This past week was a bit of a tough week on Facebook for me with anti-vegan sentiments being thrown onto my timeline.
It took me a few days to cool down the anger, as I realized I was taking the sentiments (a screen-captured tweet and a video) personally.
The video, which I saw posted by multiple people on my timeline, was called If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans. I felt angry before I watched it and even had ideas for a response video (If Vegans Acted Like Meat Eaters).
Vegan 1, in an apron and holding a plate of plain tofu, smiling: “Tofu. It’s what’s for dinner.”
Vegan 2; a burly person in a stereotypical Southern USian rancher gear (complete with cowboy hat, big and shiny belt buckle, and accent): What’s this? I don’t eat no vulture food. Where’s the seitan? Where’s the beans?
Vegan 3: If God had wanted us to eat animals, S/He wouldn’t have made vegetables taste so good.
In the end, I decided that was my anger talking. It would solve nothing and would potentially trade making fun of one group for another. (Yes, I am posting my ideas for the video here, as I found them humourous–despite the fact that vegans are supposed to lack humour. See stereotype below.)
I did eventually watch the video in question. I found it to be an annoying, eye-rolling video (with multiple scenes of men awkwardly holding onto pieces of meat), but most of my anger had burned out by then.
It all does bring up a point that vegan stereotypes abound.
The standard vegan stereotype tends to go something along the lines of: militant, angry, unreasonable, self-righteous, ugly/unhealthy, humourless, hippie- or yuppie-type who constantly posts graphic videos of the horrors of animal agriculture and criticizes everyone else’s food choices.
I get it. Some vegans are some of those things. Some vegans may even be all of those things (barring “ugly,” which is subjective). And when those of us who aren’t those things speak up about it, we’re sometimes told to stop being #NotAllVegans about it.
Yes, I was told that in a discussion stemming from a meme comparing being vegan in this world to being an oppressed group of people. We vegans aren’t oppressed. (#NotAllVegans is an interestingly problematic statement in itself. It is a variant on the NotAllMen hashtag. Given that men are part of a systematically oppressive group, swapping men with vegans has the implication that vegans are also a systematically oppressive group. We’re not. However, the statement did have the effect of silencing me in that discussion.)
We vegans aren’t oppressed. There aren’t laws saying we can’t eat tofu or gather together for vegan potlucks or have booths at local festivals to hand out pro-vegan pamphlets.
I can see how some vegans might see things that way, though. In the Western world, we live in a culture that sees meat-eating/omnivourous eating as the default. It is extremely easy (and fast) to get meals laden with animal products. In many areas, it is difficult to order vegan meals out at a restaurant or to purchase vegan products like tempeh or vegan cheese at the local grocery store.
As far as restaurants go, things are changing. Vegetarian meals are generally easy to find at restaurants. Vegan meals, not so much.
I live in the Pacific Northwest, where I can buy tofu and a range of other vegan products at the local grocery stores. I can find restaurants that serve vegan foods (sometimes even places that serve only vegan foods). However, most of the restaurants in my town don’t serve vegan meals. (I might be able to find an appetizer here or there but not whole meals.)
When I travel back to the States to visit my family, the difference is striking.
I remember one trip where we stopped in at a Wal-mart on the way to my parents’ house from the airport. (We had flown in late, and all the restaurants were closed. So I sucked it up, got creative, and said I could make some sort of dinner out of fare from the nearby Wal-mart.) They had shelf spaces for tofu in the cold section with signs saying the tofu was kept in the back (is tofu a big theft item?) and please ask an associate for assistance. So I asked. The guy had no idea what I was talking about. “Tofu. They’re white cubes.” Finally, he got it and went to the back to get me one. And now I have a story about how they didn’t even know what tofu is!
The restaurants in that area are generally in the range from buffet to steakhouse (or steakhouse buffet) to specialty restaurants with very few restaurants serving vegan meals. I can usually cobble together several helpings of salad from the salad bar at the buffet-style restaurants. I might have more luck at specialty restaurants. One Middle Eastern restaurant in the area had delicious vegan options. I also managed to score some vegetable sushi at a Chinese buffet restaurant. However, the majority of foods are geared toward omnivourous eaters.
Our culture in general pushes omnivourous eating to the fore. The dairy, egg, and meat industries push ads to make their products out to be healthy, fresh, and hip. They sponsor community events and sometimes even have mascots come out to said events to teach kids about their industry (leaving out the uncomfortable, graphic, and nonetheless true cruelties involved in industrialized animal agriculture).
Darn near daily, someone on my social media (and no doubt many other people’s social media) will post some pro-meat meme (often involving bacon) or image or screen-captured tweet or ad or something.
So, yeah. Being vegan can be difficult. Being vegan can be lonely. It can be hard to find other vegans when the world around you is persistently chanting “Meat! Meat! Meat!”
I can understand why some vegans are defensive in their views. Yes, even to the point of general obnoxiousness. To the point of self-righteousness. It’s a defense against a culture that lauds meat-eating and assumes meat-eating as the norm.
It is why I take silly anti-vegan videos personally.
And, yes, not all vegans are willing to listen to your arguments about why veganism is no better than meat-eating. Not all vegans are willing to back down from your assertion that meat is healthy/delicious/environmentally sustainable. Conversely, not all vegans want to deal with the confrontation. Not all vegans want to criticize your food choices, because your choices are your choices (even if your food didn’t have a choice, the more confrontational vegan might add). Not all vegans will be offended by your anti-vegan jokes.
So, yes. Not all vegans. And not all meat-eaters, too.