Vegans, as we are but a subset of the very diverse humans, have arrived at veganism in so many different ways, for so many different reasons. The majority of us, however, are probably just trying to suck less.
And that’s a good thing, no? Something that should be embraced in this oft-sucky world? Then why is it such a delight for folks to dismiss the spread of veganism as trendy, hipster nonsense? Abstaining from the consumption and exploitation of animals to reduce suffering cannot be equated with fanny packs, Polaroids (are they still so uncool they’re cool?), or a waxed mustache.
So I find myself annoyed, perhaps too easily, when I see an article like this one from The Huffington Post, which tries to protect you from the trendy foods that aren’t, you know, worth it. Admittedly, it’s not a hard-hitting piece, and I’m sure more time went into finding the accompanying photos than into the research—but I’m still annoyed. Shouldn’t we celebrate every new readily available alternative to the <insert some crappy brand here> processed frozen dinner?
I agree that we should reach for locally and sustainably grown antioxidant-rich berries over those grown in the Amazon Rainforest, and no one should ever have to be subjected to wheatgrass shots. But to shrug off foods like nutritional yeast, tempeh, seitan, and spirulina as good for vegans (but why would anyone else bother?), I call bullshit.
These non-animal nutrient sources are worth it for health reasons, sure, but also environmental reasons and that little matter of the well-being of the animals that would be exploited or killed for the (more “accessible” or “worth it”) alternatives. And by the way, at just a bit over $1 a pound, homemade seitan is super worth it to your wallet—like flashing-neon-sign worth it. Why would you make an effort to discount the worthiness of these domestic, low-footprint, highly nutritious foods?
Sarcastic slow clap for you, HuffPo.
Now to my hero, the guy who’s just throwin’ it all out there and makin’ all sorts of sense. Vice writer Jamie Lee Curtis Taete had made the brazen move of mentioning he was vegan in an article about a restaurant he felt was a bit on the pretentious side. Comments ensued, naturally, because what’s more pretentious than being vegan?! (If you’re a Vice reader, you know it’s no-holds-barred, so the language was a little stronger.) In this response article, “There Is Nothing Pretentious About Being a Vegan,” Jamie fires back with examples of just how mundane his life really is, and how he’s fully aware of how much he sucks in most aspects.
He’s right in that we as humans are horrible for the world. We ruin it every day. We ruin each other every day. And we have a choice to make about how we deal with that: We can shrug our shoulders and go with the guttery-goodness flow and, since we can’t make everything better, never attempt to make anything better. Orrrrrr we can choose at least a battle or two, and with minimal effort (check out Jamie’s menu for the day—it involves Doritos as a meal), we can at least reduce some of the harm we inflict.
The punch in the gut in Jamie’s article that really ties in well to this taking veganism down a peg—so far beyond name-calling, because whatever—is the flat-out glee some people can take when we fail. You might accidentally eat something that had egg or dairy in it. You find out. You feel a little shitty. There is no room in this story for someone to jump in like Nelson “ha ha” Muntz on The Simpsons to rub it in your face.
You try to save enough people with CPR, you’re gonna crack some ribs…and you’re gonna lose a few. That doesn’t mean we should ridicule you for trying or that you should stop. Keep on trying to do good. Enough of us have your back. And you will make a difference. You will suck less.