What is the hardest thing about being vegan? I had thought about this before, as I am sure we all have, and then the other day the answer came to me quite forcefully. I would say that the biggest challenge in being vegan is dealing with is the antagonism and harassment we get from so much of the world. You know, the interrogations, the snide and sarcastic comments, the put-downs, the “jokes”, and so on.
I am still quite upset about an incident where I felt persecuted the other day. I was visiting my mother, and friends of hers, a married couple, dropped by. I often can't fathom what my Mum's motives are, but she told them I was vegan, and then started describing what I wouldn't eat, what I used to eat, and so on. I don't usually tell people about my diet unless I have to, as I just want a quiet life – I don't want to get into arguments about it. But of course, with my Mum broaching the subject, I then got the usual third-degree interrogation: why are you vegan? What do you eat? Aren't plants living things too? All the usual. I tried to patiently explain to them that vegans only eat a plant-based diet. That sounds quite simple and self-explanatory, doesn't it? But my Mum's friend had to ask me to confirm:
“Does that include nuts?” (Yes really! I thought everyone would know that nuts are plants, but apparently not!)
Worse than that, however, was her husband. I thought I had explained adequately and hoped we could just drop the subject. But oh no, you never get off that easily, do you? The friend's husband then said:
“What about a nice juicy steak, you can still eat those, can't you?”
What are you supposed to say to stupid, facetious questions like that?! I just said “Yes” sarcastically. Then a bit later he said:
“And what about bacon, I bet you can still eat crispy bacon, can't you?”
It was getting hard by this point to avoid being rude to him, and tell him I thought he was being a complete a***hole! I don't want to make scenes if I can avoid it though – I know my Mother would have given me a hard time if I had had a row with him! He then said he didn’t know how I could possibly enjoy food at all. Ha ha! That’s a good one, isn’t it? I wish I didn’t enjoy my food so much; I might be able to lose some weight then!
Then my Mother decided to chip in with her views on veganism, i.e. why she won't go vegan. So at that point, to try to end the discussion, I had a bit of a rant. I said something like:
“OK, since you are all so interested in my diet, I will tell you all the reasons why I am vegan. It is not just about saving animals, although that is a large part of it. It is also better for the environment, and could help to end starvation in the world – many more people could be fed on a plant-based diet. It is also better for your health. So there are a lot of good reasons to be vegan. “
At that point they all went quiet, and changed the subject! Which was exactly what I was hoping for.
The kind of harassment we have to put up with is totally unacceptable really, I think you will all agree. It would not be tolerated against other minority groups, lifestyles, and sectors of society. For example, if you meet someone and they tell you they are gay, is it acceptable to start quizzing them about their lifestyle, habits, etc., and say you can’t imagine how they could possibly enjoy having same-sex relationships?! No, it’s not, those sorts of remarks would be considered homophobic, and there is legislation about that these days. So why do we have to endure it? A friend of mine calls the prejudice against vegetarians and vegans “vegephobia”! Good word, but it sounds more like a fear of vegetables than anything else!
(The photo of is of me taken at an all-vegetarian dinner I went to recently, which I wrote about here, the Bou Bhaat party.)
I hope you got something out of this blog and your votes and comments are much appreciated.