I’ve done posts like this before, but as my views on veganism change, so do my answers. I represent just one viewpoint on veganism. I can’t see all sides or all my blind spots. I am hoping this format will make things easier to update as I’m sure I will change in the future. I’m also hoping that these answers will help both non-vegans and vegans alike understand where some vegans are coming from, to maybe not feel as alone? I’ve been vegan a while and am still learning things myself.
How long have you been vegan? Hark! The origin story! Since some time in 2015. I don’t have an exact date because I was vegetarian before then (from some time in 2010) and the transition was gradual. I just stopped buying milk and things with eggs for myself. I used up the products that had animal-derived ingredients in them and replaced them with vegan versions as I went along. The transition to vegan and cruelty free makeup was the hardest part for me. Not the food, honestly.
What do you eat every day? To be honest, I hate cooking and I do not have time for it. I work full-time and have a lot on my plate, so anything that can make my life easier is what I choose. Time is my most valuable thing. Thus, I have a frozen dinner meal at least once a day. It’s usually an Amy’s, Gardein, or Sweet Earth, or Trader Joe’s vegan tikka masala (soooo good). For lunch, I do something light like vegan ramen, vegan chick’n nuggets, a bagel with vegan cream cheese, or some sort of vegan sandwich (PB&Js are vegan!). For dinner, anything goes. I might eat a whole jar of salsa with chips. I might make vegan grilled cheese and heat up tomato soup. It depends on how tired I am. You can see what kind of foods I recommend in my saved stories called “Vegan foods” on my Instagram.
Where do you eat out at? Sometimes you are on the go and can’t make something at home. I get it. When that happens to me, some of my favorite big chain places and what I order at them are:
- Olive garden, spaghetti. Hold the salad (they put cheese on it and the croutons are not vegan). The breadsticks are vegan, though! See more info.
- Taco Bell. I get the black bean crunch wrap with no cheese, no sour cream and add guac. It’s so good! See more info.
- Carl’s Jr. This one is more controversial for me. I do not like their sexualized ads and the fact their CEO clearly supported Trump. However, they have the best vegan burger hands down. I get the Beyond Famous Star with no cheese, no sauce, no mayo. I add ketchup. My meat-eater friends say it’s better than the meat burger. Costs about $2 extra, though.
- Red Robin’s in-house vegan burger in the lettuce wrap is really really good but it feels more like a breakfast wrap or salad. I do not like the impossible burger they offer. It’s really basic and bland.
- Pizza Hut. Thin crust veggie with no cheese. If you do the limited toppings then I pick tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. My friends have tried this and they couldn’t tell there wasn’t cheese on it.
Isn’t eating out bad for the environment? Doesn’t it support capitalism? Doesn’t this just help the chains make more money to kill more animals? If I’m going to eat out then I’m going to eat vegan food. I believe that my choices are an act of resistance. They are an expression of my ethics. Carol Adams, in her work The Sexual Politics of Meat, states that the very fact you do not eat meat is an act of feminism. Making an outward choice is a performance. It is praxis that goes against the norm and brings attention to an issue. It might not change the world or be the most I could do in that moment, but it is doing something. It reminds me of religious choices as well — how outward displays and acts are signals to the world of your religious principles. Like a nun wearing a habit, a Sikh wearing a turban, or a Muslim refusing to eat pork (pig), they are outward embodiments of what group you belong to and how you understand the world.
The work of Vegan BatGirl is what I draw on most readily when talking about the government bailouts for animal ag. She’s actually been (from?) to my hometown and done her activism here. Because of her work and others, I have started to question the “you vote with your money” concept. My purchases do not affect supply and demand as much as I thought, because capitalism doesn’t work and the government will still prop up animal ag even though it is failing.
I think buying any food supports capitalism right now, however. Many vegans refuse to go to restaurants if they aren’t vegan restaurants. I get it. And I think supporting vegan-owned things is important. But they probably also shop at grocery stores at times that sell meat and eggs and dairy. Would they just not buy from that grocery store? Walmart sells vegan brands too. I think making veganism accessible to all is also an important step. Just because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism doesn’t excuse you from the choices you do make.
Have you ever accidentally slipped up and eaten animal-derived ingredients or purchased something with them? Mistakes happen! That doesn’t mean you aren’t vegan. It means you made a mistake. One time I was at work and saw there was granola at the buffet for the breakfast gathering we were attending. After eating it, I realized it tasted too sweet and there was probably honey in it! I was very sad and upset with myself, because others probably noticed me eating it who knew I was vegan. But I did finish it as not to waste it. Sometimes I buy something new and miss something in the ingredients list, only to double check when I get home because I’ve become paranoid of such things. I typically give it away if I haven’t opened it yet. As you are still learning how to navigate being vegan, you will slip up or not realize something. That’s OK! You’ll pick up what to check for and get a routine down.
It’s for this reason that I might suggest that if you’re just starting out, you might not announce it. So that, if you do make a mistake, you won’t feel as judged.
Why do vegans want their food to look and taste like meat? Um, does your meat actually look like meat? Who put the meat in to funny shapes in the first place? If you like meat so much then why do you cook it? Add seasoning to it? It really seems more like people want their meat to not look or taste like meat!
Do you eat honey? No. Honey bees aren’t native to where I live, actually, and I think we should stop farming them. They are struggling to thrive here anyways, and they are competition for native pollinators.
You can learn more here too. Beyond this, it is wrong to take something (honey) that isn’t yours and the way some farmers cultivate bees is by clipping the wings of the queen and crushing the drones to get the sperm (graphic video of practice here).
Is veganism cruelty free? Living on the planet isn’t cruelty free, first of all. Even walking on grass as the potential to hurt a plant or insect. It’s about being less cruel. It’s about doing the least amount of damage you can. Not the max.
But don’t plants feel pain? Why do vegans care about one lifeform’s pain but not the other? This is the wrong question and framework. Plants may feel pain, but do they care about it? There is a difference between feeling something and understanding what that means. However, I also believe questions like this lead into “Peter Singer territory,” which is risky to enter into. You have to be careful about intention and show care. In the past I have brought up the fact that many humans with little to no brain activity on life support still react to stimuli but might not react based on want or need. Am I comparing them to plants, then? This could be seen as setting up a framework of those who are more “killable.” It should not be about what/who is killable and what/who is not, but about what/who is suffering from the choices we make. I recommend this video for more context and Sunaura Taylor’s work:
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Taylor’s book.
The talk of “vegetative states” also makes me consider this question: “If meat-eaters* think they are being fair by eating indiscriminately, then why don’t they also eat humans?” Since they so clearly think that vegans are hypocritical for eating only one type of thing that “feels,” I think it is more hypocritical that they eat everything except one thing. That “thing” being humans. And pets, maybe. A lot of the taboo of eating humans is actually very colonial/Western. Many indigenous cultures still do consume humans as part of traditional practices. I find this a more interesting way to point out their own biases and hypocrisies in food.
Instead of the “stranded on a desert island” scenario that is often referenced/brought up to put a vegan in a situation where they have to make a choice against veganism, I like to bring up what I call “the Donner Party scenario” and give my stance. I myself would not feel any qualms in eating a human if I had to to survive and there was nothing else to eat (notice I did not say kill a human). But that is not the scenario we are in. That is not what we are living. For those of us who do not have to choose meat (human or animal), why would we?
*here I mean a capitalist consumer type of meat-eater, not those practicing indigenous traditions
Are your pets vegan? No. I only have cats who are picky eaters. I would like to be able to buy them lab-grown meat though in the future, though!
Would you eat lab-grown meat? Maybe? Depends on if it tastes better than the plant-based meat. How affordable it was.
Do you use the word “Carnism” like some vegans do? There has been some pushback on accepting the word carnism, which was popularized by this book by Melanie Joy, I believe (?). The pushback, I believe, comes from POC communities and allies who do not want to pressure indigenous communities, etc. into a label that does not accurately represent those communities. I think Joy was the first to use the word in psychological terms (?), but I do not think she actually invented the word and I don’t think a word has to have a single definition in all contexts. Yet the focus does seem to attack her and her points at times, which undermines what she was trying to say. But do I think that everyone who still eats meat is a carnist? I think that is where some pushback lies. However, I still find it a helpful word to describe certain situations. Is the dominate culture carnist? I think that to say so is glossing over things because it is supposedly the opposite of veganism at points, under certain definitions. And if I, a vegan, know I am vegan, I think that most non-vegans don’t realize they’re carnists. A lot until recently didn’t even know about veganism as an option. They might define themselves as non-vegans, but carnism is not likely a word they would own. They don’t delight in eating meat the way some others might or the way vegans delight in veganism. Food is just food to them and they have never been confronted with alternatives. However, I do think many in the dominate culture are so anti-vegan and pro-meat that carnists as a label does fit and they would not even mind it — they’d embrace it even. I think of Arby’s ads that say “We have the meat” or “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner.” These are so overt in suppressing vegs ideals that I think carnism works. Their stance is not in-between or neutral, just like veganism is viewed as not neutral. Many of these ads even mock vegans, creating an opposing stance to veganism, not just an uniformed one. So, yes, I believe that points of our culture like that are carnist. I believe people who are so anti-vegetable and pro-killing for meat are carnists. I am reminded of this quote from the article “An already alienated animality: Frankenstein as a Gothic narrative of carnivorism” by Jackson Petsche, which muddies the waters more because I so agree with it in parts (but is the word “carnivorism” fair when humans here are not carnivores in the biological sense of eating raw meat, but instead carnists for choosing to do so and having to cook it? This is an instance where the newer word might have fit better in the context) :
In rejecting the food ‘of man’, the monster rejects the system of carnivorism, and this refusal to eat animal flesh contributes to his alienation. Martin argues that, like capitalism, carnivorism constructs subjectivity: ‘carnivorism not only runs very deep into subjectivity formation, it runs so deep that it comes close to assuming the character of an absolute presupposition’. (30) By stating ‘[m]y food is not that of man’, the monster explicitly underscores his alienation from human social relations: he does not participate in what constitutes the normative model of the human subject–the eating of nonhuman animals. The monster would appear to recognise that his vegetarianism precludes him from attaining human subjectivity when he paradoxically asserts to Victor, ‘The picture I present to you is peaceful and human’ (170). Calarco, like Martin, recognises how carnivorism constructs subjectivity. Speaking of Derrida’s theoretical articulation of ‘carnophallogocentrism’, Calarco states that it highlights that ‘being a carnivore is at the very heart of becoming a full subject in […] society’. (31) The monster’s vegetarianism keeps him from ‘becoming a full subject’ in human society. However, for Victor’s creature this is intentional. In fact, he professes his vegetarianism to Victor during the moment in which he tells him of his desire to flee human society with a female companion constructed like himself. He states, ‘I will quit the neighbourhood of man’ (171). The food ‘of man’ is equated with ‘the neighbourhood of man’, and both are to be rejected.
What are your go-to vegan beauty items? Check out my Instagram story highlights for “Vegan Beauty”
As a vegan, do you take medicine? Aren’t all medicines in the US tested on animals? Yes, I take medicine as necessary to help me survive and live a good life. I refer back to my Donner Party scenario. If it comes down to alleviating my suffering, I will take medicine.
How do you feel about plastic? I feel like plastic gets a bad rap. This may be a hot take I later regret, but to me, it has made food accessible in food desserts, including vegan food. It has improved nutrition and sanitation. I feel like cleaning up plastic is an easier feat than reversing deforestation caused by animal ag. I think we need to focus on limiting both, but that there is a bit too much hatred that goes into plastic and not enough on meat/animal ag. I’m still taking references to more sources if you have them. On the scale of suffering, though, I think animal ag is causing more for the world.
How do you feel about hunting? I hate trophy hunting. I disagree that it can help conservation efforts, because most conservation efforts are based in nationalistic, xenophobic, and eugenic principles of ecological purity (reminiscent of racial and ethnic purity, if you will). I believe in the right for a species to die out. I would like to see extinction decolonized. I also disagree that hunting is a means of population control, which is what I hear about in the U.S. a lot. Starving is a natural means of population control too for a species and dead bodies are part of every ecosystem, so I do not think humans are as important as they think they are in that area.
Trading one suffering for another is just you playing God. I think indigenous hunting practices, where the food is eaten and the bodies don’t just become a stuffed head on the wall, are much more ethical. I, too, would hunt if I had to. Or maybe I would just let someone do it for me and still partake. But I do not have to. It seems unethical to take a life I do not need. I am not asking indigenous populations to become vegan. I am asking most specifically for people to be vegan in their other choices.
See this link and this link for more context on my stance on extinction and invasive species.
Do you think everyone should go vegan? If possible, yes. As stated above, indigenous peoples still practice traditions that involve meat and I support that as means of life if there is no alternative. My focus is on those who have the means and ability to make better choices, but choose not to.
However, I do question “tradition” as an excuse from some as why they will not stop eating meat when they clearly can affordably and nutritionally (I certainly question it from people who live in the same area as me when I hear it). I question tradition for the sake of tradition, especially traditions such as child marriage, genital mutilation, bull fighting and other animal fighting, and the “traditional” family unit. So, yeah, food practices are not “off the table” for me (pun intended). I think if we can’t examine our traditions and make changes, then we are harming ourselves and are trapped in an unexamined life. For a small example, it was a tradition in my childhood home to have meat for every dinner, despite my parents both having high cholesterol. Traditions can harm as well as give meaning.
Isn’t leather/aren’t animal products more sustainable? Aren’t vegan clothes just plastic? Not all of them are. This page has a lot of good info:
How do you feel about comparing animals to humans? This is the question of our time, I think. When I was younger, I would do so readily. As a woman who could become impregnated, I was never offended when women were compared to a cow to show the horrors of the dairy industry, how rape is referenced when talking about the artificial insemination of a farmed animal. However, comparison only goes so far. The communal focus is now on “intersection” — where two issues intersect rather than how they are similar. There is no one size fits all model, and if you risk insulting one party with a comparison, then it would work against your goal.
Are you a vegan who compares what happens to animals to the Holocaust? To Slavery? (CW, sensitive subjects of abuse and genocide). I used to when I was first starting out, and for that I am sorry. My comparison was not nuanced for sure. I no longer do so and see how it was wrong. I could not see how it was working against my cause and against the groups I was referencing. To make matters worse, there’s a lot of conflicting signals within veganism about the human/animal comparison (re: the Taylor YouTube video above as well). There’s a whole Wikipedia page on the subject of comparing Animal Rights and the Holocaust, apparently. But, like what I said above, comparison can only go so far and it is better to focus on the systems that affect all groups negatively, no matter how. Otherwise, it can turn into the oppression Olympics, where we are tallying who has it worse off. That distracts from being united in taking down the system that is oppressing. If forced to admit it, I also do not think using the Holocaust comparison against animal farming is affective because the comparison stops when we realize that the Jewish people were being exterminated and farm animals are actively bred (to be eaten). That sure as hell isn’t genocide. That is something else. This most common example when it is brought up in vegan arguments doesn’t even work logically for me. It seems to be used more for shock value.
The book Afro-dog complicated the waters for me on this subject as well. I still don’t know what to make of that book, but I liked it.
What is hard for vegans to see is that, while we do not take being compared to an animal as an insult because we lift all animals up, in some contexts it is still a way of Othering someone to be less-than-human. On the flip side, what some do not understand about vegan reasoning is that if the animal/human binary (hierarchy, rather?) could be dissolved, there would be no way to make someone “less-than-human” because there would just be “beings.”
But bringing all of that to the conversation can’t be surmised in a single comparison. It has to be unpacked over time.
Wasn’t Hitler vegetarian? Why do you want to be like him? I don’t care if he was or wasn’t. I could see why he would propagandize that he was, though, to make himself look like a compassionate, gentle leader. I’ve read arguments where he was trying to look/act like Gandhi, who was popular at the time? What is interesting, however, is that veganism is and isn’t tied to white nationalists depending on what is and isn’t being said. Compare these two articles from VICE:
Why So Many White Supremacists Are into Veganism
Got Milk? Neo-Nazi Trolls Sure as Hell Do
What’s also hilarious, on the other end of this conversation, is that Israel, with the largest “core Jewish population” is also touted for its veganism. There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to Jewish Vegetarianism.* So…you tell me what you are implying by suggesting vegs are like Hitler. I sure as hell don’t know. If I stare long enough, both of these cases do seem to speak to the plant-based lifestyle as some sort of nationalistic ideal, though. I’m not sure what to make of it. I think it’s similar to the issue of conservation, where there’s a lot of racists and eco-fascist ideals there — where talking about invasive species feels like xenophobia, where conservation is a stand in for conservative ideals, where eco-purity comes at the cost of killing and ignoring indigenous needs and rights. For example:
The Fascist History of De-Extinction – Undark
When Environmentalism Meets Xenophobia – The Nation
The Most Effective Conservation is Indigenous Land Management – Yes! Magazine
Should Some Species Be Allowed to Die Out? – NYT
Book Review: An open-eyed view of conservation – Undark
*That said, I want to be clear that not all Jewish people are synonymous with Israelis nor support their political agendas. I recognize it might also be problematic, since we are talking about nationalism, to not address Israel’s own human rights abuses against Palestinians. For more context on criticizing the Israeli government and where I am coming from, I direct you to this recommended video (starts at recommended portion):
The pamphlet referenced in video: https://www.aprilrosenblum.com/thepast
Do you support zoos and conservation efforts as a vegan? No and yes. See answers above. I think if we are talking about sanctuaries that is one thing, but the very concept of zoos is a colonial one. Humans used to be put in zoos, to be shows off like some collection of conquest. My belief is that the human/animal binary has a thin line between them and I’d like to take away all potential for suffering for when that line is crossed, like I reference above. I also believe that zoos falsely placate the real need for us to save the environment. My local zoo calls itself a “Living Museum,” which is the saddest thing I can think of, because museums are where you put artifacts that can no longer be a part of the world. That need to be protected from it, not part of it. I hate that line of thinking, that the world is too dangerous for them. The animals, therefore, are viewed as no longer of this time period. We no longer strive to protect them in the outside world, because why would we? They’re “safe” in the zoo.
Why are you vegan? Probably because I want to be able to like myself at the end of the day. IDK. I used to not be. Then I saw how the world could be different.