Veganism: Through The Eyes Of A Non-Vegan

Greg Bowman

When you hear that someone is vegan, chances are you would have a similar reaction as I: you roll your eyes and brace yourself for a long-winded speech about someone’s life changing journey in giving up animal products and how it changed them for the better, all while wondering to yourself when and if you even asked for the explanation. Vegans can be annoying. They can be most annoying in the university environment, where some young adults are still trying to find an identity, and a dietary and lifestyle change is one way to stand out from the pack. That is how vegans are viewed more often than not-- in your face, aggressive, “tree-hugger” hippy types. Much of mine, and others’ disdain towards veganism stems from interactions with those people. I for one, viewed it as a method of making your life more difficult just to say that you did; it’s a guaranteed conversation starter. So it was only natural for me to be filled with a mix of anger and exhausted confusion when I saw sidewalk-chalk strewn across Concrete Beach at Western University with messages of “stop speciesism.” Outraged at the forced propaganda being thrown my way via sidewalk chalk, I decided to talk to an activist and give him a piece of my mind. My mother always taught me that there are two sides of the story, so maybe there’s something about eliminating two of the four major food groups that I was missing.

Speciesism? Give me a break. There are already no shortage of “isms” out there within our own species which we are tirelessly working to eradicate. People face discrimination for something that they were born with, like their skin colour, their sexuality, or their interpreted gender. Nobody should have to face hatred for something they can’t control. The reason they face it though, is an inherent societal tendency to classify one’s self above others, creating a hierarchical mentality. If we are doing this with people of our own species, then I guess it’s logical that we are also doing it to fellow lifeforms on our planet.

For those who have pets, they know how quickly they can become part of the family. Every photo of my family would always include my childhood dog. We have an emotional connection to dogs, cats, or any animal that we take care of on a regular basis. But why do we domesticate certain animals, and cultivate others? The answer “because they taste good” would probably be the first that would come to mind. But in some cultures around the world, that same cow that gave you that delicious hamburger, is looked at as a religious figure. In other cultures, the same dog that you just had a walk with in the park, would be looked at as a culinary delicacy. It’s easy to chalk that up to other cultures being ‘weird’ or ‘cruel’, but at the same time we cultivate millions of cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys for the sole purpose of eating them. Wouldn’t that in essence be chalked up as ‘weird’ or ‘cruel’? The reality is that humans breed animals for our own use, whether it’s for consumption, clothing or leisure-- simply because we can.

That is the logic that vegans function upon. They are not discounting the atrocities involving the other ‘isms’ of the world, but simply shining light on another one. Most times, vegans are animal-lovers and view all life as equal. When you think about it, we are all living things on a floating rock in space, why do we think that we’re more important? It can’t be a numbers game as there are states in the U.S. that have more cows than people in them. What it comes down to is that some simply couldn't care less about whether an animal lives or dies. That mentality is understandable as killing a cow is more or less inconsequential. At the end of the day though, we share a planet with them, and by cultivating those millions of animals at a given time, it takes massive toll on our floating rock. To grow a herd of cattle, you have to grow the food to feed them, use water to keep them alive, use energy to maintain them and eventually slaughter them, and cause pollution by transporting the animal after the fact. That doesn’t even consider the fact that animals naturally produce greenhouse gases. We essentially play god when we breed farms of livestock: we artificially inseminate them, forcing them to breed and live within confined spaces just for the sole purpose of what the animal produces. It doesn’t take a vegan to figure out that the system seems a little egregious just for a $2 cheeseburger.

“But haven’t we been eating meat for millions of years?”

Yes, of course we have. But there was a key moment in time that lead to humans consuming meat on a regular basis. During the ice age, vegetation was limited, so humans had no choice but to kill and eat animals for food. Naturally, we gained a liking for it and continued to do so until we figured out it was a lot easier to raise the animals rather than hunt them. As a result, cultures all over the world include meat as part of their culinary experience, causing us to cyclically breed them for consumption. But certain animals can be bred for consumption while others are bred for leisure. Speciesism activists are  against the exploitation of animals of any form, as humans have established themselves as the dominant species and have created a hierarchy because of it. Some would argue that humans are simply at the top of the food chain. We are on top on a global scale, but that’s because humans have the ability to think critically and make advancements in technology to keep us at the top. But if you were one-on-one with a lion in a field with no weapons or tools around you, Vegas would have the lion winning every time.

The point of this is not to try and convert you to veganism overnight. I for one, love meat and eat it at least once a day. To this day I am still convinced that I could eat the 96 oz. porterhouse that causes John Candy to hallucinate in The Great Outdoors. My father’s favourite pastime is smoking meats of various kinds. I will never stop eating meat. Not to mention the fact that I believe that melted cheese holds this world together (pizza, nachos, mac n’ cheese).  But until I had a conversation with a vegan activist about the logic behind speciesism and veganism, I never realized how solid of an argument they have. We eat meat because we can, and more often than not, that logic prevails over any other.

Vegans are aware that we will never live in a meatless world, but they urge people at the very least to think about what they are eating and why they are eating it. If they are like me, then they will at least get the wheels of the brain turning and wonder to themselves if they could in fact do it. If it’s a matter of making more vegan choices, then that’s enough of a difference. If enough people make slight changes, it could pay dividends in the long run.

Unfortunately, this piece will not save you from the barrage of facts and statistics that a vegan may throw at you at a party, so you will still have to deal with that. But I recommend you listen to what they have to say, because their logic is airtight. At the end of the day, we’re still going to have barbecue cook-offs, all-you-can-eat ribs, and new ways to prepare meat. But the rise in veganism will result in more vegan options in more places. If it wasn’t so difficult to find food you like, then how bad could veganism really be? Save the 96 oz. porterhouses for special occasions, and try a bowl of “quinoa tofu surprise” every once and while. If you like it and it’s better for your body and the world, then why not eat it more?

While I’ll still enjoy a cheeseburger at McDonalds, and cook some bacon with my eggs, having a conversation with a vegan activist at least made me more aware of the logic behind their lifestyle. Maybe I will try a “quinoa tofu surprise”, or switch up to vegan bacon once in a blue moon. It made veganism less scary for me, which is surely the case for a lot of people. You don’t have to make a full conversion, just try things here and there. At the very least you can say you expanded your horizons. Plus you’ll be able to share your vegan experience at the next party you attend, which everyone will surely love.