A friend who writes for a local paper recently covered a presentation by prominent vegan author, Will Tuttle. The article recounted some surprising facts Tuttle raised about the animal food industry. (For example: did you know that the largest consumer of fish in our nation are cattle? It’s true: we force natural herbivores to consume fish because it’s cheaper and fattens them more quickly for slaughter.)
Tuttle’s presentation promoted veganism as a way to create a more compassionate, sustainable, healthful and spiritually harmonious society. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Which is why I was surprised when my friend expressed concern that her publisher might remove the article from the website because the paper prefers to keep things “positive” and not publish anything “controversial.”
To the paper’s credit, her article was not removed. But it made me wonder: what sort of world do we live in when we need to worry that kindness towards animals and concern for human health and our environment might be considered controversial (or equally baffling: “extreme”)? And what could possibly be more positive than encouraging compassion for all living beings?
Why is it that vegans must tip toe around carnists, trying not to offend their sensibilities? And why should we have to continually defend our diet – which is the most sustainable, least violent and most humane diet possible – while people who choose to participate in the most egregiously cruel and destructive way of life continue to get a free pass?
It might be interesting to try an experiment. When people ask why I’m vegan, I may politely and gently turn the tables by asking, “Well, why are you not?” Perhaps by hearing their own responses (“I like meat,” “I was raised that way,” “I could never give up cheese,” etc.) and by engaging in a conversation about those objections, they might consider how weak such excuses are in light of the suffering and devastation caused by choosing to consume animal products. Or at the very least, such a question might plant a small seed of thought that could blossom into curiosity and reflection in the future.
I hope it won’t be long until we reach the tipping point and the majority of people will come to understand how harmful this unnecessary dietary choice is to other animals, people and our earth and start opting for a better, kinder, more sustainable solution instead. After all, as Jonathan Safran Foer asks: “Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else?”
Resolved: Eating Animals Is Indefensible by Bruce Friedrich
Environmental Destruction Caused by Animal Agriculture
Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants
Our Hen House on Veganism