Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vegans vs Killer Cows...

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and 
conscientious stupidity" - MLK

“Go Vegan and no One Gets hurt” is the sticker I saw on a sign a few days ago.  I pass by a lot of stickers living in a city…graffiti, promotion companies, bands, causes, etc, but this one really caught my attention.  Nobody gets hurt? Made me think, but only about how much the sentiment bothered me.  Too simple, too blanketed, not a thoughtful perspective.  It didn't make a clear point, it doesn’t make you question your decisions as a meat eater. The longer I thought about it the more and more angry I got.

Please know this post isn’t coming from some holier than thou bacon eater who wears a shirt that says “vegetarian is Native American for bad hunter”.  This is coming from a nearly 22 year vegetarian.  No meat, poultry, fish, leather or animal tested products for over two decades of my life.  I’ve made huge sacrifices throughout these years to maintain what I believe to be right.  And stickers like this make it feel trivial and elementary.

I could only imagine the 14 year old in a new Hot Topic purchased Grateful Dead shirt sticking that on a sign.  Adding fuel to the fire to the generalization that pervades liberalism and progressives at every turn.  That we’re soft.  Naive to the realities of the world.  A generalization I take very personally, that often pisses me off.

Not only that, but if the creator of this sticker understood human nature at all, they’d realize they are doing no service to our cause…but more than likely a disservice.  In these 22 years I’ve never altered someones  opinion on animal rights by force and very rarely tell anyone they are wrong.  I’ve lived well, made a vegetarian lifestyle look simple and easy.  Show that it’s a legitimate option by example, not by force.  No person likes to be told what to do, and will more often than not put their guard up if you do.  Have to just do your thing, and be educated and engaged when someone starts asking about it.

We need to be culpable as progressives for not being the opposite version of our counterparts, but a better version that doesn’t slip into the modern, acceptable levels of thought and dialogue.  The current barometer is obviously low, between the media now only catering to its ratings/sponsors and social media dictating the conversation, intellectualism, or more simply put, thinking, has become elitist and uncool.  It makes me think of Obama’s Rutgers commencement speech from early May when he said “We have access to more information than at any time in human history, at a touch of a button.  But, ironically, the flood of information hasn’t made us more discerning of the truth.  In some ways, it’s just made us more confident in our ignorance.”

I fear that sentiments like “Go Vegan and No One Gets Hurt” is the intellectual reverse of the “Make America Great Again” mentality.  A bold and sweeping generalization.  Not really helping anyone.  The thoughtless ruins of a 140 character society that has to wrap up the worlds largest problems in the space of a tweet.  Of course I believe Veganism is a much better movement for the world than Trump, don’t get me wrong, but I’m using him to make a point.  

Things are nuanced, and with every change people will inevitably suffer.  I know it’s not a popular thing to discuss, but the meat industry is a real thing, and it’s gigantic, and not every person who lives off of it are rich and filling their horn carved coffers.  Based on 2013 stats from the North American Meat Institute, there are over 450,000 people employed in some facet of the meat industry in the US alone, earning a projected 19 billion dollars in salary.  Not to mention if you add distribution, delivery and retail it amounts to over 6 million people employed with an estimated 200 billion in wages.  All those people don’t deserve anything?  Families, and entire towns and cities would crumble, and I’m to believe if you “Go Vegan: No one Gets Hurt”.     

And do you have a plan after the worldwide change?  If everyone decided to go vegan tomorrow, you have a way to roll that out?  If these animals were currently left to their own devices, they would probably all die.  Pasture after pasture of rotting cows, being munched on by vultures and coyotes and shit.  The years and years of harvesting these animals for meat has left them completely inept at surviving on their own.  And if the species managed to survive?  They would have adapted, and in 200 years, people would be fighting off killer gangs of carnivorous cows roaming the same countryside.  And then the “animal wars” begin, thanks to you, vegans…

People have to remember that while waging a morality war, both sides know for a fact they are doing the right thing, and most in the middle crave leadership, and 140 character leadership is dooming us. 

At this point, I’m interested in NO bold declarations without plans.  NO biting statement without substance.  NO change without real dialogue and a stop to this divisive thinking and language that only sees a line in the sand, and not all the gray surrounding it.


  1. I really enjoyed this post, Benny. I'm a lifelong meateater who certainly respects how you've lived your life as a vegan, and it's nice to hear someone who understands that such complex issues aren't solved as simply as a bumper sticker slogan. Great post, as always!

  2. As someone who's been vegan for years I started off being exasperated by your post. By the end of it I think I understood what you meant and I agree with most of your points but I got a bit irked by how you appeared to be raging (just a little) against vegans. While I certainly agree that everything's nuanced and ridiculously complex (and a sticker isn’t going to change the world) your paragraph about the lack of plans if the world goes vegan tomorrow seemed a bit pointless and simplistic as we know the world isn’t going vegan tomorrow so why should we make a big plan for something that isn’t going to happen? (and I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the ‘vegan tomorrow’ comment!) I don't think anyone is saying the families involved in the meat industry don't deserve a good life, of course they do, but I know I'd prefer it if they got their livelihood from something that didn't involve the suffering and land waste/destruction that's part and parcel of modern farming – so maybe we should think about alternatives for the long term and no I don’t have a grand plan to solve this question but I’d much rather we (meat eaters, veggies, everyone!) discuss things than keep quiet until we have a perfect answer (not least because I don’t think there is a perfect answer) We don’t have to have a big, bold, water-tight plan for changing the world (who, in the history of all those who’ve worked for change - suffrage, civil rights, poverty - has ever had that?!) I think we just need to make small changes and think about the next step as we go along. It also made me think about the people who’ve argued that we can't get rid of slavery, can’t have a minimum wage, can’t have equal pay, etc. because the economy/jobs depend on the status quo.
    I'm unhappy when anyone (meat eating, veggie, vegan) judges others just because they don't share their views, I’ve been on the receiving end of ignorant aggression plenty of times (not just for being vegan) so I wouldn’t want to do that to someone else. At one point (‘animal wars’ – were you being serious? It’s hard to tell) I felt that you were attacking vegans as though we’re all the same (we’re not!) and don't think things through (all the vegans I know do a lot of thinking!) which surely goes against the grain of your argument that everything’s nuanced? I've been threatened and bullied over the years by (a minority of) meat eaters once they've discovered by chance that I'm vegan but that doesn't mean I think all meat eaters are horrible people, I know they're not! (my great-uncle was a dairy farmer – loved him dearly and he had no problems with my being vegan)
    I think all any of us can do is keep thinking and questioning things (about any issue) and making personal changes that might add up to the world being a slightly better place than it might otherwise have been, with or without bold statements and grand plans. I recently lost my mum to cancer and it’s made me realise how much we should at least try to be as kind as we can (to people and animals) as none of us know how long we’ve got and I know I’d rather I left the world knowing I didn’t, willingly or through lack of thought, cause unnecessary suffering to anyone.
    I respect and agree completely with your trying to show by example that being veggie is a ‘legitimate option’ and I hope my comments are taken in the spirit that they’re meant. Sorry I appear to have written a dissertation, I’d better climb down from my (vegan, cruelty-free, organic, fair-trade, upcycled) soapbox now and get back to work :) 