I recently celebrated my one-year vegan anniversary (by doing nothing special, I must admit), so now seems as apt a time as any to talk about the who, what, when, where and why of my own vegan experiences.
What I want to focus on in this post is how people automatically categorise you as soon as you tell them that you are vegan. The first assumption tends to be that, by being vegan, you care for animals to the extent that you don’t eat them – for me, this is somewhat true – but I would eat animals, and I do eat animals.
What? You are vegan but eat animals? Do you not know what veganism… blah-de-blah-de-blah – you wouldn’t believe how many times I have experienced this response, so let me clarify…
If we were living in a forest hunting wild animals that we needed to consume to maintain a healthy diet (whilst acknowledging the fact that animals can be hunted to extinction and acting accordingly to reduce this risk) then I’d happily eat meat.
But the society we live in is very different from the one imagined above. Modern society has enslaved animals to the extent that they are nothing more than commodities, and like commodities they are manufactured according to the needs of the consumer. For too many of us, chicken is just that meat between two bits of bread, and not the living, breathing, clucking animal we might have found wondering freely around Asia thousands of years ago…
Now, as noble as true vegans are, they often fail to take into account that Western society is a society built on greed, excess and utility; that everyday every household throws away a certain amount of food that is perfectly edible. If I were a typical vegan, I could sit by and quite happily watch people throw away their uneaten meat/unused animal products content in the knowledge that I have played no part whatsoever in the use of such products, and that I have removed myself entirely from the animal/meat industry.
But what about waste?
When I removed myself from the animal/meat industry, I considered the most heinous crime to be that of killing of animals for fun or for leisure. I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand how people justify/ied that as a valid action. I could justify that at least when animals are farmed (and killed) they are used, they have served some purpose, but animals that are killed ‘just for fun’ have died in vain; they have died and produce no product in death. Although someone could argue that people have gained pleasure from this action, it is important to note that ‘pleasure’ is a dangerously subjective concept.
Put another way, in life I hope to prove myself useful to others, and in death I can only wish the same – if good can come of harvesting my organs after death, then I am more than interested in letting people hack away at my body – it may save someone elses life.
You might be wondering where the the vegan-eating-meat bit comes in… if we return to the people-pouring-unused-meat-into-bins image we find a similar loss of potential utility. That animal which has not been used has died in vain, it has been killed to product a product that should have been used, it has been manufactured under the assumption that it is needed or, at least, wanted, but it has achieved neither. In addition to this, it is a wasted source of energy. If someone opened a packet of crisps, ate three of them, then placed the bag on the table and opened another packet you would point out that the action they have taken is a stupid one – it is inefficient and it is a waste of food.
I write all this as a person who is subject to the rules of his society. If our society were to value efficiency as much as utility, then I would choose to be a pure vegan. However, as it currently stands I will only eat meat/an animal product when it is to be/has been thrown away, and only when no-one else needs/wants that meat/animal product. Another example: I will not wear leather boots unless I find them in a charity shop, or a friend/someone I know is giving away a pair and no one else needs/wants them.
I like to think of myself as an efficient vegan – someone who does not waste anything, yet remains true to veganism’s ethical core.