I know there are lots of terrific FAQ’s out there already (and I really look forward to reading the pamphlet James McWilliams is currently writing). But I’ve been slowly working on this list for a while now, and thought I might as well post it rather than let it die in my Drafts folder. It’s my attempt to distill some of the most helpful arguments I’ve read over the years from various organizations and individuals ranging from Vegan Outreach to Gary Francione. If anyone has any better/more succinct answers (in response to these or other objections), feel free to share!
1. Objection: “Being vegan is fine for you, but I like meat.”
Response: People don’t usually go vegan because they dislike meat or cheese or any other animal product. They go vegan because they dislike animal cruelty. And the reality is, you can’t have one without the other. But going vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up the flavors and textures you’re used to. There are lots of amazing vegan alternatives out there, today. Check out Field Roast, Gardein, Daiya and So Delicious, for starters. Plus, many people who go vegan discover that their meal options actually become broader, not more limited, as they explore new foods and creative cuisines.
2. Objection: “What about plants? Don’t they suffer, too?”
Response: Unlike animals, plants aren’t sentient and they have no nervous systems. However, even if it were discovered that plants were somehow capable of suffering, it would still be preferable to eat a vegan diet since it takes far more plants to feed livestock than it does to feed people directly.
3. Objection: “Vegans kill animals, too. Field mice, snakes and other small animals can be killed when crops are harvested.”
Response: It’s impossible to live in this world without causing some degree of harm, that’s true. But shouldn’t we try to cause the least harm, rather than the most? While we don’t need to eat animals to survive, we do need to eat plants. And ethically-speaking, there’s a big difference between accidentally harming animals during the production of necessary food, and deliberately harming animals during the production of unnecessary food.
4. Objection: “People have always killed animals for food, that’s not going to change now.”
Response: Just because we’ve always done something doesn’t make it right. People have always killed and raped other people, too. Does that mean we should allow such violence to continue unchecked? Or should we strive towards creating a more peaceful and just world?
5. Objection: “What about lions and tigers – are you saying they should be vegan, too?”
Response: Unlike lions and tigers (who are obligate carnivores), humans do not require animal products to survive. We are opportunistic omnivores and can survive quite well on a plant-based diet. A tiger may not have that choice, but we do. Those of us who live in the modern world and choose to eat animal products do so not out of necessity, but rather out of desire, habit and convenience.
6. Objection:“Aren’t vegans being elitist? Not everyone can afford fancy faux meat products.”
Response: You don’t need to eat fancy foods to be vegan. A vegan diet is based on combinations of grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit. That said, vegan meals can be as elaborate or plain, expensive or inexpensive as you choose. Some packaged vegan foods may appear to cost more than non-vegan counterparts, however, it’s important to remember that animal products are kept at artificially low prices through unjust government subsidies, as this eye-opening diagram and pie chart reveal. Additionally, in terms of “elitism” – what could possibly be more elitist than believing that other animals should be enslaved and killed solely for our pleasure?
7. Objection: “I can’t go vegan because I don’t like tofu – and I’m particularly bothered by the production of GMO soy, corn, and the destruction of the rainforests.”
Response: Who says you have to eat tofu? Plenty of vegans don’t. You can be a soy-free vegan. You can be a gluten-free vegan. You can be a nut-free vegan. You can even be all three! Besides, if you are truly concerned about GMO soy, corn and the destruction of rainforests, the best thing you can do is stop buying animal products, since those are the primary crops grown to feed livestock. By eating animal products, you are almost certainly consuming GMO soy and corn, you’re just getting it secondhand.
8. Objection:“I only buy humane meat.”
Response: Considering that more than 95% of all animal products produced in the U.S. come from factory farms, is that really possible? And what do labels like “humane” and “free-range” really mean? Sadly, the reality is a far cry from the idyllic images printed on the packages. But regardless of how animals are treated before they’re slaughtered, is it really ethical to use, manipulate and kill others – not out of need – but only out of habit, convenience and desire? Can killing for for those reasons ever really be considered “humane”?
9. Objection: “So animals should be given the same rights as humans? Should they have the right to vote, too?”
Response: Animals should have the right to be left alone and not be used as resources for human profit and pleasure. As Alice Walker remarked: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”
10. Objection: “Why worry about animals when there are people out there who need help?”
Response: Lucky for us, compassion isn’t a limited resource. Actually, it seems that the more we use it, the more we get! Since going vegan, I’ve starting caring more about human and environmental issues, not less. Because really, they’re all intertwined. Plus, it’s important to note that human and environmental problems are actually made worse by animal agriculture, which exacerbates world hunger and climate change, among other things.
While it may be natural to show concern for people first, that doesn’t mean we should feel free to abuse animals. A father may care more for his own child than for the child of a stranger, but does that give him the right to enslave and kill other people’s children? Likewise, just because we may instinctively care more about members of our own species doesn’t mean we have the right to enslave and kill members of other species.