So, you want to be a vegan! Or, more likely, you don’t. Hey, that’s all right. Thassokay. No judgment here. We cool.
But even if you don’t want to be a vegan, maybe you have some questions or want to know a little bit about these mysterious kale-eating creatures, so hey, let’s start with a few basics.
What is a vegan?
According to Webster’s dictionary, a vegan is someone who willingly chooses to be bombarded with questions from everyone around them about their protein intake, nutritional well-being, deserted island eating habits, and inevitable imminent demise from a fruit-and-vegetable-related wasting disease.
Also, a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy and also avoids using animal products in general for moral and/or health-related reasons.
Do vegans eat chicken?
Nope! Chicken is meat.
Do vegan eat fish?
No. Fish is also meat. The flesh of any living creature can be categorized as “meat.”
Yeah, but do vegans eat pork?
In fact, no. I think we may have an issue in basic comprehension of terms, here.
Okay, but like, what about dairy and eggs? I mean, it’s not like we’re killing the cows or the chickens, and aren’t they frolicking on a farm somewhere living happy lives? That’s what the milk and egg containers show me, and I’m pretty sure that has to be a 100% true depiction of what life is like for those animals.
When I was first dipping my toes into the vast, algae-rich waters of veganism, I didn’t get the avoidance of dairy or eggs, either. But the more you delve into this stuff, the more you realize that dairy cows and egg-laying hens have some of the most miserable lives of any domesticated farm animals, and while there may be some small hold-out farms that actually do allow them some frolicking time, the truth is that the whole process is somewhere between “messed up” and “nightmare-inducing.”
We’ll start with dairy. Cows aren’t magical milk-giving creatures – they’re just like any other mammal, including humans, in that they produce milk when they have a baby to feed. This means that the cow has to be pregnant in order to make that milk. So essentially, a dairy cow is kept in a constant state of forced impregnation, and then when she actually does give birth, instead of being allowed to be with her baby, her baby is taken away from her (which she most definitely does not enjoy) and either conscripted into the dairy industry if she’s a female, or sent off to be killed for veal if he’s a male. What’s more, when a dairy cow gets a little older and starts producing less milk, she doesn’t get to retire to a cow condo in Florida and occasionally be visited by her grandcowbabies – she’s sent off to be killed and used for meat.
So, yeah. Not great.
There’s also the whole thing about how it’s pretty weird that we wean our kids off of breast milk and then immediately switch them over to the milk of another species For Some Reason – idk, calcium or sth? – but I could talk about that for a hundred pages or so, so let’s just move on. :P
Okay, fine, so maybe dairy isn’t the best, but what about eggs? The chickens don’t have to be impregnated to make eggs, and while it’s a little gross to think that we’re eating what are essentially chicken periods, at least we’re not doing anything awful to the chickens, right? Right??
So, here’s the thing about that.
First off, the conditions for chickens in factory farms (even the “free range” or “cageless” ones) are pretty horrendous. There are tons of videos on YouTube that’ll show you the kinds of conditions these animals live under, so if you want to have nightmares about crazed, miserable, emaciated, and disease-ridden chickens cannibalizing each other and having their beaks seared off without anesthesia and just generally being packed together in a giant warehouse full of chicken waste and dead chickens (with a little door far in the back to give them potential access to a tiny yard outside, thus meeting the standards of “free range”), do a quick search and prepare to See Some Stuff.
But aside from that, there’s the fact that the chicks that eventually grow into these laying hens all come from hatcheries, and the hatcheries are only interested in girl chicks, because those are the ones who are marketable from a making-that-sweet-egg-money perspective. So what happens to all the little boy baby chicks?
Well. It depends. They’re not sent to the meat industry, because they haven’t been bred to be obese and overbalanced monstrosities that will provide the most meat possible for the lowest cost. They are, instead, either tossed into a shredder to be ground up alive, or thrown by the hundreds into a plastic garbage bag to suffocate or die of starvation or dehydration or exposure or whatever happens to kill them first.
Yeah, it’s not pretty. And here’s the thing: Eggs are delicious. Milk and cheese are delicious. There are tons of non-vegan foods that I genuinely think taste good. But making the decision to be vegan doesn’t mean that you say, “I HATE THESE THINGS THEY TASTE BAD GOODBYE FOREVARRRR.” No. It’s a conscious decision to say, “Hey, you know, I may like the taste of these things, but I can absolutely survive and thrive without them, so I’m going to do that so as not to support an industry that causes so much death and suffering.”
That’s it. That’s veganism. And yeah, there are lots of people who go vegan for their health, and that’s perfectly legitimate, too, because eating more fruits and vegetables and whole foods is just plain good for your body. But for me, it’s always been about the animals and the planet, and the fact that this arbitrary pet vs. food, “love these animals / eat those animals” dichotomy we have going is a pretty strange thing.
Anyway, this concludes post the first of my “So you want to be a vegan…” series. If you have any comments or questions or things you’d like me to cover in future blog entries, feel free to leave a comment!