Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Why vegan?

I'll be open about this from the start - my reason for being vegan is 100% linked to animal rights. No other factor is capable of motivating me to stick to a decision which, lets face it, makes my day-to-day life that tiny bit more complicated. (I know it may violate some kind of party line to admit that, but there you go) Moral status for me is all about sentience - that's people, animals, birds, fish, hell I even extend it to molluscs, but not plants. I see preserving the environment as something which is done for the benefit of people, animals, birds, fish, etc, and future generations thereof, rather than for its own sake. Arguments that a vegan diet is *healthier* than either eating meat (which it wouldn't occur to me to do anyway, I've been vegetarian for sixteen years. That's since before puberty. And being lacto-veg is convenient as anything in England.) or just being vegetarian have very little impact. The authors of Skinny Bitch would most likely faint (especially when fasting, nu?) if they could see either my figure or some of what goes down my throat. Anyway, in my current circumstances, a *healthy* vegan diet depends a lot on making time to cook a proper dinner, make packed lunch and eat a proper breakfast before leaving the house in the morning. This doesn't always happen. The one health factor in the whole thing is a slight milk allergy - ie I won't die from ingesting dairy, but my throat will swell and get incredibly painful - and that only happened because I stopped eating the stuff in the first place.

Not killing animals, however, strikes me as a pretty damn good reason to put in the necessary effort. The baseline here is that, short of a pure survival situation probably involving roadkill rather than a live animal (because that is *totally* likely to happen), I'm a vegetarian and will stay that way for a whole lot more than the foreseeable future. That doesn't feel like a bold statement. Furthermore, I wouldn't (hypothetically) feel able to protest with any level of credibility about any other instances of animal abuse were I going home from the demo and eating beef or chicken. And, because milk and eggs are inextricably linked to the beef and chicken industries, being vegan strikes me as the logical conclusion of vegetarianism. (I do, however, eat bacteria. The sort of bacteria that inhabit Alpro probiotic soy yogurt are likely to be the sort which are at their happiest in human intestines. The sad thing is that *someone* is likely to ask this question if not pre-empted...) Being vegan is harder than being vegetarian, because I don't have the same 'yuk' reaction to milk as to meat. The pus factor can produce that reaction *if* I think about it hard enough, but it isn't automatic. It's the difference between a video being set to record a programme versus having to hit the record button in response to the first bar of the theme tune and remember to turn it off later. I can look at a block of cheese without feeling sick and smell it without having to leave the room (the effect bacon often has). So it is something which involves a bit of effort, the need to remind myself what happened to the calf the milk in that cheese sandwich in the canteen was meant for.

So, that's my rationale for being vegan. Now, about the other potential reasons. I may appear disparaging of these, but to be perfectly blunt, if someone is vegan I don't care why. I'm happy. Unless you leave me loads of comments to the effect that animal rights is a pile of shit, in which case there are ducks I can bribe to leave just that in your shoes, keyboard and saucepan. In normal circumstances, I don't see it as particuarly constructive to fight about this particular issue.

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