We’ve all heard it before: whether it be the unfounded claims that human survival requires the consumption of meat, protests against the apparent ‘deprivation’ of our children by raising them vegan, or that we deserve to eat meat because we reside comfortably on top of the food chain. Non-vegans seem to have all the answers.
I’ve been vegan for just shy of a year, and the battle I’ve unknowingly become a part of by publicly retracting my support of the meat and dairy industry is one that has left me feeling battered and bruised. The vast majority of people who are not vegan boast an armoury of dismissible reasons for why veganism is extreme, or incorrect, or completely pointless. Before I’ve even had a chance to explain why I no longer consume animal products, they have taken aim with their nonsensical excuses for why they won’t. And what’s frustrating is not the frequency of which this happens, but the fact that I have heard these same excuses time and time again, and my patience for them is wearing thin.
We are of an age where an entire planet’s worth of knowledge resides in our back pocket. When the answer to almost any question is just a Google search away, it becomes difficult to explain, for the umpteenth time, that you can easily get a healthy amount of protein without eating meat. In fact, having to answer the same, tired excuses with facts that are plastered all over the internet suggests to me that the people using them don’t actually believe in them. On the contrary, the unwillingness to conduct a modest amount of research to back up their own arguments demonstrates the reality of the situation: they simply cannot be bothered to change.
What’s almost comical about coming to that conclusion is that non-vegans will swear blindly that it’s not the case. People will give you any and every reason under the sun for being unable to go vegan before they’ll admit that it’s simply down to laziness. It is the exact same ignorance behind this behaviour that allows them to see living, breathing beings and the pre-packaged meat products they find in the supermarket as two completely separate entities. But if we were to ever dare to call them out on this, we’d receive the exact same barrage of defensive accusations we always get:
‘I don’t need to have your views shoved down my throat.’
‘You’re being really preachy.’
‘I don’t deserve to be made to feel like a bad person for what I eat.’
So, what are we to do? Does there come a point in every vegan’s journey where we throw up our hands, exasperated, and give up? Or must we continue to subject ourselves to this constant cycle of watching our message of peace be met with ignorance, defensiveness and hostility? It almost makes you question if what you’re doing will ever really make a difference at all, when there are so many people who are determined never to change.
It is at that point that we should take a minute to stop, and to remember the reason we went vegan in the first place.
I remember the gusto that I felt the day I decided I would never eat another animal again. It was an immense sense of power; like I knew that from that day forward, my contribution to animal welfare would only be positive, and that my money would never again pay for the suffering and slaughter of a creature that did not want to die. It didn’t matter what people would say, or how much of an inconvenience it would be to cater to me at family gatherings or if I went out to eat. The only thing that mattered was that I was finally doing something that mattered. Even if my efforts were as small as never buying an animal product again, it mattered.
Now, when I encounter someone who uses the same old excuses for eating meat that I’ve heard countless times before, I try to think about the way I felt on that very first morning. When I’m feeling unmotivated or hopeless, and like nothing I say or do will ever truly make a difference, it helps to relive that day and to know that it doesn’t matter if I don’t manage to convert everyone I meet. What really matters, is that the person I converted to veganism back in January – the person who felt a fire in her belly and didn’t care what anyone had to say about her decision – still has faith in what she is doing and a real hope for change.
I believe it will always be difficult to hear the same old excuses that we’re used to hearing. We will always have to resist that little urge to scream ‘just Google it!’ in the faces of those who don’t know what happens to a cow to make her produce milk, or to roll our eyes when we’re told that life is ‘too short’ to care about animal agriculture, despite it being the single biggest cause of pollution on earth. But as hard as it may be, we mustn’t give up hope. For every group of people denying their own ignorance, there will also be those who are willing to admit that consuming animal products is immoral, just as we did, and be open to giving veganism a try. So, let’s continue to put on a brave face and share the message, safe in the knowledge that no excuse we encounter will ever invalidate the difference we are making.