Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ten Diametrically Oppositional Arguments Against Veganism That Make My Head Explode

One of the more maddening aspects of interacting with the public about our veganism is the strange but very common phenomenon of being asked to accept two diametrically opposed ideas and beliefs as accurate or true. Contradictions obviously happen a lot in life – we all know people who loathe children but have nothing but tenderness for dogs, for example – and those seeming inconsistencies are part of what can make life an interesting and rich experience. What I am referring to here is something different, though. In the grasping-at-straws that regularly occurs when people attempt to make peace with their conflicted feelings about eating animals, they are trying to reconcile liking the way something tastes and wanting to continue the practice of eating it with not liking what it says about them to be complicit in the violence that consuming those animals necessitates. It is an understandably uncomfortable friction for many, even for those who claim otherwise. Maybe especially so for them. This is a big part of why vegans experience so much public push back, often when we are not even engaging in debate. We become the physical manifestation the inner-conflict that naturally arises out of the unresolved internal discord people feel about eating animals. In short, we are the messengers, even when we are not wearing our messenger hat. As such, we are exposed to some bizarre mental gymnastic routines that we are expected to accept, ones that assert two deeply conflicting messages, often times within moments of one another. Let’s explore some, shall we?


1. Vegans eat only salads and vegans eat only processed foods.

This set of prevailing contradictory attitudes, one insisting that vegans are neurotic kill-joys who are calorie- and/or weight-obsessed and the other maintaining that we subside on deep-fried soy pig skin analogs, could not be more oppositional yet we hear these all the time.

Real talk Some vegans emphasize whole plant foods more than others but the vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle of these extremes. If you see someone posting a photo of salads or a photo of donuts, it does not mean that is all that person eats. Jeez. 


2. If we didn’t eat them, the animals would go extinct and if we didn’t eat them, the animals would take over the world.

Wait: what? I am so confused. Somehow, in one fell swoop, meat-eaters are able to save farmed animals from extinction by chowing down on them and also prevent said animals “from taking over the world,” by ordering Big Macs and chicken wings, which means that they are doing their part to ensure population balance. What a strange paradox! Singlehandedly, they fight extinction by paying others to endlessly provide a supply that replenishes diminished (*cough*dead*cough) provisions and they safeguard the planet against insurgent chickens. Thank you, eco-warrior martyrs!

Real talk If we can only deem a species’ existence justifiable when we find a use for them – and that use is something as cruel and punishing as being raised to be eaten – we need to give some serious scrutiny to our morals. If the only alternative to extinction is breeding to ensure a consumable product after a hellish existence, these animals should not be brought into the world at all. Also, I’m just guessing here but it seems to me that there would be a gradual population decrease with reduced breeding and consumption rather than an opening of the factory farm doors and releasing bloodthirsty, predator cows upon our innocent populace. 

3. Vegans are a bunch of wet blankets who take everything too seriously and vegans don’t care about important issues.

Somehow, we’re simultaneously enemies of fun with our annoying need to draw attention to the grave reality of eating animals and we’re frivolous, carefree nincompoops who don’t care about anything that really matters. That is quite the feat to be able to pull off! I’m kind of proud of us. We manage to be both Debbie Downers and Shallow Susies at once. Go us!

Real talk
You don’t like hearing about the consequences of animal ag? Well, we don’t like knowing about it but that doesn’t stop it from being reality. Sowwy. I have a solution for you if you think we’re too doom-and-gloom about everything: Stop giving us reasons to be scared and sad about the state of the world, how’s that? Stop feeding the machine that is destroying so many innocent lives and our environment. As for the second claim, the people who make it, in other words, the ones currently eating animals, they are the arbiters of what really matters. Okay. So, yeah, more nonsense. Side note: These people don’t tend to do anything for the good of the world but they are great at monitoring and scoring everyone else.)
4. Vegans are stinky hippies who live in dumpsters and vegans are raging control freaks who want to dictate your life.

Okay then!

Real talk Okay then!


5. Vegans are extreme liberals
and vegans are Nazis.

Well, that’s pretty impressive. We’re like Stretch Armstrong, I guess. I will say that at the monthly Tree-Hugging Fascists for Total Global Domination potlucks I attend, you should see the fights break out over who was responsible for adding too much garlic to the hummus. (It’s always the liberals.) We usually end up hugging and then slapping it out, then hugging, then slapping. You get it. It’s weird but it works for us.

Real talk Vegans are of all political persuasions but most of us are on the lefty side so I can kind of see how people jump to the first conclusion, but somehow, we also still manage to be Nazi fascists who are trying to ruin everything good in the world like animal torture and climate change. ‘Kay. Last year, someone yelled at me at a rodeo protest - while walking away because he was badass like that - that vegans are “like the Westboro Baptist Church” for protesting. One group is speaking up against violence and the other spews hateful, fire-and-brimstone vitriol. Yeah, six of one, half a dozen of the other. 


 6. I eat meat because I make my own decisions and eating meat was ingrained in me.

Right, sure, you’re this non-conforming, bacon-fetishizing free-thinker who behaves like 97% of the population in thinking that animals are our personal choice to consume but you also happen to be totally powerless to change your habits because of how you were raised. That makes total sense.

Real talk Which is it? I don’t see how these two common attitudes – that omnivores are boldly swimming against the current of the nanny state dictated by the all-powerful tree-hugging neo-Nazi vegan special interest lobby in exercising their “personal choice” to eat animals and are also being powerless, free agency-deficient products of their upbringing – can be reconciled. Try again, bro.  


7. Vegans are cultists and veganism is fine for other people but some of us like to fit in.

Once again, we’re chastised for being conformists – consider how very dominant the tree-hugging neo-Nazi vegan lobbying influence is in our culture where we’re so surrounded by the idea that animals are ours to use as we wish to the point that we don’t notice it – and being too individualistic by rejecting accepted cultural conventions because, yeah, that makes sense. Somehow, we are capable of both losing our ability to think for ourselves and thinking for ourselves too much. I remain confused!

Real talk Vegans do tend to go against the grain due to having their practices dictated by their conscience rather than social conventions and conveniences but, that said, it’s easier all the time to live as a vegan without too much effort or inconvenience. Whether people want to do their own thing or avoid attention is up to the individual but vegans have all different views about this. It might be tidy to put vegans in a uniform personality box but it’s not accurate.


8. Vegan parents brainwash their kids and vegan kids will be socially rejected and isolated.

Once more, are we opposed to conformity or for it? This seems to be a recurring contradictory message of meat defenders: We’re brainless conformists or we’re so absolutely fringe we live on the outskirts of society.

Real talk I grew up as an omnivore. Was I ever given a choice of whether I wanted to eat meat or not? No. Just the thought of dairy milk made me want to hurl but was I given the option of not drinking it? No. Did anyone ever explain to me honestly what I was eating? No. Was I ever lied to when I asked what if it came from an animal? Yes. That was not just in the home. This was everywhere and it happened – and is still happening with little restriction – to everyone. At school, we are bombarded with animal industry propaganda from the classrooms to the cafeteria; same thing at the doctor’s office, coming from doctors who are also steeped in the same disinformation; watching TV, listening to the radio, walking in the grocery store or driving down the street, we are inundated with product promotion to the point of it becoming white noise that worms right into our very brain matter. Contrast how my husband and I were raised with how we are raising our son: He knows what he eats – and doesn’t eat – without deception and euphemism. He knows the reality of animal agribusiness is far from Old McDonald’s Farm. He is being raised to ask questions and use critical thinking about all matters, even his veganism. He is being raised to think for himself rather than accept the status quo and to learn how corporations try to manipulate him with images and text. He’s brainwashed? I wonder what you call the kids who don’t even realize that they are eating animals then?


9. Vegans believe and push propaganda and But you need to eat meat for complete proteins; or, but a cow’s udders would explode if we didn’t drink their milk; or, but I visited a farm once and it was not like this.

This one really burns my grits. (I don’t know where I got that expression, I’m not from the South or anything but whatever, I’m going with it.) Okay, let me try to parse this: The often hidden reality of eating animals that vegans are sharing with the world – a truth that is confirmed by many investigations and organizations – is pretty much the exact opposite of what the vested interests want consumers to know and understand yet we are the ones believing and slinging propaganda? Hello, Mr. Orwell. How are you? This contrasts nicely with the propaganda we regularly are exposed to from people who are so steeped in disinformation, they don’t even realize it.

Real talk: Who are the real followers and deceivers in this equation? The two-to-three percent of people who are bringing the concealed, unpopular information to the surface or the vast majority who are still in the industry’s clutches? I wonder. Actually, no I don’t.

10. Vegans are a bunch of mushy sentimentalists and I eat meat because my papa was a butcher and this is my way of respecting his memory.

The irony of this one never fails to rankle me. On the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that vegans are a bunch of wildly idealistic bunny-huggers and on the other hand, wah, you have to uphold your family tradition of chowing on animals? Because that’s rational. Who is the sentimentalist here?

Real talk
Question: who are the ones reading stories to their kids about happy animals on idyllic farms? Who are the ones who “have to” eat animals because their ancestors did? Who are the ones who cry at Babe but still eat meat? Who are the ones who make their grandmother’s brisket recipe when they’re feeling nostalgic? Who are the ones who love some animals and eat other ones? Answer: Not the vegans. Sentimentalize that.

What diametrically oppositional arguments against veganism make your head explode?


  1. Can't believe you missed this one! We are better than all other animals because we can reason and build things, but we must kill animals and eat meat because we are animals and that's what animals do!

  2. Wah! I can't believe it either, Rebecca. (I like even numbers, though, so...)

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  4. I hear these arguments a lot, and this article provides a solid defense against them.

  5. I have one commonly used one:

    "Animals aren't the same as humans"


    "Animals eat other animals, so we eat animals" or "Go tell a lion to stop eating meat"

  6. Great post Marla.

    One more I've noticed is -

    Vegans take things too far!

    Veganism doesn't go far enough!

    People will say veganism is extreme and a massive change and taking things too far. They will also say veganism doesn't solve all problems in the world or to do with animal suffering and so it doesn't go far enough in addressing all issues.

    I always ask people what suggestions they have to address problems in these other areas and how they justify animal exploitation and killing in the areas veganism does cover.

    1. I've seen these arguments too. What's generally their reply to your question?

  7. In the end, it's a personal choice though, isn't it? While I don't believe in cruelty, I respect all forms of life, including plants. I think they are sentient.

  8. Tarte maracuja - how are you respecting all forms of life? By making a personal choice to end their life?
    If plants are sentient, then why should we feed tons of them to animals we kill later for our consumption, while humans starve in parts of the world? Eating the plants directly requires much less plant-food, and feeds people who cannot afford to raise animals.

  9. Also Tm:
    This thing about "I don't believe in cruelty" - what does that even mean?
    You don't believe it exists? Clearly it does.
    You don't believe it affects anyone? Clearly it does.
    You don't believe it's the right thing to do? Clearly, you do...


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