The moral tyranny of Vegans and Vegetarians.

Note : I don’t mean this article to advocate for/against veganism. Heck, You can eat potato chips and ramen noodles for your entire life and i won’t judge you as a person underserving of respect nor will i diminish your contributions to society (even if it is collecting all the Pokemons).  I will, however, be commenting on the tyranny of the ‘diet police’ and how their activism to change other people’s lifestyles based on “morals” leads them to be some of the most self righteous, derisive , divisive and judgemental folks out there.

ONWARDS humble MORTALS!

I know a lot of vegans. I also know a lot of vegetarians , pescetarians, omnivores and self proclaimed carnivores (lulz). Out of all these people the vegans (and some vegetarians) come across as the most passionate and morally snobbish about their food. I have, never, for example, been told that my food choices ‘made me a monster’, by a pescetarian.

I have, however, been called names ( selfish, ignorant, environmentally unfriendly, animal hater etc.) judged and been argued with by vegans and vegetarians about the very  moral fiber of my soul. All because I like eating meat twice or thrice a week. I am not even one of those red blooded red meat eaters who swear by steak everyday. I’m a non obtrusive omnivore ( lulz) who likes meat once or twice a week, and relishes both vegetables and steak.

However, it is becoming increasingly common for vegans/vegetarians to condescend at things I do  – like trying to reduce my use of disposable plastic – by giving me advice on how to “make more of an impact” on the environment by eating “right”. It’s almost like I have no right to talk about the environment – not because I’m not an expert –  but because I’m not a vegan. Let’s try and unpack this behaviour :

1 ) Confusing Fact and Opinion/Belief : Vegans fall prey to the same logical fallacy that a lot of us do :

  • If I believe it, it must be true.
  • If I’m angry, then they must be wrong.

However there is a big difference between fact ( this is red) and opinion ( i don’t like red).

Fact : Using too many water bottles results in unnecessary plastic. Moralistic Opinion : Eating animal flesh is cruel and evil. The difference is an awning gap between “oh okay, you may be right” and “Fuck off”.  Most vegetarians and vegans forget  that many people don’t see anything wrong with killing animals for food. Their moralistic stand about basic sustenance (food!)  is often assumed as fact, and vegans get appropriately frustrated when others don’t agree with their “fact”.

What is a fact is 1 ) Uncontrolled animal farming is damaging the environment and 2) Millions of animals are killed ( and some tortured in the process) for food that humans convert into productive energy.

It is an opinion that killing animals for food is wrong. And it is a personal belief that turning vegan reduces this killing. Why? Because restricting food does not stop the killing or torture. Those animals are just going into someone else’s hungry belly or will be wasted and thrown away. It’s like advocating not to keep dogs as pets ( and shaming pet owners ) because you are against puppy breeding. No, you’re not contributing to the business, but you aren’t adopting any shelter pets either.

2)  Lifestyle change has nowhere near the effect of political change. A good example would be PETA. Their biggest victories leading to long lasting change have not been dietary choices ( I would argue this has and will have literally zero effect on the meat industry) but picketing on a political level.

I am  a big believer that top to bottom change is the best way to help populations fix their  habits . By ‘top’ I don’t mean the rich and the famous, but the government and the media. A good example would be the success of America’s anti smoking campaign. Lobbying against the meat industry will be a much more effective way of saving those cute helpless cows. Behaving like your food choice is saving the world is simplifying the issue to childish levels. It is critical to realize that  you need not be a vegan to make an impact on animal welfare.

3) My way or the highway : To be fair, no one enjoys seeing animals get slaughtered. The animal farming that goes on is  exploitative and needs to change. The documentary “Cowspiracy”, for example,  is a good eye opener to what the state of animal agriculture is today. It ends with a passionate appeal to turn vegan, citing lots of numbers on how turning vegan is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. However, I find it astounding that so many people have take this conclusion -that turning vegan is the best solution –  at face value .

After watching this blatantly manipulative (yet powerful) documentary my takeaway was that to improve the environmental consequences of the  meat industry, as well as reduce suffering of animals, the government needs to seriously re-think the way it regulates animal agriculture and the meat market. At the same time it needs to provide the poor with access to affordable and calorific food that doesn’t come from animals.

This is a complex task. Much more complex than just changing your food habits. It is no coincidence that people who turn vegan are perched right on top of Maslow’s pyramid ( read : privileged). It’s much easier for a middle class person to make the financial  sacrifices and investment of time necessary to start a vegan lifestyle.

However, I am digressing. I am not here to add another article on how the meat industry should change. I am here to argue that believing that “the vegan way” is the best or only way is deeply flawed and leads to extremism and misanthropy. Which leads to my next point.

4) The impossible task of staying non judgmental when your choice is based on morality :

Not all vegans are moralistic tyrants ( #notallvegans). However, one cannot make a lifestyle choice based on moral reasons ( for e.g. meat eating is wrong) and pretend that you are not ( even subconsciously) judging  the other person who has not made that choice. For example, take two people who don’t like the color red. One believes that it clashes with her hair, the other believes it is the color of the devil. Guess which one is judging the fuck out of you for wearing red even if they claim it is a “personal choice”?

Self proclaimed moral vegans remind me of religious priests who insist they love and respect the ‘heathens’, and at the same time try their very best to convert them to the “better way.” This inability  ( which, btw, is human tendency) to stay nonjudgmental becomes all the more messy because their choice is based on the firm belief that they are doing the least harm. This gives them the righteous indignation of fighting for the oppressed, and the bullishness of the underdog. To put this in perspective I have seen people more outraged about steak than Black lives matter.

5) Cognitive Dissonance : Vegans truly believe that their lifestyle change is directly affecting the meat industry. Second, they believe that if you love animals, it means you cannot eat any of them. These beliefs – that every steak you don’t eat is contributing to one less slaughter of cute cows –  can lead to a many moments of cognitive dissonance. For e.g “How can I love animals and still love and respect my meat eating self and other meat eaters?” These inconsistent beliefs lead to huge amounts of anxiety and tension. The human mind’s best way to deal with this is to try and convert everyone around to their side, and if that doesn’t work, find those who think like them and leave behind/patronize those who don’t. This is the reason that vegans flock to other vegans ; to validate their beliefs and behaviours, and reduce cognitive dissonance from hanging out with non-vegans.

For example, here are some typical thoughts that go through a rigid vegan’s/vegetarian’s mind subconsciously  as they sit with you to eat:

  • Everywhere  I look, people are eating animal flesh . It is so disappointing/disgusting.
  •  How can they be so unaware of the industry they are supporting?
  • Do they not realize how these animals are tortured?
  • Animals have rights just like us and that we don’t own them!
  • I thought this person was kind and empathetic, and yet!
  • How can they enjoy that steak when they know there’s a river of blood behind it?
  • Are these people my friends? or blind ignorant meat eating monsters?
  • Even after I told them about how cruel eating meat is, they go ahead and do it anyway!
  • It’s so easy to make the change. What kind of person wouldn’t want to save an animal?

Thoughts like these alienate vegans and vegetarians from their meat eating brethren in the worst kind of way. i.e. they feel closer to the animals they are trying to protect than humanity.

This “othering” is the slippery slope to extremism. It leads to “disgust” for someone’s food choices , and disgust is a very dangerous emotion. It dehumanizes the other person to less than human or even less than animal.  Moral vegans are more prone to this emotion as they feel and believe that whats on someone’s plate is the best way to “save” the planet and “rescue” the poor animals.

6 ) However, Moral vegans/vegetarians forget one simple truth : There is no one way to save the planet and there is no one way to love “all” animals. There are many many people in this earth who are doing their best to save the world. It could be the religious Sikh who spends his/her time serving food to the poor, it could be the dog lover who devotes his/her time at the shelter, it could be that sister who gives up her dreams for her younger sibling, it could be the freedom fighter, it could be the environmental lawyer who quit their corporate job. I could go on and on and on. Adding or subtracting veganism to these people’s food habits is not going to make them better/worse human beings. Your food choice does not make you a better person because there are many ways to be good, and not eating animals is only one group’s definition of “being good”.

Some will argue that  if all people were vegan, it would”increase the impact” of a person, along with all the other good they do. Thus if they choose to eat meat, they are purposely avoiding reducing harm when they are perfectly capable of it. However, this is a false assumption because Veganism is not animal welfare. It is a personal food choice ( see point 1-4) . One that has it’s own imperfect consequences, just like eating meat/dairy does. It is illogical to assume that just because you believe killing animals for food is wrong, everyone should feel the same way.

Worse, if you hold the corollary belief that  if people don’t think like you do , they are automatically ignorant fools. This is the same argument that divides the human race amongst gender, religion and class. Just like there are different ways and paths and religions to express your spirituality, there are several ways to make a difference to earth and humanity , there are a myriad of ways to help animals  and even more  ways to better oneself according to what one believes in.  No one path is superior to the other.

{Note : Please don’t take this argument to the extreme by bringing up Hitler or slavery as an example of people who were “just following their beliefs”.  Killing thousands of people because of hate is not the same as cow slaughter for food. If you are one those vegans who can’t agree on this, then I have nothing to say to you. I do not mean that both human and animal welfare can’t be parallel, but if there is a direct conflict – save the dog vs save the human – I hope your choice would be human.}

6) Black and White : The point is that tyrannical vegans see the world as black and white. Meat eaters = impure, evil, ignorant. Vegans = pure, righteous , enlightened. While this is an easy out, it is pretty damn arrogant. Not eating animal meat does not make you better than others. It just makes you a person who has chosen not to eat meat. It makes you someone who believes that eating animal flesh is wrong, and we can argue to the end of time about why we don’t agree and none of us will ever be “right” or “more enlightened” or “purer”.

In conclusion Veganism/Vegetarianism is a lifestyle people have chosen to better themselves according to their beliefs. However, to pretend that food choice makes you morally superior to someone else is a gross disservice to the human race.

TL/DR : Let me enjoy my chicken curry, my brothers and sisters. Your zucchini noodles don’t make you better than me. 

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Mrs. Notmy Name

Author’s notes : This is a poem in response to traditional patriarchy. I hope it resonates with the pain of women everywhere, and it helps men empathize to the human experience of being a woman.

Mrs. NotmyName

I am not your mother, wife, sister

or your daughter. Nor am i a slut, whore

or shrew. I am half of you, yet invisible.

A Misses., amidst Masters.

I am torn because i want you, yet

i do not want to be of you. 

You punish me for my sin of passion, 

yet offer me delicious murmurs

when i promise it only you. Your gentle caress

is bestowed upon me only when I lay supine

only your gaze and your desire matters,

but darling, why not mine?

My greatest power lies in tears and sacrifice,

and I must pledge them – as my duty – to you.

Must I only be for birthing and slaving, 

like our mothers before us, in this life ?

Or can I be a leader, a taker, an explorer 

and  still see that gentle love in your eyes?

I am tempted into cowardice

to win your approval, because i want you.

i cover my head in false humility to please you,

But isn’t it silly, my darling, that a scarf is my integrity?

That my skin is so alien when it spills out of

it’s confines, you feel helpless and afraid?

I am a precious diamond, you explain.

to be cherished by men and to be protected from them;

But I yearn to fall from this pedestal

and to stand beside you, with you. I want to be free

from these shackles of purity; To be shades of gray

and still be seen ; To feel the earth against my skin,

and the sun warming my hair.

Can you allow me this? ; to feel like you do?

To be bare chested and unashamed?

Shade your eyes from my imagined radiance,

For I am not a currency.  I am my own,

like you are yours.

I am not your mother, sister or daughter,

but i am someone.

A Miss, amidst Masters.

End.