Written by Lena DiFulvio
Being a vegan for three years now, I’ve heard my fair share of myths, rumors, and rebuttals. I usually find it best to confront these discussions with a sense of humor, but it also helps to have a few solid arguments ready in your back pocket for when the crowd demands answers. What follows are some of the most common arguments I’ve heard against veganism and how I usually respond to them (albeit sometimes in my head). Bon appetit!
The Protein Myth: Oh yes, we know this one well. Grandma sees you at the family function, pinches your cheeks, and inquires (loudly) about HOW YOU’RE SURE YOU’RE GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN?! Never fear, grandma, for there are many plant-based protein options, and this doesn’t just include beans and nuts (although we love them just the same). You can tell grandma, or any nosey family member, that you’re ingesting ample protein from foods like tofu, seitan, quinoa and other whole grains, and dark greens, to name a few. If you struggle with this being a ubiquitous issue, you might kindly point out to your loved one that you too are concerned for their diet–as red meat is, in fact, a Class 1 carcinogen according to the WHO. Protein deficiency is certainly a real issue, but so is overconsumption of protein. Listen to your body and nourish it. Veganism, after all, is not about being constantly hungry or sacrificing your health.
The Ancestors Myth: Now Uncle Fred is trying to be a high-class intellectual and argue that it is okay for us, as modern humans, to eat meat because our ancestors did. This is not to say that the development of our species doesn’t owe a great deal to meat intake, for it has been studied and shown how consuming meat allowed us to dedicate more energy to developing that beautiful human brain. However, this does not mean that we continue every tradition or practice that our evolutionary ancestors did. If we did, we would be publicly executing supposed criminals and conducting witch hunts. This being said, so much of the beauty in human history is centered around how we, as a species, have been able to grow and evolve–to change our practices to make a better world for ourselves and those we share it with. Thus, should we not take pride in the fact that we have found ways around ingesting sentient beings? Well, Uncle Fred, shouldn’t we?!
The “other animals do it so why can’t we” Myth: I really disdain the fact that this is even an argument, but since the door is open, let’s venture in, shall we? If I based my behavior off of that of non-human animals, then it would be acceptable for me to murder other members of my community for control, commit infanticide, and leave my excrement wherever I pleased. This is not to say there are not valuable and positive things we can learn from non-human animals, but instead that we must be rather choosy about the behaviors from which we model our own.
The Humane Slaughter Myth: Picture it: you are eating your favorite meal, sitting with your family and friends, and enjoying a lovely day. Out of nowhere, you are pulled from your seat and led to a back room, where you quickly realize your life is coming to an alarmingly fast halt. You lived a good life, didn’t you? You were, in fact, just moments ago dining with your favorite humans! None of that, however, would matter, since it would not be justified for someone to take your life regardless of how well you had lived before. Therefore, there is no humane way to kill a sentient being that simply does not want to die. You should, however, consider yourself lucky in this scenario, as very few of the animals we consume lead “good” lives before they are led to a most painful and gruesome death.
The Plants Have Feelings Myth: No. Absolutely not. Plants do not have a central nervous system, therefore they cannot feel pain. Even if they could, if our goal was to minimize suffering, then we should still all go vegan, since most of the plants grown are used to feed the animals we consume, not us directly.
Now, go forth and be free! Share your newfound toolkit with the world, or just with grandma and Uncle Fred–every conversation matters and each animal left off of our plates leads us to a more compassionate and sustainable reality.