So I have reached over my half way point in my month of being Vegan, and responses have been very mixed. The most common response I get is ‘Why?’, said in a variety of tones that range from the genuinely intrigued to the absolutely horrified. I’ve found that the explanation of me wanting to write a blog on my experiences is a more accepted justification than the ethical reasoning of veganism. It was as if as long as I wasn’t an “official” Vegan, then it was okay, people could live with that. And this made me wonder, why is there such a stigma around Veganism? What is it that really bothers people, to the point they’re almost offended?
Now I will throw my hands up and admit that I have sometimes laughed at posts I’ve seen on my newsfeed, titled or hashtagged ‘Spot The Vegan’, in which jokes are made at the expense of vegans, portraying them as uptight, judgmental and humourless people that become easily offended. It means that eating meat and discussing the beauty of bacon is considered the ‘cooler’ thing to do. If a Vegan were to inform them on the realities of their fascination with bacon, they become the punch-line: they’re not in on the joke. And I think that’s why responses seem so defensive, because Veganism is different, it is on the outside of the social norm, and therefore its an easy target. Veganism has connotations of weakness, perhaps because meat and consuming meat is so inextricably linked with ‘gains’ and strength, but also by having an opinion on diet and the ethics of meat, means Veganism is seen as an attack on what the majority of us eat, and therefore portrayed as an uptight community. There is even a whole game on tumblr called ‘Spot the Vegan’.
And, as shown with the above meme, I did also find most people couldn’t seem to understand the exclusion of dairy. They could see why someone would want to become vegetarian, but felt that the cutting out of dairy was unnecessary and excessive. It was causing a fuss where it didn’t seem it was needed. I’m confident the majority of people are aware about the moral issues surrounding the rearing of an animal for the sole purpose of meat. Whether or not they fully know the facts or the conditions and treatment of animals in the meat industry, they are understanding of why someone would perhaps choose to not eat meat based on those concepts. But even my flatmate had to ask ‘but why not dairy?’. Once I had explained the actual process of getting milk from a cow – the artificial insemination of a female, the taking away of her new-born calf after 2 days to either become another dairy cow or veal, the overworking of the cows until the collapse, to then be craned off to become meat – people seemed shocked. I didn’t even know this was happening. For some bizarre reason, maybe because the packaging of cheese has a smiling cow on it and they didn’t necessarily go directly to the slaughterhouse, I assumed that dairy cows were well looked after. I even overlooked the fact that there was pregnancy involved in the production of cow milk – for all I knew or, more importantly, bothered to know, dairy cows were some special breed that naturally started to produce milk without the requirement of offspring. Already, I’m starting to feel there is a huge amount more we can all learn about Veganism and the real goings-on of the agricultural industry.
And it is in these instances, that I really do feel glad that I am really getting to experience Veganism, and I am also beginning to see why there is a frustration from Vegans on these social media sites. I’m starting to see why they may come across as aggressive or uptight. People are quick to call Vegans ‘tree-huggers’, ‘hippies’ or ‘overdramatic’, yet aren’t so bothered about actually understanding what it means to be Vegan, failing to look past the jokes and the ‘hippie’ ideals. The fact that I, a Vegan of only a few weeks, have already started to educate people on the truths of Dairy-Farming is worrying. It shows that when people hear the word ‘Vegan’, their knowledge on the realities of what the community stands for is limited, and yet enough for them to have Vegans as a punch-line of a rather cheap joke.