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Online encounters with radical vegans

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am vegetarian and have been (on and off) for the last ten years. I am vegetarian because eating meat is bad for your health, the environment and animals. A quick Google search pulls up loads of statistics indicating that the most common causes of death in the United States is heart disease. Meat (and in particular red meat) contains high levels of saturated fat, which clogs up your arteries and increases your risk of heart problems that can, ultimately, be fatal. Some manufacturers also inject chemicals into meat, which enhances the look of the meat so it maintains its shelf life for longer. These can also be damaging to your body.

It takes around 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat. When you compare this with the 2500 gallons of water it takes to produce one pound of meat, it is fairly obvious which process is more resourceful. Thirty per cent of the land on earth is used to raise animals for consumption. These animals are responsible for the majority of methane gas emissions that are the main contributors to global warming. Many of the animals raised in factory farms are injected with steroids and hormones, which cause their bodies to swell up. This can quite often lead to animals such as chickens being unable to walk. Mother cows are artificially inseminated and often branded with hot irons, without painkillers. Many animals are also confined to quarters that are no bigger than their bodies, restricting their movements and quality of life. Pigs are the third most intelligent animal on the planet. When I consider this fact I see them no differently than my pet cat or dog and therefore cannot think about eating them. The overall compassion I share for other beings, the world around me and my own health is enough to keep me veggie.

With that being said, I am aware that many people are either ignorant of these facts, disillusioned from advertising by the meat industry or know the facts but simply do not care. Hell, I am aware of all these facts and have still found it difficult to abstain from eating animal products. It has been difficult for me to maintain this lifestyle for a number of reasons; the poor selection of vegetarian friendly restaurants, the vast majority of convenience foods are meat-based, traditions such as Christmas dinner where a meat feast is expected and the criticism and lack of understanding from some individuals. However from the start of this year, my resolution has been to eat completely meat free and I am happy to say that apart from one horrid bite into an unexpected chicken masala (I ordered vegetable!!) my body has remained meat free. In order to help me this year I joined some vegetarian groups on Facebook and similar channels on YouTube. This has kept images and information flowing my way and the reality I’m faced with has helped me to maintain my lifestyle. I have, however, begun to feel somewhat isolated by extremist members of the vegan community.

There is a woman whose channel I am subscribed to on YouTube. She produces videos related to her diet and lifestyle, which I find interesting and informative. She also attempts to reach out to celebrities and fellow YouTubers by commenting on their weight and health in her videos. I have never found these videos helpful or inspiring. I feel that they are coming from a shallow and headstrong place. I chose to just ignore these videos but carry on following her channel. Until that is, last week when I noticed she was taking issue with and had posted a video on her Facebook from another woman on YouTube who produces nutrition videos. The woman in the video was simply stating that although she shares a number of videos on diet and fitness she is aware that her diet may not work for everyone. She had commented on the fact that someone she knew had adopted the vegan diet and it had not worked for them. She also stated that she feels a cult vibe amongst some health and fitness channels and their followers and that on her channel she will share but never impose her views on others.

There were a number of comments under the video hating on this woman and I felt the need to defend her position. This is what I said:

‘You definitely do impose your views on others (to vegan vlogger I follow). You select celebrities and YouTubers and scrutinise their diets. They have not asked you to do this, therefore you are imposing, criticising and acting as though your way is THE right way. It makes you an extremist and does portray veganism as a cult. She is very right to say that what may work for one person, may not work for another. The only body you experience is your own so you cannot say for certain that a vegan lifestyle is 100% the right lifestyle for that individual. That can be said for ALL diets. Of course it is better for the environment and for animals but a lot of people simply do not care. It’s sad but true. I like the information you share but I am fed up of you talking about people’s diets as if you know them, it’s not fair.’

From this I received a backlash of responses from people, telling me that I don’t care about animals. This is what I responded with:

‘I definitely do care which is why I don’t eat them. However there are plenty of injustices that people buy into everyday that I don’t agree with (vegan vlogger wearing Nike for one). Am I going to go around harassing people to stop doing these things? No. It’s their choice as human beings. All you can do is share the facts, which she does and I appreciate it. It is then up for them to decide. Perhaps at some point the laws on animal rights will change and I hope they do. But forcing your views on people by calling them out is not fair.’

Someone then stated I was missing the point and another person offered a response:

‘When we tell a rapist to stop raping, we are not ‘imposing’ our views on them. We are simply telling them to stop because we, as humans, have a moral intuition that tells us that inflicting harm and suffering on ANYONE is unacceptable. Same principle applies to us telling others to stop their violent diets. We have EVERY right to do so because we have the right to defend basic morality.’

To which I responded:

‘Telling a rapist to stop raping is not going to stop them. Probably a good number of rapists who have an ounce of morality would listen to the facts and reasoning behind not committing such an act and stop. However not all of them will. I listen to facts about animal cruelty and I do not eat them because my morality stops me. Others however may be given the same facts and not understand what is wrong about their way of life. These people you cannot reach. Therefore all you can do is share these facts. You cannot harass people into changing their views. It is a waste of time. Some people are on the complete other side of the spectrum than you. It is very upsetting but it’s the reality we live in.’

I only had a few people respond objectively so I decided stop commenting. The amount of negative responses from people and the fact that this vegan vlogger felt the need to defend her lifestyle does make me think that some people in the vegan community do treat their lifestyle as a cult. All I seemed to be hearing was ‘you are wrong’. When I watch some of her videos I do not feel part of a community that promotes a compassionate lifestyle towards all creatures, which is what true veganism is about. I see a community that isolates, criticises and hates on other human beings. This is not compassion to all species.

This negatively affects the promotion of animal equality. The same can be said for all extremist groups. Radical feminism for example has promoted the notion that woman should be treated better than men and that women should hate men. I now see that it has made a lot of people disillusioned about what true feminism actually is (equality between genders) and I now encounter many people who reject the term.

I would be heartbroken to see the same happening with veganism. Where remaining vegetarian is hard, living vegan is even harder. It is near impossible to go out for a meal and be one hundred per cent certain that everything in it is vegan. For people on a low budget it is difficult to purchase enough fruit and vegetables to be fully sustained. Animal based products are almost always cheaper. There are countries where people don’t even have access to water and have to rely on whatever food they are provided with. Should they be expected to turn down a meal that contains animal products? With that being said veganism is on the rise through information sharing and it makes me happy. I truly hope that one day all animals will be free from suffering but an objective and questioning perspective should not be hated, it should be embraced.

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