This week I had the pleasure to work on a video with Unnatural Vegan. Together, we came up with a list of 10 reasons why it sucks being a vegan. This video in no way is meant to discourage anyone from making the switch, but rather its purpose is to relay some of the pitfalls that may accompany being vegan in a non-vegan world.
If you haven’t yet subscribed, make sure to head over to Unnatural Vegan’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/FitOnRaw). Great videos by an amazing vegan communicator.
Now lets get started, in no particular order.
1) Dealing with Family
Dealing with family can suck, big time. As just about anyone who went vegan can attest, having unsupportive parents or extended family can really make the transition to veganism a nightmare. Family, unlike strangers or acquaintances, will rarely keep their opinions to themselves, and will feel compelled to keep you from going vegan by any means necessary. From guilt trips, to horribly ignorant arguments, fear, shame and even blackmail, families will often throw at you everything except the kitchen sink. It definitely sucks, but I can understand why they do what they do. While I cannot speak to all families, most care about the well being of each other, and often wish for others health and happiness. There is no denying that the large majority of people are perfectly ignorant of the arguments for veganism, and how safe and healthy one can be on a vegan diet. People fear that which they do not understand, and change can be difficult to accept. On top of the general ignorance of the topic, people will often feel their own decisions to eat animals come into question and nobody likes thinking they could possibly be wrong and directly supporting cruelty.
From my personal experience, it can take years for families to back off. Even after 13 years as a vegan and a total of 20 years being meat free, I will at times be reminded of the supposed importance of eating non-vegan foods by the older members of my family. In my case, it got better with time, and at this point my veganism is rarely if ever brought up, but over the years it definitely created tension around family gatherings.
2) Meat Eaters: “I Respect Your Dietary Choice”
When meat eaters aren’t making fun of us or yelling at us for being vegan, they’re telling us how much they respect our dietary choice to avoid animal products. But it isn’t a dietary choice, at least for myself and many other vegans; it’s an ethical choice.
It’s about recognizing the sentience of other creatures, their desire to live and their ability to suffer. It’s about recognizing that taste, convenience and “because everybody else does it” are not good enough reasons to take these creatures’ lives. It’s about recognizing the abysmal state of animal agriculture and deciding not to support it.
It’s why we also choose to avoid animal products that aren’t edible, like leather and wool. Being vegan is a moral decision, not just a dietary one.
3) Forever Checking Ingredient Lists
Gone are the days in which I could simply walk into a store and pickup whatever food item that caught my eye. As a vegan, I can never assume something to be vegan, even if I wouldn’t expect animal ingredients to be present. All too often food manufacturers will add things like whey, honey, gelatin, egg, casein, and lard to name a few, into otherwise vegan food stuff. All of these non-vegan ingredients are entirely unnecessary since you can find vegan versions of many of the same products that taste amazing and don’t contain these ingredients. So, every time I go into a store, I will invariably be standing in the aisles looking down the ingredient list to make sure I can eat it. If the manufacturers are awesome, they will label the food “vegan” or have the vegan logo present which makes shopping more quick and easy.
4) Assumption That Vegans Are Overly Emotional
Some non-vegans assume that to be vegan is to love all animals and to be very emotional, to cry at the drop of a hat. That we’re all “pussies.” Go ahead, google “vegan pussy”. Actually, don’t do that.
The point is, you don’t have to be overly emotional to be vegan. I know because I don’t consider myself very emotional and yet I am vegan. In fact, I’m fairly regularly accused of lacking emotion and being too rational by people who watch my videos.
You also don’t have to love all animals to be vegan. I mean, we don’t really love all people and yet we don’t think it’s okay to hurt them or kill them, right? We don’t think that because we recognize the sentience of others, their desire to live and their ability to suffer.
Non-human animals like dogs, cats, cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are exactly the same, in this regard; they have a desire to live and the ability to suffer. Vegans like myself recognize this and that’s why we’re vegan.
See? No crying required.
5) Less Availability
Since vegans represent a small percentage of the consumer market, it is unfortunately the case that we will have fewer options available to us at any given store. Sure you can find health food or specialty food stores which have a lot more vegan options available, but generally when going shopping you will have fewer options at hand. In many conventional supermarkets, you will be lucky to find more then 1 brand of soy milk or almond milk, 1 or 2 brands of vegan cheeses and yogurts, and at most a couple of prepared vegan protein products. Sure, the whole produce section is game, as well as most of the canned vegetable and bean aisle, but once you stray from those areas you will be limited in what you have available to purchase. You may have to end up going to a number of different stores to get all the food items you want, since one grocery store chain may carry some but not other vegan products. What I try to do to alleviate this inconvenience is do a lot of leg work and find the stores with the best deals and largest selections and do my shopping there.
6) Assumption That Vegan and Pseudoscience go Hand-in-Hand
People are often surprised to learn that I’m vegan and yet am also pro-gmo and vaccines, and anti-homeopathy, naturopathy, iridology, colon cleansing and pseudoscience in general. It seems many assume that to be vegan is to be anti-science and pro-magical thinking.
To be fair, vegans really have ourselves to blame for this one; many vegans are anti-science and pro-magical thinking. They believe gmos are unsafe despite mountains of evidence to the contrary and that homeopathy is legitimate medicine despite no scientific support.
7) Personal Frustration and Apathy
The realization of just how many animals are killed each and everyday in abhorrent ways and conditions can be emotionally taxing. Many brand new vegans come out blazing with anger and a real desire to fix the world, and only after years of arguing with others, and participating in protests and demonstrations, many of us realize that unfortunately convincing the world to drop their archaic behaviour is no easy quick feat. In order to not burn out, its important to look towards a long term solution, and not expect immediate positive effects of your work. Its challenging to remain positive in spite of all the apathy and often outright mockery and ignorance from those who have never really researched veganism. Many non-vegans hold onto stereotypical misconceptions such as: “vegan food tastes like dirt”, “vegans are emotional Bambi loving hippies”, ” vegans are weak, pasty, malnourished individuals” or “its okay for women to be vegan, but its unmannely for men to not eat the flesh of an animal”. I can’t tell you how often Ive seen in big budget Hollywood movies incorporate many of these same stereotypes as a quick and easy way to poke fun of a whole group of people. However, its important to realize that outside the many antagonistic assholes in the comment sections of youtube videos, most people are really good caring individuals who have been socially conditioned to live and think a certain way. Not all, heck maybe not even most people can be convinced to go vegan, but all we can do is continue to spread information and help others discover what many of us already have.
8) Vegans Questioning Your Vegan Status Because of Your Size
Some vegans and non-vegans equate being vegan with being slim. That makes sense to a degree, since vegans tend to have lower BMIs. But that doesn’t mean all vegans are super slim and that those of us who aren’t, well, we must not really be vegan. We must be sneaking animal products on the side.
Vegans can be slim. Vegans can be super slim. Vegans can be fat. The biggest factor is caloric intake. Too many calories is too many calories, whether you eat a vegan diet or not.
9) Explaining Yourself to Others
Going out to dinner with new friends or acquaintances often leads to many questions and blank stares. Without bringing up veganism, many non-vegans will be curious about your food order and want to know more. Often this curiosity will be short lived, especially if you are vegan for ethical reasons, as non-vegans will often feel uncomfortable with their food choices and change the subject of conversation to something more safe and fun. I typically find one of the following responses from non-vegans, right after providing a glossary explanation for my veganism: ” I really don’t eat much meat either”, “I tried vegetarianism once, but my body just craved and needed meat”, or “I could never do that, as I love meat just way too much”. On rare occasion, often from other men, I will be pressured into an argument, which I generally try and avoid. No matter how right you are, you are most likely in the minority in your dinner group, and those who eat meat will side with the person defending their position, even when their arguments are poor and easily countered. My advice is to rarely engage in an argument around a meal. People stuffing their faces with the remains of animals will not be open to really discussing animal exploitation. Additionally, you can be sure that the mood at the table will be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone and no one wants to be the cause of that when going out to have a good time. My advice is to answer in bread crumbs, giving little bits at a time. If the questioner wants to know more, I will drop a few more morsels and reevaluate the direction of the conversation. If I feel its going down a path I don’t want it to, I will break up the conversation with a joke and force the conversation elsewhere. The last thing you want to do is come off as the pessimistic angry vegan who hates everyone. Be a happy, healthy, knowledgeable vegan in the group and others will leave with a positive association. The road to veganism is one of many steps. Be the first of many.
10) You Pee… A Lot
Vegan diets are often higher in water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. More water means more urine. More urine means getting up in the middle of the night. Every night. It sucks. I mean, it’s good. Water is good. Staying hydrated is good. But it also sucks.
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