7 Reasons I Never Went Vegan

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At its simplest level, the notion always made some sense to me: we hurt and kill animals for our pleasure and convenience, and we don’t have to.

But I’ve always held so many levels of resistance to veganism. Surely it’s not that simple.

I bring up the topic now because I’m about to give it a whirl, not as a response to any kind of ethical crisis, but instead as a health experiment. My diet has been without any hard edges for a long time. Nothing has been off limits, and as a result I’m steadily gaining the 1-pound-a-year perma-fat that the experts say will continue to bog down the typical adult until they die.

I ate about nine chicken taquitos at a get-together not long ago, and I think it was a cry for help. I want to put some strict boundaries onto my diet, if only so I become more conscious of what I eat and so I can practice that “just say no” reflex. Just for a month, to see what happens.

I was going to do the paleo diet, since that’s the thing these days, but to be honest the “on-limits” foods instantly depressed me. I don’t want to eat shrimp and avocado omelets, with berries and balsamic as a snack. Paleo looked like it would prescribe an increase in the animals foods that have had me feeling a bit, uh… clogged these days.

So I’m going the other way, and swan-diving into the plant kingdom. Besides, I’ve had it on my bucket list for a while now: try out a vegan diet for 30 days.

But what about the social ickiness I’ve always felt about veganism? Well I went over my long-standing reasons for steering clear of it, and I have to admit they’re looking a bit wilted since I last checked:

1) It’s too hard.

I know more former vegans than vegans. The unwillingness to live a cheeseless life seems to be the primary reason my once-vegan acquaintances quickly backpedaled to the more moderate vegetarian camp.

Usually restaurants have between zero and one vegan dishes, so that’s what you get. The world is made for omnivores, so you’re painting yourself into a pretty tiny corner if you only allow plants into your body.

While researching this post I kept running into the same surprising anecdote: when people go vegan, they typically wind up expanding their palette. They end up doing a lot more cooking, trying a lot more different goods, and learning a lot more about nutrition in the process. After the initial restocking of the fridge, and a crash course on vegan staples, finding something to eat isn’t so hard.

Ok, so it’s harder than what I’ve been doing, which has basically been doing whatever’s easiest and most gratifying to me. Maybe “hard” is just “harder than the easiest possible approach.”

2) It’s too idealistic.

Oh, I don’t want to hurt anything, so I’ll only eat plants. While I’m at it, I’ll never get angry. I’ll never drink. I’ll never swear. I’ll never take a pen from work or listen to burned CDs.

Life feeds on other life, and that’s a reality we all have to accept. Animals kill animals. We’re animals. We kill other animals too, and we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without doing a lot of killing and dismembering of animals that really didn’t want to get killed or dismembered. Yes, it’s ugly, violent, bloody. It’s nature.

This was another argument I’ve used to veto the idea of going vegan. Just because I find nature’s violent side a little disturbing sometimes, does that mean it’s wrong to kill animals for food? Mother Nature creates horror on a daily basis. The spectacle of a predatory cat ripping its prey apart while it’s still alive is something most people would hide from their children. Most nature shows won’t even show it. Just because it’s unappetizing and disturbing, does that make it bad or wrong?

Looking a bit closer, it’s not such a great argument. The real atrocity, in the view of some, is not how food animals die but how they must live. In the system that creates food for us, animals are typically treated worse than history’s slaves. There’s plenty of footage online if anyone isn’t clear on what I’m talking about, but I think we all are.

Now, not everyone agrees that there is an equivalency between human and animal lives, but that’s a moot point. Even if we rank animals firmly below humans on whatever arbitrary “worthiness of respect scale,” I really don’t want to picture an animal I know being treated like that: Chico or Marley or Rocko or whoever.

Of course non-human mammals have personalities, any dog owner knows that. But it’s so much easier to eat them if I never had to know them. They don’t look like animals by the time we see them anyway.

There are lots of schools of thought on this but no matter how I dice it (the argument, not the animal) it always comes down to the same bottom line: we inflict suffering that we don’t have to inflict, and it’s easy for us to justify because we don’t have to see it.

3) Vegans are angry.

While I was researching this post, it was sometimes difficult to find articles on veganism that didn’t degenerate into ranting and accusing. A lot of vegans do seem to have trouble refraining from getting vindictive when the topic comes up, and as a meat-eater, all it’s ever done is make me dig my heels in. It’s like they’re always trying to slip in the gross-out reference, telling you there’s pus in your cheese, or calling your burger a crime scene.

I think the vegan cause suffers from this. I know now that it is only a minority that are always looking for a fight, but those few really do a number on the image of veganism. It is an emotional issue and it’s easy for someone in either camp to get heated about it. But I wonder of those loose-cannon vegans realize that to alienate one omnivore to the vegan cause is to ensure that one more person will probably eat meat with full self-justification for the rest of their lives. Do this to a couple of people, and maybe it was better for the animals if that person never went vegan in the first place.

But as I said, this is a vocal minority and most vegans seem to recognize that peace between humans and humans is a prerequisite to peace between humans and animals.

On a related point:

4) I don’t like PETA. I don’t want to be one of those people.

This is the institutionalized version of the antagonistic approach in #3. When I think of PETA I think of their publicity stunts.

They seem to love to shock and enrage, and while it might be a great way of preaching to the choir, they are probably most successful at getting omnivores (both the staunch and the fence-sitting kind) to hate not only their organization, but the word vegan and the notion behind it.

It’s almost like they’re secretly trying to turn everyone in to Ted Nugent. To scream “Meat is Murder” at a meat-eater is to say “You’re a selfish prick who kills for pleasure, you bloody murderer! Join us!” I suppose the audacity of their stunts might get them on TV, giving them a chance to arouse more hatred for their organization, and forfeit any chance at converting anyone, but they’ve created the image of vegans and vegetarians as being subverts, accusers, haters. How this is supposed to help animals is something I will never understand.

Their hearts might be in the right place but their methods (or at least the most visible ones) are an embarrassment, and so many vegans don’t support them. What a burden PETA must be to vegans who recognize that you can’t change the mind of someone who hates you.

So my disdain for PETA remains, but I no longer equate PETA with the vegan cause, because that’s just not fair.

5) I don’t want to ask the waiter fifty questions.

This might just be the one that’s been the biggest dealbreaker for me. I have always had a rather extreme contempt for nitpickers of any kind, and there’s no way I’m going to interview the server in every restaurant so that I don’t accidentally swallow some whey extract that somebody else would have eaten anyway. I will not be one of those people who holds up everyone else while they make sure everything conforms to their self-imposed “alternative” standards.

Now that I’ve seen how a few vegans handle this, it’s not hard. Meat dishes are obvious, and they know what foods typically contain animal products. If questioning is necessary, it’s usually limited to “Does this have any dairy in it?” and the server always knows, or can easily find out. When it doubt, they can order something else.

There may be other complications I haven’t foreseen, but this part of it no longer intimidates me.

6) The harvest of plants kills animals anyway.

This is a pretty well-worn argument by now, but we know that the harvest of food crops by machines results in the violent death of all sorts of sentient creatures, from field mice to rabbits. There doesn’t really seem to be a way around this, as long as food production exists on an industrial scale.

There are still a lot of vegans who seem to believe that by living a vegan lifestyle, they don’t cause any harm to their fellow beings — that they can criticize the lifestyles of others from a karmically “clean” position. I’ve always resented this particular hypocrisy, and I kind of let it disqualify veganism as a possible lifestyle for me.

But it didn’t take too much research for me to discover that most vegans do recognize that the purpose of their lifestyle is to greatly reduce the suffering caused by their way of living, rather than eliminate it. I’m sure they would have told me this if I had asked.

7) How could I ever say, “Ok, this is the last cheeseburger. Ever.”

One time I was getting my hair cut and I was half-eavesdropping on a conversation on the other side of the mirrored partition. A bride-to-be was getting her hair done, confessing to the hairdresser her worries about getting married:

“It’s just… I guess… I’m never going to have sex with anyone else for the rest of my life!”

No word on how she’s doing.

I have had the same thoughts about cheese. And wings. And lattes. How could I ever reach a point where I’m going to say, ok, this is the last one. Ever.

The way I see it now, “lifetime commitments” are not really possible. Not technically anyway, because the 30-year-old making the commitment is not the same person as the 48-year-old who is going to be responsible for upholding that commitment eighteen years later. We’re all constantly becoming different people with evolving values year by year* so the person you are today can’t make promises for the people you will be 5, 10, or 25 years from now. Each day, each moment, we have the options of upholding or re-evaluating and re-negotiating our commitments with ourselves and others.

Of course, people can and do honor commitments that they made in their youth, but it’s either because they happened to carry a consistent belief in that department through the years, or because they’re afraid of rocking the boat and living the values they carry today, if it means making a major lifestyle change or upsetting other people.

So there’s no need to make a lifetime commitment. I’ll go all the way through 30 days, and on day 31, breakfast will be whatever I feel like eating.

*or at least I hope you are. If you have the same beliefs you’ve always had, you haven’t grown a lick, just gotten closer to your grave.

***

So none of my reasons really hold up for me anymore. Now I’m not saying that my cheeseburger days are over for good, or that I’ve “seen the light” but it seems like now is the perfect time to tackle one of my Life List items and eat a vegan diet for 30 days.

I want to see what it does to my body, to my social interactions with others, to my wallet, and to my opinion of myself. After the 30 days is up I’ll do whatever I see fit.

Even just playing around with veganism feels like I’m opening an enormous can of worms. If I change the way I eat for ethical reasons, it means I must examine everything I do now. How can I hold my eating to an ethical standard but not the rest of my life: the products I buy, the stores I shop at, the public figures I support, the charities I give to, the way I talk to people, the places I spit my gum out, the way I dispose of my batteries…

It’s the pandora’s box of ethical living — one endless slippery slope. Well I’m not going to worry about that for now. I’ll do my vegan experiment, let one thing lead to another, and keep an open mind.

The Terms

NOTE: Experiment No 9 is just finishing up now, and my final report will be posted later this week, but I wanted to get this experiment underway first because I have all this vegan food in my house and I’m ready to go.

I will eat a vegan diet for 30 days, beginning Monday, February 21 and ending Thursday, March 24.

I am limiting the lifestyle changes to my diet for now. Veganism is about more than just what you eat but also what you wear and who you buy from.

During the 30 days I’ll read and watch essays and videos on the vegan issue from as many viewpoints as I can find. I will hear PETA’s schtick, and Ted Nugent’s. I’ll see what makes sense to me.

I will report the changes I see in my experiment log.

There are a few foods on which vegans aren’t unanimous. Honey is one. I do not believe bees suffer, but I can’t argue that eating honey is an example of exploiting the animal kingdom. I am not going to seek out any honey, but I’m not going to go to great lengths to make sure none enters my body either.

To my great relief, my favorite beer, Keith’s White, is vegan-friendly. But there are probably animal products out there I don’t know I’m consuming.

Another issue is refined sugar. It’s usually made using bone char, which is an animal by-product. Now, I’ve bought raw sugar, but I’m not going to worry too much about eating incidental refined sugar in foods other people prepare. It is not necessary to use bone char as a filter in the refinement process, so I suspect that its use in sugar production only occurs because the meat industry happens to create a cheap supply of it, and not because all the refined sugar fans out there are creating a demand for it.

Anyway, I can’t possibly account for every contingency or grey area right at the outset. I’ll learn as I go along.

If you’re interested in doing this too, even for just a week instead of a month, you can post your progress in the comments section of the experiment log.

Whatever you do, bon appetit.

R

Photo by David Cain



Josh Wapp January 20, 2013 at 1:06 am

Great blog. Glad I found you. You write well.

This article may be of interest to you:

http://chetday.com/vegmyths.htm

Darrin January 23, 2013 at 5:28 am

First of all, I absolutely love your blog, I got here reading about Veganism, but have been enjoying so many articles here, and thought after reading every comment on this page I would first add my two cents here.

I have been vegetarian pretty much my whole life, by the time I was 14 I didn’t eat any meat, but yes cheese and dairy were part of my diet. I was pretty much happy with that for awhile, but I had a rare heart problem, and an operation because my cholesterol levels were still quite high. Especially Triglycerides (caused mainly by alcohol, and sugars in the blood), but also the LDL (Low density Lipoprotein) which truly upset me, and I had to give up alcohol to lower the TGL. My father has also a history of high cholesterol and he was also experimenting with finding a way to lower it. After reading several books, he decided to remove cheese and dairy from his diet, and voila! Problem solved. I decided I would do this as well as going from vegetarian to vegan seemed a pretty small step. I rarely eat eggs, don’t care for milk, but alas the bane of many who complained here, I love cheese! Well, after a week I began to drop the pounds, my belly started shrinking, I felt more boisterous, and my LDL levels are now the lowest they have ever been. Still struggling with the hereditary TGL a bit, but otherwise I had an absolutely normal healthy blood reading for the first time in years. I had been off dairy for 3 months, and then again 6 months to see these results improving. I don’t miss the cheese at all. I just eat more tofu which I have always loved. And yes I take B12 supplements. One thing I also suggest is reducing coffee intake as a Vegan. Tea or just water is better. There are Indian and Thai vegan currys. I also hate when people ask me “what do you eat?”. There is so much variety, I honestly think that people who just stick with steak, fries, and cheese are the ones who are missing out. You will always find pros and cons even from medical societies, and especially online. But the truth is milk and cheese does in fact raise LDL levels. Most meat, like breakfast salami is full of glucose syrup, and sugars for taste and preservation, so no one can say that the cavemen hunted for that! There are also strong healthy vegetarians, horses, and brontosaurus dinosaurs just to name a few examples. No one has to make an argument for or against your choice. If you feel healthy then you are right for yourself. I think the militancy comes from the “religious high” that many Vegans feel when they discover how musch energy they have, and they just want to spread the news. I had this feeling as well, but I just keep it to myself, and my friends accept that it’s good for me, so each to his own. I personally never liked the taste of meat, so it has always been easy for me. That’s why I don’t judge others who like it. All the best to you!

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I thank you for sharing this comfortable information. I always want along with love reading quality articles. Keep sharing. Best wishes for your further efforts.

Devorah July 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm

As a vegan, I am very unimpressed with his arguments. I have had every single one of those presented to me. I especially disagree with the “Vegans are angry” because we are! Would there be a movement if we weren’t? It is a sad state of affairs wheel all you can come up with is this. But, do as you may.

David July 30, 2013 at 6:41 am

Obviously you didn’t actually read the article.

Essy October 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The titles of each point state the arguments the author had with himself about why NOT to go vegan, but then he followed with explanations about why he realised that now those arguments were rubbish and he didn’t believe in them anymore. :)

kate October 28, 2013 at 8:18 pm

hold on…..in numero dos, you mention that we kill a lot of animals in that second paragraph….maybe that should have been reworded to read “slaughter houses kill a lot of animals…etc”. WE don’t. BUT…maybe if we had to go wring a chicken’s neck, or shoot some cute little fuzzy thing, skin it, and cut all the guts out, we’d think twice about our carnivorous cravings.
It’s convenient, packaged, free range (on how big a range, btw?) and we want it. Just like so many other convenient items….and yes, the bit about how the animals actually live before being done in, that’s the really horrible part. I enjoyed this writing of your. thanks

mynameishayomannaise January 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

i enjoy this projectionism you’ve got going on here.

doesn’t care, move on, find purpose in life other than stalking ‘non-animal consumers’. ha! here i am a raw vegetarian and i know that title is CRAP!

just being online is consuming a creature.

now, do something formidable like not waste bandwidth.

thanks.

Kala January 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I know I’m super late on this (and at least according to the article at the end of the 30 day period, you are vegan/mostly vegan now anyway) BUT I am a huge non-fan of the “slippery slope” argument, and was disappointed to not see it refuted in the slightest.
The article mentions an “ethical” slippery slope several times (where does it end—stop eating animal products, might as well stop being angry, stop swearing, dispose of batteries differently, blahblahblah), and I’d like to mention that actually, there is no slippery slope here.
Non-vegans have ethics/morals, too. No one says “oh well if I don’t cheat on this test I might as well never curse and stop watching porn.” “Oh well if I donate to charity I’ll have to donate every year to many charities and never spend any money on myself and move to Africa and build a school.”

Starla Trotter February 4, 2014 at 6:08 pm

I am newly vegan. I started about two weeks ago. So far I am loving it. Everything you said is SO inspiring and makes so much sense! I am not a PETA supporter, nor do I want to be a militant, angry vegan. Everyone has to make their own lifestyle choices. I wish vegans didn’t have such a bad rap. It’s a beautiful, kind way to live and I hope I can stick with it as a beautiful, kind person. It is sometimes very hard not to get super passionate about the cause, especially when it IS emotional and my research really effects me and it’s new for me and I want to talk about it. But then I remember how resistant I used to be to the idea and I talk myself down from the urge to just go off about the horrors that occur. Reducing animal cruelty is the goal. I cannot eliminate it. I have to remind myself of this. Researching what animals actually go through is as depressing as it is motivating (I mean it keeps me focused on being vegan but I’ve shed a lot of tears) so I like to try and find stories of optimism and hope as well. I think more people would consider veganism if it wasn’t so traumatic to take a good hard look at the proBLEM because the proGRESS tends to get lost. Hope and positivity are key! I love what you’re doing! Just wanted to say thank you.

Carl Balley February 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm

We are what we eat and I, as a carnivore diner, wonder if the vegan human might not make the better meal if one were stranded on an island with both carnivore (like me) and vegan members of our species being the only source of food to be found- no edible plants, animals, fish or foul on this imaginary island. Seems that since I prefer herbivore animals on my plate to omni-or carnivore animals such as foxes or lions, that the vegan might be the better choice-now we are talking about an emergency situation, not something I am planning for the weekend.
I would be worried that my vegan meal might be missing B-12, D (if this island is not tropical) and possibly zinc (as a male this is most important to me). I suppose we could supplement with the odd carnivore human, but then there would be the problem of the vegan-carnivore percentage in the diet for these important nutritional elements.
So complex is the subject but one should always be prepared for life’s little unexpected possibilities.

Kelly March 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Sorry, but all I’m reading here is that you’re just lazy and trying to look for an excuse to fall back to your old habits. Whining about nonvegans their luxury problems, but yet not even once I read something about the feelings of the actual victims in this case who, unlike nonvegans, actually DO suffer for your laziness and luxury. It’s funny because the ones who always get angry and defensive by mentioning you’re vegan are meat eaters. So why don’t you complain about their anger, or better yet; their violence towards other life?

I have a hard time to believe that you actually tried, since you’re just using typical carnist exuses to keep eating meat like “eating plants does little harm, so I might as well support some extra harm as well” or the pathetic “lions eat meat too” excuse. There’s nothing natural about buying meat from an animal that’s been exploited its entire life from the store.

By reading this article another part of faith in humanity was lost.

David Cain March 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

By reading this article another part of faith in humanity was lost.

That’s unfortunate, because clearly you just reacted to the headings and didn’t read the article. If you had, you’d know it is a pro-veganism piece.

You are the reason vegans are not well-liked.

Elaine April 11, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Please watch the documentary Earthlings, it is online, after you see this profound movie, or the movie, Specesim, you may understand more fully why vegans want to talk about this subject. It is a passionate one because once you know the horrors of this industry, you are awake, the veil has been lifted and you feel an obligation to share this knowledge. 97 million land animals a year are killed, living in horrific conditions, and this is not necessary. The movie Earthlings is the truth of it all, and it is very educational. It is necessary that we humans see what is happening, it is the elephant in the room.

Kelly April 21, 2014 at 10:21 am

I just want to point out that not all vegans hold the same standards; it’s been 9 years for me being vegan now, but I’d shoot a deer if I was handed a gun. Just beware of false dichotomies.
Great article, otherwise, though!

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Sarah April 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm

As a vegan, this blog post was very useful for me to read. Animal use has been strongly conditioned into our society and many vegans take the wrong approach when trying to promote a vegan lifestyle by being too acute with their message which defames the movement more than anything. People like Gary Yourofsky do the movement no favours and neither do what I like to call ‘straw vegans’ who talk about how much they ‘hate humans’.

Yes we do live in a world where animal use is the norm, however we can all change this and all changes have to start from somewhere. I think that education is key as is making vegan food and lifestyle choices more readily available as a mainstream option.

It sounds like peer pressure is a problem for you and it was for me and I was an on/off vegetarian for 10 years before I took the plunge and I decided to go vegan.

As for PETA, I appreciate their message and they have done some good things for animals (they are a big part of the reason why animal testing for cosmetics does not happen in the EU any longer), but they have done nothing to appeal to mainstream people. I don’t see them putting adverts here on UK television trying to get Joe Public to relate to veganism in a civil and polite way, which is something I would personally like to see, and would promote if I had the resources.

I think that using shock tactics can only work on some people. I have learn’t from experience that this doesn’t often work because animal use is very normalised and people are going to feel attacked and retreat rather than want to be a part of something if one jumps right into the deep end when trying to argue a point.

There is also a stereotype that people think of when they hear the word vegan. They think that only a certain type of person can be a vegan and that all vegans are ‘alternative hippies’ and this needs to be challenged as it alienates the movement and even turns it into a fashion statement in some circumstances.

People are not directly bad for using animals. Most people don’t even think about it and vegan activists need to challenge people into thinking about it. However, there is a right way to do this, and by coming across as angry is not the way to do it.

I think that veganism has been very alienated as a movement by the image that it upholds, and even though I’m just one of many, I feel like it’s my mission to challenge this.

You also bought up how veganism is too ‘perfect’. I understand how a person can feel that way, however, we mustn’t let that fear of perfection stop us from progressing as human beings. I think that we are civilised enough and have enough technology and understanding of the sciences to build a society completely focused on nonviolence, teamwork, compassion and cooperation. We do not need to eat animals for our nutrition, especially if we can eliminate poverty, which without denial and greed and this fear of truth many of us seem to have, we can achieve as well. A plant based diet is actually better for our personal health and it’s also better for the planet and better for our pockets. Fear of progress is holding us back.

I think that as a vegan you felt alienated and went back to what you felt was normal, which says a lot to me about how vegans need to promote the cause.

Twitch June 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I’m just going to point one thing out, about the whole “vegans are angry” thing. I’ve seen far more pissed off meat-eaters than vegans. It’s strange.. When I ate meat, I never had a problem with vegans, and they never really had a problem with me. Granted, I didn’t know very many vegans and I never openly tried to justify eating meat to one.. But regardless, most people don’t know very many vegans anyways since they’re such a minority, yet act like they’re such a nuisance. I go vegan, and suddenly everyone has a problem with me because I point out something horrible that is taking place because of their choices.. you know.. the truth. And the only reason I do it is because I care about the animals and want people to stop killing and torturing them. Yet, I’m labelled as this “angry, self-righteous, vegan” *sigh* I think we should get to the heart of the problem.

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Ilknur June 17, 2014 at 5:15 am

Hahaahaaa!! This list is like my excuse list. When I want to achieve a goal I am making a list to write my excuses stopping me to go to my goal. We are so creative with excuses right?
Thank you for this great list:)

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