Let it go for the record that I do not care what you eat or how you eat it. As someone who simultaneously desires ham salad, the curry chicken salad from Whole Foods, and salmon sashimi at any given moment, I don’t intend to or desire to sway anybody’s preferences. I also would like it to go for the record that I in no way consider myself in some way void of the privilege (however or whatever you see privilege to be). I am whiter than white and in college and getting paid too much to scoop ice cream, and I am grateful to be where I am.
That being said: As someone who spends a good amount of time on the internet, I happen to be under constant exposure to a wide array of Facebook posts about politics and news and the weather—to euphemise—all of which I have, with time, become completely numb to. There, however, is one particular post, or genre of posts, that so often comes up on my timeline of things that always seems to rub me in one wrong way or another. Perhaps it is because I work in a place that attracts a lot of vegans or perhaps because I live in a neighborhood which lives to serve vegans, but I am constantly surrounded and perennially irritated by vegan propaganda.
That is not to say that I am irritated by vegans as a whole; I know and admire many veggie-loving men and women and will do nothing to discredit the energy they put into maintaining an animal-free diet. Veganism, as it stands alone, without its signifiers, is essentially a diet. However, vegan propaganda and vegan rhetoric and the vegan ego (the vego), all drive me to a point of insanity which is soon to be verging on “no return.” What I am calling for is an end not to you eating your plant-based diet, but rather for an end to the pressuring Facebook posts and subtle snubs towards me and my fellow meat-eaters (though admittedly, I do steer clear of red meat under most circumstances— we’ll get there later).
I do not think that meat-industry shame videos are by any means effective in spreading veganism. It is unfortunate what happens to animals in big farms; as a child my mother had me watch "Food Inc." so yes I’ve seen the pigs get pushed over by the giant metal barrier and it was, yes, terrifying. I have not been desensitized to the cruelties of animals; I don’t think most people live their lives happily eating red meat completely unaware of the cruelties that are performed on a grand, industrial level to animals. However, so often the first person to feel the pain of a decrease in meat sales is not Perdue or Alico, Inc. It is instead the small farmers, who live off the land they sew and have done so for their entire lives, and perhaps came from a long line of farmers. These are not the farmers that have giant metal barriers to throw pigs on their sides or force cows into treacherous conditions.
Instead, the promotional work done to bring “awareness” only starts small, and hurts humans who feel perhaps more than the cattle, who live to support their families. Monsanto will continue to live on and thrive, its workers committing suicide at alarming rates, while you protest small farmers and eat soy cheese that a young boy in India worked at a slave wage to help produce. Unless you’re buying small, from a small market where you know that what you’re eating is from point A and only traveled so far to get to point B, you’re feeding into the cruelty; perhaps not of cows or chickens, but of humans.
If you are in the top 1% of vegans who is able to buy local and go completely farm-to-table, you should be able to recognize that you are, yes, above many. Above so many of the hard-working individuals in this world who will circumstantially never be able to provide for themselves with such luxuries. You are among the top percentage of people in this country who, not only had access to such things but who can afford to use them. If you live in a food desert like 23.5 million people in America, a ‘“vegan lifestyle” might include Crisco on bread, paired with store-brand Oreos and a tall glass of juice from concentrate.
It is not easy to be vegan, as incredible as that may sound. For so many, milk and eggs may serve as an affordable form of protein for them or for their families that can’t be replaced with something plant-based and sustainable. If you can afford seitan instead of chicken and are still be able to get that extra protein despite subbing high-protein chicken for high-gluten-and-not-much-else seitan, you are, by comparison, pretty lucky.
Now you may be asking, me, privilege Queen: Well, what’s your GD excuse? It is that I love the people around me. I recently went on vacation with my family and, had I been a vegan, would have had to excuse myself from every single dinner we had that night. I would have had to stare my great grandparents in the eyes and say “I can’t eat this salmon, sorry.” I would have had to assert myself to someone who was old enough to at least felt the depression, and would recognize the salmon before them as something earned, something to be grateful for. The thought of that absolutely terrifies me.
For so many people, they don’t know any different. Regardless of what they can’t afford on a monetary level, you couldn’t even begin to explain a quinoa burger to someone who grew up on beef, or who grew up eating a Sunday roast and who takes pride in being able to put proteins on their table for their family more than once a week. Generationally and regionally, veganism is sometimes just not possible.
My undying love for cheese aside, I could easily live a life of tempeh and chick’n, of quinoa bowls and cauliflower alfredo. I don’t eat red meat because I love cows and I often don’t drink milk because I have, with age, become lactose intolerant. But I love and accept my family and friends who eat meat because they always have and my family and friends who get queasy just thinking about dairy. Also, I have owned many a fish in my life and can say with great confidence that they couldn’t be less sentient—sorry.
Live long, eat well, eat meat or eat meat substitute, and prosper, but don’t be too in-your-face about it, please.