You have touched on some good points that represent problems in the realm of vegan fundamentalism. I should mention, though, that you didn’t get into the global warming/carbon footprint aspect of veganism, which is that the average vegan has a lower carbon footprint than the average human. Given the potential crisis we are facing with global warming, that’s always a strong plus for veganism.
So, to some specific points:
Getting back to what De-Beauvoir said about propaganda. Now, I justified veganism to myself, but the other critical part of being vegan is to acknowledge that it’s a movement. One that expects you to tell others to ‘go vegan’, and to show people the grave injustices they are carrying out by eating dairy and meat. Let’s get to definition of veganism.
Hidden within the cartoon with which you opened your piece is the counter to this line of thinking. The three grilling carnivores were rolling their eyes about the herbivore, and it is a play on the standard social scenario of vegans being these unbearable nuisances that show up and don’t eat what everyone else is eating. But, why is this annoying? Why do vegans get peppered with questions about what they eat and how they get their protein and all this other stuff?
The answer is that the mere presence of a vegan forces other people to examine their own choices, which is sometimes uncomfortable for said people; it can even cause feelings of guilt. It’s not so much that a vegan goes around implying everyone else is ethically unsound, but that any critical thinker who understands what the vegan is up to must infer that his or her own decisions may not be ethically sound. As vegans, then, we don’t have to actively proselytize; we just have to exist. Even without making an argument, other people will understand what we’re doing and get on board.
I personally have felt no difference switching to a vegan diet. No health miracles and no ill health either. My body was able to do its thing just fine. The fact is we haven’t been able to study long term effects of veganism (or rather the ability for all humans to do well on this diet) because we are only 3 percent of the population, and most of that population is privileged with access to healthy alternatives.
I agree. I think the health arguments for veganism are bullshit, and any health benefits are likely tangential and derived from just being more conscious about your eating in general. You can still each potato chips all day and be a vegan, so it’s not inherently some miraculous diet that will save you. Maybe there is truth to some of the anti-cancer arguments. Maybe not.
Veganism when practised with evangelism tells people there is ONE way and only ONE way to to be ‘cruelty-free’. And as I have pointed out, there are contradictions to that. The fact that Vegans bypass it because they have a default set of rules is the failure in logic. And yes, it’s still ‘the least harm possible’ but again one set of rules which can make it problematic especially as we live in increasingly industrialized times.
What’s more is that veganism frown upon vegetarians and call people who eat meat ‘carnists’ which in my opinion only furthers us from seeing that humans are ironic by nature, and that the metric of compassion simply cannot be derived from one set of rules in such a very diverse world.
This is vegan fundamentalism and, as with all types of fundamentalism, it fails. Dogmatism doesn’t generally result in social advancement, irrespective of the arena in which it is practiced. I think it would be great if more people were vegetarians, or if some people experimented with partial veganism (weekday veganism, or Sunday veganism, or whatever). I applaud people who are “vegan curious,” who occasionally try out a vegan restaurant or veggie burger just to see what it’s like. From a pure accounting issue, would we rather 10 people ate steak and eggs everyday for breakfast or tofu and eggs? It seems like the removal of those 10 steaks has to be an overall positive.
I am overall pretty optimistic about veganism. This is, in part, colored by my own story of going from eating meat at every meal to switching to vegetarianism for a few years, then ultimately ending up vegan. I was one of those “I could never give up meat” kind of people, but I did anyway, and with no active pressure from other vegetarians or vegans. The mere existence of vegetarians and the various benefits of vegetarianism were all that it took for me to get started.
And, more to the point, I don’t think I’m alone: