Veganism – the right choice for you?
Posted on 15th November 2017
Image credit: https://www.vegansociety.com/your-business
Last month, I got the opportunity to speak to the lead organiser of the College’s Vegan Society, Emilie Butler, who spoke to me about the pros and cons of veganism. Dispelling myths and countering attack arguments on veganism, she answered a series of my questions in our recent interview.
Some may say that veganism could be seen as ‘taking over’ modern-day dietary trends. What would you say in response to this?
I think the idea that a diet can be a trend is definitely a theme in society. But veganism is more than just a trend – for the people who take up veganism for ethical reasons, it’s about life and death, rather than trying be skinny or look cool, which is usually what we see in dietary trends.
I know you’re a passionate vegan yourself, Emilie. What would you say to those who are unsure about making the leap to becoming vegan?
First of all, I believe every vegan says they wouldn’t be able to become vegan before they become vegan. Everyone thinks it’s extreme, but it’s more about making new habits and you can make it as difficult as you want it to be, or you can make it as easy as you want it to be, but as long as you work hard at it and are resilient, you’re more likely to succeed. Lots say that it’s challenging in a sense that you’re punishing yourself, but this isn’t the case; it’s to do with being happy with yourself being a vegan.
To you, how do the benefits of veganism outweigh the disadvantages of it?
What’s clear to me is that the cons aren’t negative in themselves, they’re more negative in terms of how they contradict what society has taught us. For example, it can be awkward when you go to a friend’s house for tea and you have to ask in advance for a different meal, or going out to eat can present some challenges too in that it can be a little more complicated. But, really, it’s all about finding new habits and I think, for me, I never feel any guilt when people seem to be uncomfortable about making a different meal for me because I know that I’m helping animals, who are sentient beings, stay alive. Also, of course, it goes to show that animals weren’t born to be killed in the first place and for me it’s this pro which outweighs all of the disadvantages and rids any anger at people who don’t realise why veganism is beneficial.
Vegans have been accused by some of enforcing their views upon others in an attempt of, and I quote, “radicalisation”. How would you defend yourself against this and why might this be some people’s perception?
It’s very clear as to why people get upset about this sort of thing – humans don’t like being told what to do and I’ve come to learn that people come to be vegan when they do it out of their own choice and they do their own research into it. It’s very unlikely for someone to become vegan if I went up to them and told them to become one, so it’s definitely down to the individual. And certainly, when it comes to food, it’s something that’s so engrained in our culture that people don’t like to make changes. At the moment, most people have a negative perception of veganism and what it encompasses. People only feel that they’re being “radicalised” because when they’re faced with reality, such as that of what’s going on in slaughter houses, they just don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s purely a case of people being overwhelmed with information that they’re not used to and choosing often to bury their heads in the sand. In terms of veganism being labelled as “radicalisation”, I hate this word as it makes me feel like a terrorist which clearly I’m not. I’m trying to stop the killing, rather than going about killing. It’s true that you can’t be vegan for ethical reasons and not want to shape other people’s views about the meat industry, but at the same time this is a very different thing from radicalisation, which is what it’s mistakenly sometimes referred to as.
Living in a vegan world, what would be the best aspect of life in your opinion?
I’d be able to walk down the street and go into any shop I like and buy food or clothing that was vegan and also just being surrounded by like-minded people. I mean, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable in the slightest but at the same time it would be nice.
People considering becoming vegan may be concerned that, if switching to a vegan diet, that they may be missing out on some vital vitamins and nutrients that they cannot get without meat and dairy, for example. What substitutes for calcium, for instance, would you advocate in the event of an absence of dairy products?
It’s illogical to suggest that there would be a deficiency in protein, certainly, because meat contains protein that comes from the grass that animals consume. In terms of calcium, I’m going to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure but you can get it from beans. Vitamin B12 can be hard to get on a vegan diet, but supplements are available in tablet and injection form and if you don’t like that, you still always have to option of obtaining it from a variety of plant-based milks.
Scientific evidence suggests that society has been consuming meat for around 2.5 million years. Some might ask: “Why should this change now?”
Well, we’ve committed a lot of atrocities since the dawn of time, but this doesn’t mean it is right. We’ve oppressed black people, we’ve killed people and had genocides… The list goes on. So just because something’s happened and it’s happened for such a long time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it's morally correct. The same applies to meat and the treatment of animals.
“You’re fighting a rising tide.” I heard one person say to a vegan, in the context that the meat industry is growing at such a pace and there’s nothing the vegan community can do to stop it. How would you counter this?
The dairy and meat industries are currently losing capita, which is why we’ve seen a massive increase in advertising of meat-based products from companies such as MacDonald’s and KFC. I think we’re starting to see a trend in the gradual death of the meat industry, so maybe this tide won’t be rising for much longer.
As a vegan yourself, Emilie, how would you feel about feeding meat to another animal, say, a pet, for example? Would you feel unable to do this?
Personally, I wouldn’t feed meat to a pet because cat and dog food primarily consists of all meat which is not considered fit for human consumption. If we can’t physically eat what we feed to our pets, why should we feed it to them? You can buy vegan cat and dog food, so I would just buy this.
So, I know that the College has its very own Vegan Society organised and attended by yourself. Is there anything you would like to say to encourage people to join? Any details you might want to give of meeting etc.?
Yeah, everyone is welcome, including non-vegans and vegan-haters. Come and listen; we discuss lots of political issues. Last year, for example, we covered topics such as Zero Waste and The Difficulties of Veganism in Different Countries.
So yeah, just come along and we’ll answer any of your questions.
The Vegan Society meets every Monday at 12.50pm in A164. For more information about veganism, visit www.thevegansociety.com.
Owain Denning (Studying A Levels in English Language, French, Philosophy & Ethics and AS General Studies)