This phenomenon will be familiar to omnivores,vegetarians and vegans alike .. a group will bond and gang up to argue with a vegan or chime in about why its ok to devour and enslave non-human animals, I’ve been on the receiving end many times and felt alone and backed in a corner as any serious and logical points I make are met with jokes and then more inane questions and hypothetical situations that are only setups for more ridicule.
I’ve noticed though that people seem to like reassuring themselves that they are morally sound in their animal consumption by establishing a jury of their peers but Im writing today to argue that they do not have any peers !!!
Being from a workplace with roughly 80 staff and usually a large portion of those in or near the staffroom during lunch,my own lunch options often attract attention.
With mention of tempeh,seitan,quinoa,nutritional yeast and T.V.P. I’m usually presented with an almost complete tableful of blank stares.
The next step in the equation(perhaps I could whip up a flowchart!) is either a comment about how healthy it sounds,how I might lack iron or how tricky it must be to find food – these are usually smokescreens to move onto the disclaimer usually its a self deprecating “I could never be that disciplined” or “I could never go without animal part/product X.”
On occasion someone will try to diffuse the tension or actually turn any embarrassment back onto me by cracking jokes or recommending I see a psychologist.
I invariably end up trying not to look red in the face and attempting to finish my lunch while screening out the circular rota of comments that affirm that I’m not quite normal and everyone eating animal is on the same page.
On quieter days I’ve talked to staff on a one to one basis and gotten a fair span of the differing opinions on animal use and abuse.
I’ve heard of some appalled at whaling, some horrified by jumps racing,some who have seen “Babe” and stopped eating pork (Cause thats the most compelling reason !?!).
These all appear to be subsets of a standard western view of which animals are immune to being slaughtered/consumed i.e. “Cats and Dogs are for patting;chickens,cows,pigs and sheep are for eating;horses and greyhounds are for racing; and insects are for stepping on.”
The variation depends on the individual background, for example, those whose family traditionally gamble know of and are quite fine with horse racing,the conditions it keeps horses in,the danger to the animals and the thousands of horses who are slaughtered for not being fast enough, they are generally unphased by the clearly visible horrors of jumps racing because they are well aware of the greater suffering behind closed doors that is the price for a horse racing industry.
Families with backgrounds in show jumping are often under illusions about horse welfare,the supposed wish of horses to interact with humans, run and jump under whip encouragement etc but are usually not as familiar with the darker side of these industries and the impact use has on a horses well being and ability to express natural behaviours.
There are variations as many as there are staff members,soft spots for cats and cows, empathy for pigs and monkeys,sympathy for dolphins and whales and many more combinations that are based on their own upbringing rather than any long hard look at why we use,enslave,custom breed and slaughter animals or how we should apply ethics to them.
An objective thought,an examination of our views and practices would reveal there is no consistent measure amongst omnivores of what makes an animal “food-worthy.”
Conduct a questionaire amongst peers , ask them is it ok to kick a cat,dog,cow,sheep,chimp or whale,ask them how they sit with debeaking a chicken,parrot,emu or see if they think its ok to use a horse,bull,gorilla,pig,possum or kangaroo for racing (bearing in mind the thousands who didnt make the cut would be turned into meat) and you will observe dissent and disagreement.
The above mentioned hypothetical practices may seem comical but are a much softer representation of the practices being used in our racing,meat,dairy,poultry,pet ,leather,wool,silk and honey industries to name but a few.
Veganism is not an ascetic, spiritual movement, it is not a sentimental movement,it is not a meaningless subset of vegetarianism, rather,Veganism seeks to consistently address the oppression of sentient beings regardless of whether they have pedigree,feathers,fur,wool,fitness,obedience, blubber, endearing appearance or are of little exploitable utility to humans. It makes sense and indicts the varying reasons omnivores have for their particular flavours of use & abuse as unnecessary and unjustifiable.
If you care for any animals of the above descriptions I urge you to acknowledge the parallels and extend compassion in a logical manner, through Veganism.
Existing Vegans, take heart, soldier on,Team Omnivore is a construct, have patience and appeal to the capacity of our fellow humans for compassion rather than the capacity to ignore information that is a call to change.