As much as I love being vegan, it can be frustrating at times. Decent hot breakfast options are near non-existent on the high street, milk powder is in, like, everything, and the majority of the people you love are likely still consuming animal products. Then there are all the questions – but where do you get your protein? What about the makeup you’re wearing? – and the inevitable anecdotes of doom (i.e. my friend nearly died cos she went vegan and only ate potatoes). And they say vegans can’t stop talking about being vegan? El oh el oh el.
I’ve been caught off-guard several times by a defensive meat-eater firing “facts” at me or – and this can sometimes be trickier – the supposedly well-meaning friend who is just “playing devil’s advocate.” They’ll want to know my opinion on lab-grown beef burgers, or discuss their beliefs that animals are in no way superior to humans. Sometimes, they are simply curious; I love talking about animal welfare and the environment and how a vegan diet fits into that, and am happy for people to come to me with questions. Most of the time, though, the questions I’m asked are designed (malevolently or not) to trip me up, and I’ve decided it’s about time I came up with some stock replies – or comebacks – to the most popular ones.
| If you were stranded on a desert island, would you eat meat?
As if my being vegan has suddenly multiplied my chances of ending up in a LOST-style situation, omnivores really seem to care about how I would fare should I ever suffer the misfortune of not having Ocado on tap. The honest answer to this question is that I don’t know what I would do if I were stranded on a desert island. What would you do, Mr. Meat Eater? Seeing as our hunter-gatherer days are a couple millennia or so behind us, you might not be all that good at making your own weapons and capturing and cooking the unlimited supply of animals who just so happen to call this imaginary island home. So what would you do?
Quite frankly, this question presents a poorly thought-out moral dilemma that is so far from the realm of possibility that I can’t be bothered to answer it properly. However, if you’re not up for answering a question with more questions, then I would recommend simply stating that yes, you would eat meat if you were stranded on a desert island.
| If you’re so ethical, then why don’t you care about palm oil?
When I was vegetarian, I once had a meat-eater chastise me for eating Quorn products because they contain palm oil. In truth, I didn’t know much about palm oil at the time, and was genuinely unsure how to respond; in the end I admitted my ignorance and said I’d look into it. It’s true, it does suck that Quorn products contain palm oil, just like it sucks that Oreos, ice cream, a bunch of spreads, instant noodles, chocolates, and basically most processed foods – which omnivores also eat a lot of – contain palm oil.
I want to care more about palm oil, and try to avoid it in my diet. However – and this would be the argument I’d use – animal agriculture is far more damaging to the environment overall, and consuming animal products contributes to cruelty on an industrial scale. It is terrible to think that the habitat of orang-utans is being destroyed in our harvesting of palm oil, but it is nothing short of speciesist to assume that this is a tragedy greater than the one so many people are actively engaging in created by industrial farming.
| But plants have feelings too!
When omnivores pose this argument to me, I really have to wonder: are they not eating any vegetables at all, then? Do they literally only eat animals, consumed by the fear that they might somehow inflict harm on a carrot? If you are an omnivore who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of plants, then please stop eating them before attempting to prove your point.
I rarely have the mental energy to engage in the “plants can feel pain” conversations; this is one that I think it’s totally OK and indeed advisable to laugh off and walk away from. However, if you do want to engage, I’d recommend simply reminding them that, as plants do not have central nervous systems or brains, they are unable to feel what we would categorise as pain and instead can respond to stimuli. Show me a reputable scientific report that has proven that plants and vegetables can feel pain, and we can talk.
| Bees and egg-laying hens aren’t mistreated though!
In answering this question, I’d recommend starting off by actually defining what honey and eggs are, because we (myself included) often have no idea what our food actually is unless we actively research it. So here we are: honey is a regurgitated nectar passed from bee to bee, and eggs are the result of hens’ ovulation. Not quite chicken period, but not far off it.
There is a lot of information out there on whether or not beekeeping and raising egg-laying hens causes the creatures harm. I do not know all the facts, although there is damning evidence against using bees and hens in this way, and the effect of harvesting their produce (particularly on, but not limited to, an industrial scale) is far-reaching.
Given that this is quite a convoluted focus area, it is hard to give a straight answer. I would encourage people to do whatever they can to consume less animal products; if that means cutting everything out except honey and eggs, then I applaud that wholeheartedly. However – and this is my main response – I believe that consuming animal products is wrong on principle and unnecessary for me personally, which is why I choose not to do so, even when it comes to products which, arguably, do not inflict harm (see also: sheep shearing and horse riding).
| You use transport – that’s bad for the environment!
I’m not prompted to address this very often, but it is something I used to wonder about. When I encountered people who were ethically minded, I did ponder whether or not they felt OK regularly flying to far-flung destinations, or driving a big, fancy car. Of course, the effects that our dependence on transportation have on the environment are not ideal. Until I grow wings and figure out how to fly, though, I’ll have to make my peace with planes and trains. And guess what? Animal agriculture causes more damage to the environment than all transport worldwide. Worried about your gas guzzling people carrier? Just go vegan!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this part tongue-in-cheek, part informational post. Are you often bombarded with questions about your personal beliefs or lifestyle choices? Let me know in the comments below!