If you have become vegan, it probably won’t be long before you get used to hearing other people employ a wide range of excuses to explain why they still eat animal products. If it took you time to adopt this lifestyle, these excuses may be even more familiar because you used them yourself, until you realized they don’t hold up. Here are some of the convenient, short-sighted reasons people give for avoiding veganism:
1. “I like meat too much. I like cheese too much. I like eggs too much.”
When you think about it, this is just a way of saying the ends justify the means. I like having money to buy things, but that does not mean I’m going to mug an old lady. In the case of robbery and in the case of support for factory farms, the fact is the same: There is another living being involved that has a beating heart and the capacity for feelings, same as you do. The fact that you’re getting something you like is no justification for making a conscious decision to hurt that person or animal.
2. “I don’t like vegan/vegetarian food.”
How can this possibly be true? There is a huge variety of vegan food, and there’s no reason why the absence of meat would automatically make any dish taste bad to you. Removing the steak from a meal doesn’t change the flavor of its potato and coleslaw side dishes. A vegan diet has restrictions, but the things it allows include a lot of the foods that omnivores already eat anyway.
A person who uses this excuse has probably never stepped inside a vegetarian restaurant in the first place. What he likes about the meals he eats is probably not the meat, anyway. More likely, it’s things like sugary sauces that are added to the meat. Take that away, or add it to vegan foods instead, and you’ll probably find that the meat doesn’t add much to the enjoyment of a meal.
3. “Being vegan/vegetarian is too difficult.”
Adopting a different lifestyle is always a challenge, but it’s often a worthwhile one. A lot depends on the perspective that you take. You can view veganism as just sacrificing foods you enjoy, or you can see it as an opportunity to continue eating some of the foods you like while also discovering new foods, learning new cooking skills, saving money, helping lower greenhouse gases from the world’s number one pollution producing industry, and having the satisfaction of knowing you’re preventing the suffering of living beings.
Everything in life is a challenge. Whether it’s “too difficult” depends on the gratification you get from the reward.
Besides, veganism is not as hard as it might seem. It actually makes things easier at a standard restaurant because it limits your options and keeps you from having to fuss over what to choose. That doesn’t mean that your options are forever limited, though. If you want more variety, you can just go to a vegetarian restaurant.
And your range of options will limitless at the grocery store. You can choose between almond, coconut, hemp or soy instead of regular cow’s milk. You can use a variety of oils instead of butter. There are vegetarian substitutes for meat, poultry and fish in the vegetarian aisle of most supermarkets and health food stores. These products look just like the original but are usually made out of soy and refined grain products. Most of them taste quite similar to the original. You might even prefer certain meatless alternatives, though it can take some trial and error to find which ones suit your taste. You just have to try a few varieties before you form any opinion of the product in general. Still, there’s absolutely nothing difficult about that.
4. “There is not enough variety in a vegan diet.”
If this hasn’t already been disproved by discussing meat-free alternatives to animal products, look at it this way. The following is a list of the basic animal-based foods that you’d have to give up as a vegan.
Pork, Beef, Poultry, Fowl, Fish, Shellfish, Mussels, Milk, Cheese and Eggs.
Here is a partial list of the foods you can eat as a vegan:
Vegetables: Asparagus, Avocados, Beets, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Collard greens, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Garlic, Green beans, Green peas, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Olives, Onions, Potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Sea vegetables, Spinach, Squash, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Turnip greens, Yams.
Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Chico, Cranberries, Durian, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwifruit, Lemon/Limes, Oranges, Papaya, Pears, Pineapple, Plums, Prunes, Raisins, Raspberries, Rambutan, Strawberries, Watermelon.
Beans & Legumes: Black beans, Dried peas, Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), Kidney beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Miso, Navy beans, Pinto beans, Soybeans, Tofu and Tempeh.
Nuts, Seeds & Oils: Almonds, Cashews, Flaxseeds, Olive, Peanuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts.
Grains: Barley, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Rye, Spelt, Whole wheat.
Most of your favorite cereals are vegan.
Any type of Pasta made from grains: Spaghetti, Ravioli, Rice noodles, etc. I will spare you the long list, as there are close to 100 types of noodles.
Spices & Herbs: Basil, Black pepper, Cayenne pepper, Chili pepper, Cilantro/Coriander seeds, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin seeds, Dill, Ginger, Mustard seeds, Oregano, Parsley, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Turmeric.
Sweeteners: Blackstrap molasses, Maple syrup, Sugar.
Drinks: Black, Green tea, kombucha, any fruit juice, most soft drinks, beer and wine, water.
5. “I’m afraid I won’t get enough protein, iron and calcium.”
Proteins are made up of amino acids and all foods contain amino acids. Many people see meat and dairy as necessary to a balanced diet because they contain complete proteins. Many people think they’re the only foods that do, but that isn’t true. Soy, quinoa and buckwheat are all vegan sources of complete protein. But it isn’t actually necessary to eat these, either. As long as each of the eight essential amino acids are present in your diet, your body can synthesize complete proteins from those building blocks. Vegans get most of their protein from vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and these items also contain iron and calcium. As long as you consume a variety of vegetables, your body will obtain all the nutrition it needs. If you’re still worried, you can consult with a nutritionist for further information.
6. “I’m worried my health will suffer. Vegans are sick looking, weak, girly, and too thin.”
This is just a ridiculous stereotype. It is impossible to pick out a vegan in a lineup. Just like everyone else, vegans can be small or tall, thin or fat, scrawny or muscular. A person can be a vegan and still be an accomplished athlete. Among the list of prominent vegans you’ll find NFL running back Arian Foster, record-setting marathon runner Scott Jurek, actor and stuntwoman Spice Williams-Crosby, WWE professional wrestler Bryan Danielson, bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, and several mixed martial arts fighters.
7. “But animals are dumb. They have no purpose other than to be eaten.”
Many animals are a lot more intelligent than you might give them credit for. They have problem solving skills and they communicate with one another in complex ways. And regardless of their intelligence, all animals share the will to live. If their only purpose was to be eaten, they’d climb into your mouth on their own.
Even if a particular animal is dumb, and even if it’s not about to paint the Mona Lisa, does that mean that a dumb human, a baby, an old person with Alzheimer’s or an autistic person deserves to suffer more than the average guy? When we talk about the rights of human beings, we don’t make them dependent on the person’s social worth. Why should it be different with other animals?
Can you imagine if there was a species smarter than us that treated us like we treat other animals? We would be tied for years inside crates, starved in order to provide white meat or fattened up until we were ill and unable to stand on our own feet. We’d be skinned alive to make clothing for that species. And all of this would be done unnecessarily, despite other options, simply because we would not be the dominant species.
8. “If everybody becomes vegan, people who raise and kill animals will lose their jobs.”
If everybody became vegan tomorrow, there would still be just as much demand for food; it would just be for a different kind of food. People wouldn’t need to raise and slaughter livestock anymore, but they would have to grow, harvest and manufacture vegetarian foods. When you shift demand from one food to another, you can’t take away a job without creating another one somewhere.
9. ”It doesn’t make sense to save animals when plants are living organisms too.”
Well, yes, plants are living organism too, but that doesn’t mean they suffer physical pain. Animals have central nervous systems that respond to unpleasant sensations. They clearly act to avoid pain. None of this is true of plants. Saving animals is much different.
Even if plants did suffer from physical pain, that wouldn’t be an argument against veganism. It’s not as if one group being hurt makes it okay to hurt another group. Our goal should be to reduce the amount of suffering experienced by all creatures. If we can save only some of them, or if we can make things better for them, those are steps we must take, even if the solution isn’t perfect.
10. “Not all farmers are cruel. I shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced just because certain people misbehave.”
It’s true that not all farmers are cruel, but the main problem is that most people don’t know where their meat products come from. The majority of animal products come from factory farms where animals are ill-treated without exception. The animals are confined, violated, drugged, and either starved of force-fed. To understand these conditions better, please read this article about the milk industry.
Factory farms are cruel by definition, but even when people do manage to purchase meat from a conventional farm, they have no way of knowing how the animals were treated unless they actually visit the farm. And what they see out in the open may differ from what happens behind closed doors. An abusive husband may appear loving and kind in public, but behind closed doors the wife is still physically and psychologically injured by her husband. Similarly, a farmer might show you how his animals are well treated, but do you really know how he or his workers act when no one is around? Their industry is known for its cruelty, and cruelty might be the norm when outsiders aren’t looking.
But even if we assume that the farmer and his workers are always kind, it’s important to note that after only a quarter of their life span, the animals are fully grown and ready for consumptions, and are transported to the slaughter house far away from the farmer. Once again, there is no way for the consumer to know how the animals are treated by slaughterhouse workers.
Finally, it is important to remember that even under the best possible conditions, animals are still slaves raised in confined spaces at the mercy of an owner.
11. “In that case, it must be okay to hunt, because hunted animals are free.”
Indeed, hunted animals do not have to suffer for years before being killed. It is better than buying meat from factory farms. Unfortunately, that is still where most meat comes from. And while hunting limits the amount of harm done to the animal, the absence of any pain is always better than just a little. Only a vegan diet avoids harming animals altogether.
12. “A vegan diet is unnatural. Hurting and killing animals isn’t nice, but it’s just the way it is. In nature this is how things happen.”
Indeed. In the wild, animals do eat each other. Life is far from perfect, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to achieve a better world that is free of suffering. In nature, animals get sick. People get aids, cancers, diabetes. Does that mean that one should not try to find remedies for people’s illnesses? In nature, there are no pillows, mattresses or houses. Does that mean that one should sleep on rocks in the woods?
The wonderful thing about human civilization is that we’re constantly discovering ways to improve upon nature. But when it comes to how we treat animals, we’ve made nature worse. Animals in the wild suffer for a few minutes when they are caught by predators. They do not stay in factory farms, suffering for months and years. That is not how it happens in nature.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of how it happens in nature, humans are intelligent beings. Compared to other animals, they have the power of empathy. They know what it feels like to be ill-treated, cut and enslaved. And more than that, we have the power to prevent these things. If we don’t accept our own disease and discomfort because it’s natural, why would we accept it in other creatures? Why would we do that when the means are already available to improve upon nature for other animals as well as for ourselves?