Anyone who grew up in a “standard” omnivorous (or, for some of us, more accurately “carnivorous”) American family, knows what it was like to drop the serrated knife and raise the almighty fork.
Of course there were the upsides we personally experienced: better mood, more energy, clear skin (before making the change, my face was an acne metropolis), shiny hair... the list goes on and on. I could attempt to list everything, but I’ve been in such a state of near bodily-nirvana for so long, I can’t actually remember all of my previous issues. I recall that my taste buds even woke up from a long, meat and dairy-glazed hibernation, though. Suddenly, steamed carrots actually had a flavor and I no longer needed salt and butter to spice them up. Who would have thought?
These bright-eyed, quick-minded aftereffects are what veteran vegans use to lure in potential new members to this cruelty-free club, (delving into the atrocities of factory farming and the truth behind most “free-range” labeling might only bum them out, maybe even scare them off. First show them their possible perks up front, ease them into how messed up the world actually is. Baby steps.)
But before beginning their fight against the dark truths of the food industry, perhaps even before their hair has a chance to begin its change for the better, they will face their own interpersonal battles, and naiveté is their biggest enemy.
We’ve all been there. We all fought the same battles. For some of you, this will be a rehash of what you already know, maybe a trip down memory lane. For the rest of you, hopefully, an opportunity to level up your vegan armor.
1. “How do you expect to get enough protein while eating like a rabbit?”
First of all, very important but unrelated, rabbits are adorable. Thank you for the comparison.
While we all know that protein requirements vary depending on your weight, age, sex, activity level, etc., what’s less commonly known is that it’s very easy to meet your daily protein requirements without a single lick of animal products, like meat, dairy, or eggs. (The marketing practices for all are really exceptional, I’ll give them that. Growing up, never in my life did I think vegetables boasted anything other than vitamins and the taste of dirt.)
In 35 grams of sprouted beans, you’ll consume around 4.6 grams of protein. In 35 grams of ground beef, you’ll consume around 8 grams.
While you technically take in more protein per gram with ground beef, let’s also throw a glance at a few other nutritional facts:
In 35g of sprouted beans, you’ll find: 43 calories, 2.4g fat In an equal amount of ground beef: 93 calories, 5g fat
Considering this extra allowance, you are free to consume double the amount of food for the same caloric and fat costs, meaning you’ll stay full longer. And for anyone working a full time job, going to school, or at its most basic level, simply surviving, which is really more desirable? More for equal, or less for equal?
(Forgetting to mention the incredible variety of non-animal foods that are a good source of protein.)
2. “Why would anyone ‘limit’ their diet like this on purpose?”
Surrounding the word “limit” with quotation marks was my own personal choice because this question honestly baffles my mind.
By cutting out all animal-based food products, what am I really missing out on? 99% of recipes in the entire recipe lexicon of humanity can utilize substitutes for their animal products. Beans and other legumes can replaces meats, coconut and soy milk replace dairy milk, seeds and nuts can take the place of cheese. Considering the level of exploratory work culinary geniuses have put into the foods already naturally provided to us, anything can become anything, even without compromising taste.
So, when you reference my “limited diet,” really all you mean are the most basic forms of animal products. Raw meats. Milk. Cheese. Eggs. Honey.
Sure, alright. You win that battle, I guess. I am definitely missing out on plain, dry chicken breast.
Now, let’s discuss your limited diet, my meat-eating friend: how often do you find yourself exploring different food combinations, finding opportunities for new and exotic plants and flavors, when dairy or meat is called for in a recipe? You think to yourself, “this recipe calls for pork, so what reason do I have to try something new, like seasoned tofu, tempeh, legumes?”
No reason really, as far as I can see. Why would you limit your diet like that on purpose?
3. “Animals were made to be eaten.” (Alternatively: “Humans are at the top of the food chain for a reason.”)
All animals? Cool, I look forward to your cat barbecue this weekend. I’ll bring the puppy bacon.
Just because something is digestible by humans, doesn’t mean it’s a required staple of our diet. We are evolved beings. The earth isn’t covered in ice anymore, we don’t have to eat anything on the horizon just to survive. Food is more accessible now than ever. Green beans come freeze-dried in a bag. We aren’t even carnivores, we don’t physically require meat to continue on living. (Like an actual cat.)
What makes domesticated animals more special, more precious than those on a farm, like cows, pigs, sheep? They all have ears, tails, they all make strangely endearing noises when we approach. Pigs appreciate a good belly rub just as much as a dog.
And I’m not interested in hearing how “domestication” is the key word to this argument. We don’t eat most non-domesticated animals, either.
On the flip side of this coin, how many times have you been exposed to a common food staple in another country, where you scoffed and gagged because they were eating an animal you yourself don’t approve of?
I have a difficult time finding any weight to your statement “animals were made to be eaten,” when you’re so superfluously picking and choosing which animals are food-ok and food-not ok.
However, if you actually do eat every living thing (I’m including humans here, by the way. People are probably just as meaty and juicy as a thick-cut sirloin.), then I might consider reconsidering your statement. But also, please stay back, I have pepper spray.
4. “Why do you insist on being vegan when vegetarian is enough?”
Can also be classified under: “I like to pick and choose the ways my animals suffer, based on my own moral compass.”
Factory-farming and other forms of animal abuse are not only productive of the slabs of meat you buy at the supermarket. While I could talk about the conditions behind producing chicken eggs or how bees are technically animals too, instead I’ll focus on the main point people seem to focus on in battling veganism: dairy milk.
I don’t know what it is about dairy milk that people get all uptight about, but inform a drinker of cow’s milk that you’ve sworn it off, and they’ll perceive it as a personal slight.
By this point in time, I want to say it’s actually pretty commonly know that cows get the short end of the stick when it comes to factory farming, particularly female cows who are forced to lactate for essentially their entire lives. (Not including other upsetting facts like having their calves removed at a young age, and artificial insemination).
Like, ok, humanity. There aren’t enough cows currently feeding their young naturally that we can safely and humanely take advantage of? We have to scientifically, genetically, keep them in a false state of pregnancy just so we have a steady supply of milk to pour over our Lucky Charms in the morning?
Cows are not human. Farm animals are not human. Why are they having their lives manipulated by machines, when that sort of treatment should be reserved only for other sentient beings that can offer consent? We, as humans, invest so much money, time, research, and effort into ensuring our own time spent with machines and other modern inventions are as comfortable and efficient as possible, so why have cows been left forgotten? Because they don’t have the language to refuse?
But, I digress.
No, vegetarianism is not enough for me, because I see the equally terrible things happening to those animals forced to live, rather than those slaughtered for a meal.
5. A plant-based diet will render me weak. How am I supposed to make my gains at the gym?
Protein arguments come in many shapes and forms. (Alternatively: “The mountain-man conundrum”)
We’ve already talked about how plant-based foods can provide the same amounts of protein as meats and dairy, and everyone knows proteins are the building blocks to huge, bulging muscles. (You can even buy vegan-friendly protein powders, for those of us who cheat on the clean-eating aspect. I guess I could’ve mentioned that in my first argument, and solved everyone’s problems right off the get-go.)
Instead of rehashing facts about the main nutrient behind weightlifting and building muscle, though, let’s talk about the common-sense truths in eating clean, particularly with a vegan diet. Are you ready for this buzzword? Here we go:
Obesity is rampant in the United States, this is pretty common knowledge (despite a number of couch-potatoes currently in denial), and everywhere you look you find different “weight loss remedies,” whether they be pills, fad diets, or something else.
More and more though, I think the truth is finally starting to click. Eat healthy, stay active, watch your daily calorie intake, and nature will literally do the rest. Your body is designed to burn fat and drop pounds, and it’s been doing it pretty effectively since the beginning of time (excluding the diseases that might get in its way).
And while I absolutely believe “plump” can be “pleasant,” and it’s possible for a person to be overweight yet healthy, for the sake of this discourse, I will focus on those pleasantly plump individuals who perhaps don’t have their diet in order, in terms of meeting their daily vitamin and nutrient intake.
We all know the main complications of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, as they’ve been beat into our heads since the day we were born:
-Type 2 diabetes -High blood pressure -Heart disease -Stroke -Breathing disorders, including sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
But those are only focusing on the life-threatening issues. What about smaller adversities, things we don’t really think about? Those that might not leave you in the hospital, but certainly throw a swing at a person’s self-esteem and take a negative toll on their day to day life? Those things such as:
With all of that in mind, let me ask you this:
After refuting a person’s claim that vegans don’t receive the proper nutrients during the day because of their “diet,” would they honestly be able to then claim a clean, animal-product free lifestyle is “unhealthy”?
Even meat-eaters, even fast-food addicts, know that fruits, vegetables, and grains are good for your body, necessary for a healthy lifestyle, and crucial for weight loss.
For any and all vegan-newbies out there, you might have already realized this, and are in the midst of experiencing it for yourself. When you’re taking in good things, your body will in turn become a good thing, and produce other good things. With a good diet, full of vitamins and nutrients, even daily supplements are unnecessary.
You might be asking me, “how am I producing good things by eating good things?”
Taking a stand against the horrors of the food industry, refusing to take part in it, is a start. If you feel so inclined, I would definitely recommend researching and eventually adopting vegan practices that even extend past food alone, such as in your choice of clothing, avoiding products made of leather or other animal-based fabrics.
While one person alone isn’t enough to make a huge difference, with the spread of more and more information, people will begin to take notice and make a change. Soon, veganism won’t be just another “extremist hippie movement,” and the general populace might come to understand that our ideals aren’t even “extreme” to begin with.
After all, what’s so radical about wanting to relate to animals instead of controlling them? Are humans not just animals, themselves?