t written about veganism is that it can make others feel uncomfortable. Just like religion, veganism carries an inherent “I’m right, you’re wrong” ethical aspect. I’m vegan primarily for ethical reasons, meaning that, in my view, animals should not be exploited in any way, primarily because they can't give consent to sacrifice their bodies for our use. Because it's an ethical stance, my decisions to forgo all forms of animal products as much as possible in my life insinuates that anyone who isn’t vegan is not living ethically, and that message is heard by the other person whether or not I explicitly say it.
Food is extremely important to culture and is a way to bond with others. Rejecting a meal because of an ethical choice implies that the person was unethical for preparing it, and they can take that personally (especially when they don't have a good understanding of what veganism is). I can't tell you how many times I've had to turn down home-baked goods because they weren't vegan. It's not fun, because social norms dictate that you should enjoy the food that others share with you. It marks me as an "other" and someone who has to have their needs specifically catered to in order to participate fully in food-related activities.
Because veganism is an ethical framework, it carries the same social pitfalls as discussing religion or politics. My messy exit from Mormonism taught me that I need to stay quiet regarding sensitive issues if I hope to keep my friends and family around. When I first became an atheist, I shouted it from the rooftops. Through intensive study and thought, I had discovered that Mormonism (and all supernatural worldviews) don't appear to be based in an objective reality. But all that missionary training from growing up in a Mormon household and going to Ecuador to try to convert people to Mormonism taught me that I should be loud and proud about sharing my innermost truth with the world.
So I did.
But when I challenged the worldviews of my Mormon friends and family, I was unfriended on social media, excluded from social events, threatened with expulsion from college if anyone in the BYU administration found out, and even shunned by some family members and in-laws.
I didn’t want to make the same social mistake with veganism. While I had found a wonderful new lifestyle that dramatically decreased the cruelty I inflicted on the world and wanted everyone to know, food — like religion — is a deeply personal subject. People don’t just ditch decades of dietary habits just because a vegan showed them a video of male baby chicks being ground up hours after birth because they can't lay eggs.
Overall, I do bring up my veganism fairly regularly, but mostly in the context of ordering food in a group. If I didn’t bring it up, I often would have literally nothing to eat. So pretty much everybody knows I’m vegan, but I try not to be obnoxious about it precisely because of the social stigma it can cause.
That's the eternal conundrum of vegans. We don't mean to be pushy, but many foods aren't vegan by default. If we don't ask for an accommodation, we'll go hungry. While I typically have an emergency stash of nuts for those situation, sometimes that's just not possible.
All that said, I still feel the need to publish something on the topic. I've been sitting on this blog post for over two years now, usually only updating it after an argument I had online with someone who wanted me to shut up about my veganism. I'm doing that right now, in fact. I expressed disappointment that my favorite writer didn't have any faux leather options for the special edition versions of his books. And sure, asking for a book that "isn't wrapped in the skin of a corpse" is not a tactful, albeit accurate, way to phrase it, but even if I had been more polite about it the downvote police would've come anyway. In my experience, it doesn't matter how I phrase things. Unless I'm in a vegan-friendly space on the internet, any comment tangentially related to veganism is rejected by the larger community. Which means I often don't say anything at all.
But I don't like feeling silenced, so that often leads me to be blunt and do things like describe a leather-bound book as using the skin of a corpse. Is there personal development to be made there? No duh. But fuck, why do I have to be the one to be the bigger person when the default worldview is that it's okay to slaughter hundreds of thousands of adolescent animals each day just to eat?
Time to take a breath, Lane.
Veganism is important to me, and I do wish more of the world would go vegan. But I don't expect it. The world is already full of so much pain and suffering, so I understand why some folks don't care to think about the animals when we still live under a global system that produces unacceptable levels of human suffering.
I don’t expect anyone who reads this to immediately switch to a plant-based lifestyle. I sure didn't. I lived in Dallas, TX when I tried to go plant-based. A place where most folks don't even know what the word vegan means. It took me a good year or more to fully transition, partially because of the hostile anti-vegan, pro-meat culture of Texans, but mostly because it required rewiring some of the most ingrained habits I had in my life.
Really, this post is just getting my frustrations onto paper. It's not fun being the butt of jokes. It's not fun going hungry because there are animal products in every dish at a party. It's not fun being stereotyped as an annoying, loud-mouthed idealist (even though it's very much true in my case). It's not socially fun being a vegan. There's a reason why a good number of my friends are vegan and vegetarian. We have to stick together because nobody else wants us around. I attribute that to the cognitive dissonance people feel about their treatment of animals, and having a vegan or vegetarian around reminds them of that. But there's also the possibility that maybe we are just a bunch of annoying fucks. Regardless, I've found my people and they are wonderful. They make my life so much better, so does it really matter if the wider world is annoyed by our existence?
But today is the day I actually hit "post" on this thing. I'm done leaving this as a draft, as imperfect as it may be. I know this sounds whiny and privileged, because it very much is. I'm a cis, straight-passing bisexual man living an upper-middle-class lifestyle. What right do I have to complain about some dumb folks on the internet or the occasional meal that I choose not to eat?
I know I haven't made a great argument at why someone might want to go vegan. In fact, this post is likely to scare folks away. Who would want to get yelled at on the internet, excluded from food-centric work/social events, or make family dinner more difficult?
But I do invite you to look into it more. There are so many great resources online that cover the what, why, and how of veganism. If you're interested in delving deeper, even if it's just to learn more about veganism so you can be sympathetic to me or another vegan friend you have, I recommend checking out the following resources to learn more or find vegan recipes: