An Open Letter to My Critics
Hey, neighbourhood author, student, and secret furry here. A prominent theme of my blog tends to be food and eating, partly because I am always hungry but also because I am a longish-time vegetarian and a six-month vegan. Now for the question that everybody asks me:
Why would I do this to myself?
Well, the answer to that is overtly preachy, and involves a lot more soul-searching than is appropriate to write out in a blog post, so I’ll cut it down to three main points.
- I can’t stand factory farming
- I can’t stand factory farming
- I can’t stand factory farming
So, the gist of the matter is that it is not meat, eggs, or dairy that I hate but the process by which they are made. When I first read the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, I remember Ned Stark saying, ‘the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword’, and this really resonated with me. If I wouldn’t be happy to kill an animal then why should I benefit from the products of its death? Equally, if I killed an animal myself, would I eat it? I think that if I was in a situation where I needed to eat meat (such as a post-apocalyptic pastoral world where I could not get supplements), I would choose to raise animals in a good environment and thus ensure that they would receive a good death. In that situation I would see no issue with eating meat. So really, I’m not anti-meat, but more anti-suffering than anything else.
Furthermore, I don’t know if vegan is the best word to attach to my philosophy. I may eat a plant-based diet due to ethical reasons, but I still use some animal products that a die-hard vegan would never touch. For example:
- I will eat eggs from pet chickens, if they are gifted and not bought. Hens lay eggs anyway, so I don’t really see any problem with eating them. That said, I don’t want to contribute to any industry that places pressure on them to lay (changing environments with heat lamps etc.) so I would not pay for eggs.
- I eat honey and honey products. The honey industry does more good than it does harm to bees and the bee population (links to colony collapse disorder are tenuous, to say the least). Also, though this may sound insectist, I find it difficult to believe that a bee is as aware of being exploited as a cow or a chicken. A bee’s role in life is to make honey – does it make a difference if it is making it for them or for us? Beekeepers love their bees and provide them with good living environments and substitutes for the honey they take – for me it makes more sense to support them than to take money out of an industry that boosts pollinator numbers.
- I do not feed my pets a vegan diet. Topsy, my cat, did not choose to be vegan, I did. Topsy, though he is intelligent, lacks the ability to understand why I would choose to go against biology and change my diet from omnivorous to herbivorous. Furthermore, cats require taurine and other essential vitamins which can only be found in meat products. This means that, in my opinion, feeding non-herbivores a vegan diet is utterly reprehensible and quite possibly a form of animal abuse. If you do not want to feed your animals meat, then get a pet that does not eat meat (tortoises, rabbits, and horses come to mind). I had Topsy before I became vegan, and I therefore owe it to him to allow him access to a nutritionally complete diet.
So why am I not a #PerfectVegan? The simple answer is that an ideal vegan lifestyle is incompatible with a normal person’s way of life. I am a student and a writer, not an Instagram influencer, all that a bowl of chia seeds and agave syrup would do to enrich my life would be to add more debt to my bank account than I already have (thanks, student loans). Furthermore, it is an undeniable fact that most vegan substitutes are more expensive, and not as delicious as their normal counterparts, not to mention accompanied by a whole bunch of societal judgement.
Simply put: it is really bloody hard to be vegan.
This is not me announcing that I am giving up veganism, far from it. However, this is a denouncement of the widespread propaganda telling us that veganism is a type of 100% cure-all that will solve all of our problems. It is not. There are many parts of this lifestyle that I find tedious and stressful, which I don’t think get enough attention.
They warned me that people might make me take pills at university… Who knew that it would be a multivitamin and an iron supplement? This is a small issue but it’s irritating to take two pills a day at the age of nineteen, especially since I have discovered that I am very sensitive to a lack of iron and B12 – failure to supplement these will cause me to wilt and faint like a Victorian woman seeing someone’s ankle.
I adore cheese. It’s absolutely delicious, truly the highlight of any meal. Think of the best foods: pizza, cheesy fries, lasagna, pasta, nachos, toasties – all these things are made 100x better by a whole load of cheddar and maybe a cheeky bechamel sauce. However, I also know that there is no way to ethically produce cheeses, so I must content myself with eating limp slices of violife from the packet. In my experience, vegan cheese is the only thing that has seen very little improvement since the whole vegan uprising of 2018, it still tastes like burnt rubber, has the texture of stale chewing gum, and does not melt. Any vegan who says otherwise is deluding themselves.
RIP cheese – gone but never forgotten… <3
In my experience as a semi-professional lesbian, I have found that coming out as vegan is far more stressful than coming out as gay. Mainly because it is kind of illegal to be an arsehole to a gay person, whereas people love to hate vegans. Family, friends, and waiters all seem to have some kind of opinion on my dietary choices, which can make interactions stressful when what I actually want to do is sit in my room and eat carrot sticks in the dark. In the end, it’s my body, and it’s my choice what I allow to enter it (any euphemism there was not intended, but is very much appreciated).
I do not have a great sense of spirituality or any other religious beliefs so the way I live my life is up to my own sense of ethics. My moral compass is therefore very important to me, because what gives you purpose if you don’t have concrete believe in a higher being?
The answer is you, and whatever purpose you choose to give your life.
It is important to me to be a good person and I am trying to learn what way of life will make me genuinely happy. How is other people deriding my life choices because they don’t understand them any different to me making fun of people for their religious beliefs? We all deserve the right to respect, and that is something I hope will become more widespread as people are exposed to different mind-sets and worldviews.
TL;DR – People aren’t allowed to tease me for being gay, but they are allowed to ridicule me for being vegan, which does not make sense to me as they are both deeply personal things. This is the way I choose to live my life right now, and I would thank people who have objections to make a valid case for themselves or stay in their lane and not make instinctive negative comments based on their own experiences.
Hugs and kisses,
Charlotte Bowyer (writer)