The Vegan Debate
No longer do you need a dreadlocked mane of hair and the ability to juggle fire with your shirt off to be a vegan, though it’s still encouraged. You might’ve just walked by one in the street and not even realized. There might be one sitting next to you on the bus right now. Or maybe, even someone in your own family!
In Simon Amstell’s hipster vegan mocumentary, Carnage, he paints a picture of a dystopian future filled with shame and remorse for the past mass murder of animals. It’s a time where people can’t even bring themselves to mention the crimes they had committed in the past like, dare I say it, eating cheese! Clips of opera singing cows wailing about being raped to produce milk hit home extremely salient points in a comedic way. In this thought provoking film, interviews with fictional, vegan revolutionaries are inter-spliced with atrocious footage from factory farms, illustrating – with no mercy – the meat-reliant world we live in today.
Though persuasive to me, Carnage won’t change everybody’s mind. My wife and I were watching the movie with our roommate and her then-boyfriend. As the credits rolled, we sat back, jaws trailing on the floor. Eating meat was the last thing on our minds. Then-boyfriend, however, muttered in a southern drawl, “God, could anybody else go for some bacon right now?”.
I could have wheeled off all the classic stats – that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat. According to PETA, you can save more water from avoiding one pound of meat than not showering for six months. Maybe told him about the sharp influx of vegans in recent times. Since 2006, the amount of vegans in England has grown from 150,000 to over half a million in 2016. That’s a 350% increase in 10 years. In the USA, The Vegetarian Times suggests that there are now sixteen million vegetarians, with approximately half of these said to be vegans. I might have even brought to his attention the health benefits of going vegan. Though we’re far from making grand conclusions, PETA suggests that vegetarians can live between six and nine years longer than meat eaters on average. But he wouldn’t have listened because he didn’t want to listen.
On the other side, I have a very vocal vegan friend who fills my Facebook feed with a barrage of grim videos of male chicks being poured into giant chick-chipping devices, followed by goats being dragged away in trucks while their babies trot behind trying to go with them. He punctuates his videos with blunt sentences like, “Good luck sleeping tonight!” or “Carnivores deserve the same pain and suffering these animals get!”. He gets a few likes, but mainly he gets a lot of confused old friends saying, “Steady on mate, we used to play football together,” or people making fun of him. “I’m just going to watch this again while eating a lovely sausage.” I wonder how many people, like me, he has affected positively and how many have been so stigmatized that they won’t ever listen to another vegan again… or a documentary, or a doctor, or a climate scientist. And if I told him to be less aggressive, he wouldn’t listen because he doesn’t want to listen.
I would love to sit the two of them down in a room, one with a plate of ribs, the other with a plate of falafel, and leave them to discuss it, but I think there would be more blood shed than a slaughter house. This is the biggest problem we face with making a positive change in the modern world, a lack of a healthy debate. Whether you are a vegan, a meat eater, a sort-of vegetarian, a meat-free Mondayer, or none of the above, have constructive conversations about it, and remain open minded to everybody’s opinion dreadlocked or otherwise.