An Open Letter to Vegans From an Ethical Omnivore
Aside from the obvious anti-cruelty aspects, being vegan is better for ones health (mostly anyway, but we'll get to that in a minute), it's significantly easier on the environment (much of the time), and due to both of these factors, it has a positive economic impact in terms of reducing dollars spent on curing illness, negating climate change, cleaning up the destruction left over from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and a whole host of other issues associated with the production of meat.
That being said, as someone who enjoys exploring the ethical implications of our food system, I'm tired of the self-righteous zealots who claim the only way to show compassion and humanity is through veganism.
See Also: An Open Letter to BurgerFi From a Vegan
*Before we get started: If you are an open-minded vegan who does go around not telling people their lifestyles are wrong, this letter isn't addressed to you. Most vegans are lovely, compassionate people who make their choices and allow others to make theirs. This letter is not addressed to them.
Dear Militant Vegan,
I like that you care about animals. I appreciate that you don't want to eat them. Heck, I even love much of your food and your eateries. Grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits are freaking delicious -- I wish more of our fellow humans would switch to consuming more of these healthy, ethically sound products.
Maybe we can even dedicate an entire day to do so.
Oh, wait, we have. It's called Meatless Monday. And a large segment of the meat-eating world (you know, those uncompassionate heathens you like to chastise) does partake.
I may not have my own dedicated day, personally, but I tend to favor vegetarian cuisine on my days off. (Although, I will say I just participated as a judge in a lamb competition and it was amazing.)
Look, while I appreciate and support much of what you do, I don't need to be verbally accosted because I choose to eat meat -- and most of my flexitarian and carnivorous comrades feel the same way.
We don't want a lecture at the Whole Foods checkout from the chick decked out in Lululemon, who just nearly ran over a mother with a stroller, while fighting for a parking spot, in her coexist- and namaste-stickered Prius. (Those things are silent. We can't hear them coming!)
Your car says it for you, we're supposed to coexist. Just because some of us eat meat, doesn't mean we aren't humane or don't care about animals or the environmental impact of our food choices. And quite honestly, we're all ethically complicit. Vegans are not necessarily any less guilty than omnivores.
Did you forage your own grains? No?
Well then, it's pretty much guaranteed that field mice, moles, and rabbits were killed in the cultivation of your soy, wheat, and barley.
Are you eating processed vegan meat-substitutes?
Chances are you're eating copious amounts of genetically modified soy, which leads to all sorts of health problems: liver problems, sterility, immune problems, the list goes on and on.
Another frequently found ingredient in all these soy-based food is hexane. A neurotoxic petrochemical solvent, it's used to make oils, isolated soy proteins, or texturized soy protein (TVP) from soybeans.
And while we're on the subject of soy, the once-upon-a-time super crop is plagued by the same deforestation issues and impacts on wildlife displacement as all other major sources of protein. In addition to run-off and pushing developing countries' farmers off their land, the growth of the soy industry threatens endangered species throughout South America and Asia. As millions of hectares of savannah and forest have been cleared for soy production, animals like jaguars, maned wolves, and giant ant eaters are left with nowhere to live.
The reason I feel the need to address this issue, dear vegan, is I'd like to find common ground. Not everyone is going to dive head first into a diet free of animal products.
Others may want to consider choosing sources of meat that are raised in a humane manner. You may claim there is no such thing as humane meat, but this dear holier-than-thou vegan, is a matter of semantics.
A couple years ago, I wrote a series of articles entitled "From Pig to Pork," in which I documented the birth to slaughter process on a small farm in Central Florida. Two years later, I received a letter of complaint about the manner in which certain sections were worded.
It was said that there is no way the premeditated killing of animals would be considered humane. (I was also told to embark on a more loving, spiritual journey.)
See Also: I Watched a Hog Get Slaughtered
As the only witness to the described slaughter scene (aside from the farm's owner, staff, and the USDA inspector who was afraid I'd pass out), I stick by my assertion that the process was humane. The pigs on this farm had not the slightest hint what was coming their way as the captive bolt stun gun hit entered their brains. From where I was standing (right next to the pen), I could see no evidence of pain.
I admit now, just as I did then, that this farm was far from the norm. On average it slaughters around ten hogs in a day, just once a week, where an industrial slaughterhouse is said to kill 1,100 per hour.
No one is perfect -- not even you. But we're all trying to do the best we can. And for some of us, it's buying $6 a dozen pasture-raised eggs or $8 a pound grass-fed beef. For others, it's making sure you have enough food (of any source) to feed a family. For you, it's abstaining from eating meat.
So I end, dear pious vegan, with this: many (certainly not all) meat-eaters are probably open to your ways -- we just don't want your sanctimonious views thrown in our faces.
I applaud your efforts, but no one likes to be told they are bad or unspiritual for the way they live. And is it really divine to act as a hypocrite or a self-righteous know-it-all? How does that help anything or convince anyone? Sanctimonious lectures don't change minds or win hearts.
If you love all creatures, big and small, you might want to remember that humans fall under that category as well.
Just like you're bumper sticker says, we all need to coexist.
Ethical Eater Looking for Some Peace
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.