In defense of Veganism

The stereotype of vegans is that they like to berate and lecture dairy and meat eaters at every opportunity.

As a vegan, and friend of several vegans, I haven’t witnessed this. The vegans I know will talk about their eating habits in person if asked, and on social media. But even then it’s a celebration and explanation of their food choices, rather than a haranguing.

I realise that blogging about this could be seen as your Typical Vegan Rant, but I’m not trying to lecture anyone.

Every time I speak to someone outside my friend group about food, and mention that I’m vegan, people unfailingly feel the need to ask “Why?” in horrified tones, and then give me all their arguments against Veganism.

It’s always fun.

This weekend I was at an awards ceremony which involved dinner. At one point the entire table felt entitled to explain at great length why no one should be vegan.

So one last time, I’m going to try and answer the questions that non-Vegans invariably ask on here. Because I couldn’t get a word in on Saturday.

But if we didn’t eat farm animals, they would have died out!

They also wouldn’t be slaughtered at young ages. A a cow’s natural lifespan can be up to twenty years. Dairy cows can be slaughtered at only six, veal bulls are killed at four or five months.

Pigs can live up to fifteen years naturally. If they’re being bred for meat, they are slaughtered at five to six months.

Chickens can live up to nine years. They are killed at five or six weeks for meat, or at eighteen months if they are laying hens .

I could go on, but I won’t. The information from the four paragraphs immediately above is from the RSPCA site

Being farmed isn’t good for animals’ health. They are bred to create a higher yield, but this can lead to inbreeding and health problems. Over half of Ireland’s purebred cattle was inbred in 2004.

Other animals, deemed less useful due to the fact that humans don’t consume them, also suffer. More and more land is being used for farming, leaving less available for wild animals and making extinction of other animals more likely 

Aren’t you worried about your health?

Veganism has been proved not to affect bone mineral density or alter body composition .

It has also been proved to help achieve good health and avoid diseases like osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease and cancer .

But thanks for your concern, and for voicing it as I’m sure you do with all your friends who smoke, drink, or don’t exercise. Because if you’ll talk to one person about your concerns about their lifestyle choices, you’ll do it to everyone else right? You don’t just pick on vegans. ‘Course you don’t.

What about the jobs that rely on the meat and dairy market?

I am not suggesting that everyone in the world converts to veganism immediately. But as it gains popularity, the meat and dairy industries can wind down gradually. Jobs will hopefully be created in other sectors, like green energy.

Besides, automisation is already causing job losses. In a post-automated society, changes will need to be made to the way the labour market is run. The dairy and meat industry won’t save the good old-fashioned 9-5 from extinction.

But it must be so hard to cook! What do you eat!?

You’d be amazed at how many edible foodstuffs aren’t made of animal products.

I will admit that, just after making the change, it can be difficult. But, as with everything, the longer you do it, the easier it gets. You get to know the products you can and cannot buy and have a reserve of go-to recipes until it becomes second nature.

Where do you get your protein from?

Everywhere.

Seriously, though. Vegetables, nuts, soy, quinoa, tofu, lentils, beans… we’re fine. Same goes for calcium.

Don’t you miss bacon?

I was never a bacon fan, sorry. But other vegans may have been in the past, but are choosing not to eat it anyway. Thanks for bringing it up.

Am I making you uncomfortable by eating meat in front of you?

Thanks for checking, but we’re all consenting adults. I’ll let you eat what you want to in peace if you do the same for me.

If you don’t eat the animals/dairy, someone else will. You’re not reducing the number of dying animals.

I know. But I’m more comfortable not supporting the industries that do these things. And, as more people hopefully become vegetarian/vegan, demand will decrease and fewer animals will die.

I would be vegan, but I love cheese too much!

So, go vegan except for cheese. It’s about minimising the impact you have. Any reduction is good. It’s not a religion or law: eating meat and dairy is not a sin. You’re allowed to slip up. You’re allowed to cheat. Doing your best is the best you can do.

But WHY!?

It’s a very personal thing and every vegan will give you a different answer.

For myself, it’s about reducing the suffering in the world and for the environment. The amount of land being used to grow crops for farmed animals to eat, and the land being used as grazing for those animals, could be put to use growing crops for humans. This would reduce the amount of land required to feed everyone, reducing deforestation and increasing yields.

Plus, when you stop eating meat and dairy and take a step back to look at it objectively, animal products are kinda gross.

So there you are! That was my attempt to address the most common things people say to vegans.

Next time you’re out to dinner with a vegan, and think of saying one of these things, please… don’t. I guarantee you, we’ve heard it all before. Many times.

Thanks!

Empathy

I went to an Anti Trump gathering tonight.

Image may contain: one or more people, people walking, sky, night and outdoor

It was heartening, seeing that one is not alone in knowing that the Executive Orders that the current POTUS are abhorrent. We just need to make sure not to lose this momentum, or our empathy.

Terry Pratchett said that “Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”

I believe that that is true.

One way of treating people as things is by treating them as labels, which is something that seems to happen a lot these days.

It’s very easy to lump a group of people into categories. The dichotomy of creating this “us” and “them” vibe can even be comforting. But I think that it is also intrinsically damaging.

People can belong to a religion, but they are not just their religious beliefs, any more than people with green eyes are green eyes. It is a part of what makes up their being, sure, but not all of it. It’s the same with gender, or sexuality, or race.

People may be many things, but they are always, first and foremost, people.

Once you begin to ignore this and start to classify certain human beings as “other”, it is easier to ignore and excuse injustices made against those “others”, because they’re not like us, right?

Except they are. Everyone is human.

And once you ignore injustices happening to one group of others, it becomes easier and easier to ignore injustices happening to other groups, too. And others.

This is why it’s important for everyone to speak up against cruelty towards any group, but especially those most vulnerable. It’s most important for those in positions of power or privilege – white people, men, cisgender, heterosexuals – to speak up for other, less privileged/powerful people. Because if you don’t, who will be left to speak up for you when your time comes?

Because that’s the tricky thing about ignoring violence against groups. One day the group being targeted could be yours.

So say it with me folks: people are not their nationality. They are not their religion, sexuality, gender, or any other character trait. They are other people, just like you, looking out with terror and wonder at the world from the dark place behind their eyes.

We all need to practice empathy to remind ourselves of this fact, and then do whatever is in our power to help our siblings, and treat them as people, not things.

 

Gender neutral pronouns: THEY’re not so bad!

I’ve seen many tabloids today decrying the General Medical Council’s guidelines for practitioners regarding gender neutral pronouns being used regarding pregnant people, and I am baffled by the visceral response it has generated.

For one thing, a tabloid newspaper denouncing and contradicting the governing body for medical practitioners is worrying. Do these newspapers believe that they know how to care for patients better than the professionals who have gone through countless years of training, exams and learning to gain the qualifications to treat said patients?

I for one would like to see these journalists’ credentials before trusting their opinions.

The disregard for peoples’ choices is also frightening. Misgendering has been found to be linked to many psychological problems as well as reinforcing sexism and cisgenderism (source 1, source 2). There is no danger in referring to someone in a gender neutral way; misgendering someone is genuinely dangerous.

Not only is ignoring peoples’ chosen pronouns cruel and dangerous, it is also illegal. The Equality Act 2010 gives everybody, including transgender individuals, protection against discrimination and harassment. Intentionally and knowingly misgendering people definitely falls under this umbrella. Medical practitioners refusing to use the patient’s preferred pronouns are breaking the law.

As medical practitioners, one of the most important areas of expertise that are used is putting the patient at ease. Any medical situation, including pregnancy and birth, have the potential to be extremely stressful. If the medical professionals around you, who are supposed to be helping and supporting you, are constantly using the wrong pronouns when referring to you, this will only add to an already stressful situation. It is the practitioner’s duty to ensure the patient’s experience is as stress-free as possible. If this includes using gender-neutral pronouns, then that is what they should do.

If a patient does take exception to being referred to in a non-gender specific form, they can always ask their practitioner to use their preferred gendered pronouns, and the practitioner will comply. You can still be called “mum” or “dad” if you like!

And finally, if the “millennial” generation of “special snowflakes” is causing you this much anger and anxiety over pronouns, I put this to you: maybe you are the special snowflake if you can’t handle people you don’t know being called by their preferred pronouns.

Thanks!

P.S. sorry about the bad pun in the title. I couldn’t resist!

How to stop abortion

I’m probably going to be unable to say anything that you haven’t heard before, but nevertheless, I feel it needs saying.

This anti-abortion article on abortion was shared on my facebook feed and it made me. So. Angry.

For one thing, the article itself is abhorrent. Comparing black women to the KKK and people who lynched people of colour is disgusting in the extreme.

Women do not want to get abortions. I guarantee that no one has ever set out to get pregnant just so that they can have that pregnancy terminated. The process is upsetting, uncomfortable and, at times, expensive. To imagine women who have abortions as callous, unfeeling people is unfair and cruel. One cannot know another’s experiences; do not judge someone who has had an abortion. You cannot know their circumstances or reasons.

For one thing, you can never stop abortion. You can stop legal abortion, and relatively easily. But you cannot stop abortion. People have been performing amateur and unsafe abortions almost as long as they have been conceiving.

The methods for amateur abortion are almost always unsafe, often causing an infection at best and death of the woman at worst. And any woman, desperate enough for whatever reason to perform or undergo these unsafe practices, may then be too terrified to seek medical help for their condition.

If life is sacred, then what about the right of a pregnant person not to die?

Legal abortion cannot be stopped, for that matter. There will sadly always be women who, for whatever reason, are incapable physically or mentally of carrying a baby to term and/or delivering it. in this case, it is a medical necessity to perform an abortion, even if the baby is desperately wanted. Any and all “no abortion is okay” rhetoric is extremely upsetting and cruel to people who cannot physically bear children.

There will also be foetuses that will not survive out of the womb. Abortion is a choice that some parents may make to spare their child the agonising minutes, days, or hours which would otherwise be their only experience of life.

Rape and incest are also, horribly, things which cannot be eradicated. But safe, legal, supportive abortion can help minimise the consequences for the victim.

There are some women, unfortunately, who are not in the financial or social situation to safely raise a child. To knowingly bring a child into a world where their most basic needs cannot and will not be met could arguably be called child abuse or neglect. Forcing women to have children that they cannot support forces more children to go through ill-health and suffering.

No one is required to risk their life for another person in any other circumstance. If someone is undergoing chemotherapy and needs a bone marrow transfusion, you cannot force a matching person to donate their bone marrow, even if the other person will die. If someone cannot be forced to donate bone marrow, a short and (now) mostly painless procedure, how can someone be expected to carry a dependent organism inside them for 3/4 of a year and then deliver it with no choice in the matter?

Anyone who is anti-abortion and reading this, I do however have some good news for you: abortion can be minimised. The number of them can be reduced dramatically, and easily.

Access to and education on contraception reduces the rate of teen pregnancy. Sources: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1400506#t=article

https://reproductive-health-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1742-4755-11-1

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1054139X13001213

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/5/886.short

So there we are. How to stop abortion!

Even if you don’t agree with any of the above,