(DISCLAIMER. To any of my friends reading this; rest assured this blog entry is not referring to you).
How can you tell if someone is vegan?
Don’t worry – they’ll tell you.
I usually try to avoid discussions with people who are vegan, or pro-vegan. I understand the thinking behind it; I just choose not to think about it. I was pescatarian for about 14 years of my life, eating only fish and no other meat. This was my personal choice and at no point did I ever think it was wrong that nearly everyone else around me continued to eat meat. Of course, I still ate cheese, milk, eggs, butter. Giving up these staples didn’t even cross my mind. Also, living in Madrid and Prague, ten and eight years ago, respectively, it was hard enough being pescatarian, never mind vegetarian. Vegan? Are you having a laugh?
For me, veganism is like religion: not a problem if you just get on with it and keep it to yourself. Unfortunately, like most cults, a large percentage of vegans feel the need to preach every time they stumble across us mere mortal, non-vegans.
Tonight I went to an arty event somewhere I’d never been before. I really enjoyed myself and met some new people. I even ate vegan pizza (no other option) and it was rather tasty. Unfortunately, I know what vegan food does to my stomach the morning after; so let’s just say I’m a little apprehensive about tomorrow. Anyway, tonight was the first time I have encountered a militant vegan: one who was preaching to me in a rather self-righteous manner less than five minutes into our first conversation. As someone who struggles with even the mildest conflict, I was keen to change the subject, rapidamente. However, I also wanted to make it clear that these Sunday sermon words would have no impact whatsoever on my food and lifestyle choices. This person and I connected well on other topics and I really enjoyed the other discussions we had. However, veganism lectures ignite the same angry fire inside me as religious salesfolk knocking on my door. Please, just fuck off and be happy with the choices you have made.
You see, for me, the the mindset and behaviours of veganism far too closely mirror those of anorexia. And I should know. The reading labels. The obsessing over ingredients. The over-thinking of meals and food related outings. The over-whelming guilt if you ‘slip up’ or desire something forbidden, (i.e normal). I have survived on the purity of fruit and cereals. I have analysed every crumb that has passed my lips, and every crumb that has not. I have survived on one meal a week, because ‘nobody needs that much food.’ I have felt clean and pure and perfect and healthy; frowning on others and their greedy ways. When my body was as ‘healthy’ and free from ‘bad stuff’ as it could be, I was in fact dancing with the Reaper.
So no, I’m not going to think about what the cows suffer so I can drink milk. No, I don’t give a shit about pigs being slaughtered so I can have a bacon butty. It took me years to get where I am today: to feel that I deserve to eat meals; to enjoy eating without ritual or guilt; to be able to go out with friends for food and not starve myself for days beforehand. I still have a few issues. But they are insignificant compared to the demons that almost killed me. I worked hard slaying those, so now I am stronger.
So please, militant vegans, back off. You don’t know what someone has suffered when you start ranting about fairness and ethics. You don’t know what someone might still be battling with when you heap guilt onto them and tell them it’s not hard to give up half their diet. Please don’t add fuel to what might already be an all-consuming fire. Even if I strongly disagree with your lifestyle choices, I am making a conscious effort not to lecture you for them. It’s only fair to reciprocate. Unfortunately, food and eating are incredibly complex, pyschological minefields. So unless someone’s diet is causing them serious harm, keep your opinions to yourself.