Before I became vegan, I remember asking a few vegans that I met why they chose to be vegan. Now I realise that they should have been asking me why I chose not to be vegan. Certainly, it was the more extreme choice, though it didn’t feel like that at the time. In fact, it didn’t even really feel like a choice; it just felt like the default way of life.
Which brings me to some other questions that non-vegans often ask vegans.
“What if you were stuck on a deserted island and all there was to eat was a pig?”
Firstly, this will clearly never happen. Ever. But let me entertain this idea for a moment. Say I did end up, Tom Hanks style, the lone survivor of a plane crash and serendipitously found my way to a deserted island. Firstly, it is so much more likely that there would be bananas and coconuts on this island than wild pigs. But, okay, let’s say that the only thing that I could possibly eat to sustain myself would be a pig. Let’s say I was dying of starvation and had no other choice. Of course, in a life or death situation, I would probably kill the pig and eat it.
But now let me ask you a question: if you were in a regular, everyday situation of privilege (as many but admittedly not all of us are) where you had a variety of food at your fingertips and enough money to choose what to eat, would you choose the healthier, cruelty-free option of plant-based food, or would you go out of your way to eat “food” that is unhealthy, cruel, and unsustainable?
Another idea that I often hear is:
“You deserve to eat meat if you could summon the courage to kill the animal yourself.”
Firstly, anyone is physically capable of killing another sentient being, particularly if one finds themselves on an uneven playing field where they possess a dangerous weapon and the other creature possesses no weapon and no will to hurt them. Anyone could do it. But no matter how you frame it, this act would cause pain and suffering and cut short a life that was valued by your victim. Not to mention, it would probably be fairly traumatic for you. Again, if we were in the very unlikely situation of life or death, where there were no edible plants that we could choose to eat instead, then perhaps this would be excusable. But in any other context, it would be unnecessary and cruel. The bodies of other creatures are not ours to eat. They have value for the creatures in question, and not because we attribute a financial value to them.
And again, let’s face it, most of us will never be in the situation where we will kill an animal for food. So when we talk about diet, we should talk about it in a realistic context, which is usually one of privilege and choice. If you have the choice, which most of us do, why would you choose the cruel, unhealthy, and unsustainable option?
Let me be clear that I am not trying to make you feel guilty. The state of animal cruelty today is not your personal fault. I am sure that you were probably brought up, like me, by well-meaning parents in a society which teaches by example that it is normal and permissible to use, buy, wear, and eat animals and animal products. These practices existed well before we were born. And you were not in a position to make many choices for yourself until you became an adult. So there is no use feeling guilty or responsible for what you have no control over, including the past. But now that you are an adult with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, the time has come take responsibility for your actions. Asking questions of others is an important way to learn, but the learning process is only complete if you also question your own behavior and motives. I invite you to now ask yourself, “Do I feel right aout the way that I live?”
Start to look more closely at the products you buy and the practices you support, and believe me, veganism will start to look like the much less radical option.