Veganism: a culture that deserves better


It seems that in this society, veganism as a minority culture is a perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, target of ridicule. My status as a woman and a feminist is never looked down on at this institution, but I constantly have to defend the part of my lifestyle that excludes animal products. I am consistently puzzled about where this bitter hatred spurs. For those who may not know, a vegan is typically someone who does not consume any animal products – i.e., no meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey. The lifestyle can even extend to a person’s clothing choices (no leather, fur, wool, silk), and to an individual’s personal products (nothing that is tested on animals). I adhere to all of these in my lifestyle. During my work with an animal rights organization over the summer, I came to realize that my status in society had significantly dwindled after choosing to revert to a more compassionate (in my mind) way of living. Some people told me my lifestyle was equal to terrorism. I was at the receiving end of a death threat. Objects were literally pelted at me. And, mind you, this all took place in the nation’s capital, in which free speech is represented at every street corner. Maybe as a white, middle-class citizen, I have not experienced a multitude of hatred and injustice in my lifetime and just wasn’t used to the shaming and general disgust that the population thrust upon me. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article discussing vegan bakeries and their most efficient ways of making profits. The majority of the bakery owners discovered that once they removed the word “vegan” from their product descriptions, and instead used adjectives such as “egg-free” and “dairy-free,” their profits soared astronomically. The mere mention of veganism, and all of the stereotypes that ensue with that terminology, was enough to scare off a significant amount of customers. Even someone as esteemed as Bill Clinton has taken strides to avoid being socially mocked. After converting to a vegan diet as a result of several problems with heart disease and a run-in with a PETA representative, he still adamantly references his eating habits as following a “plant-based diet.” When I was a meat-eater, I was an avid carb-aholic. My transition into vegetarianism only served to make me borderline anemic and extremely sluggish; however, becoming vegan forced me to start eating vegetables and enjoy them. I’m consuming more protein now than I ever was as a meat-eater, as hard as it may be to believe. Maybe, for me, becoming vegan was the motivation I needed to start giving a shit about my health, although that may not be the case for everyone. And hey, it’s definitely cool how many lives I’m saving in the process. I feel the best physically and ethically that I ever have, so I’ll suffer through the social stigma and rampant mockery if it means tangibly taking a stand every time I saunter into Café Mac. So, maybe the next time you feel the urge to utter an expletive before the word vegan, think about the remarkably positive things the lifestyle has to offer, and how you’re only contributing to more widespread hatred. Peace for all.