A tough choice to swallow

Image from belloshitty on Flickr.
Image from belloshitty on Flickr.

Are vegans allowed to ingest semen?

By Jacey Gibb, Assistant Editor

Sometime during the last few years, the number of friends I have who are vegetarian/vegan eclipsed the number of friends who aren’t. I’ve encountered a whole encyclopedia of reasons why people make the change: dietary restrictions, concerns about the sustainability of the current food pyramid, worries over ethical treatment of animals, or even as simple as their love interest of the week happens to not eat meat. Whatever the reason, a conversion to veganism involves the introduction of limitations to a person’s eating habits. And while some of these changes make very little impact on a person’s life (tofu not chicken, almond milk not cow milk, etc.), an often overlooked argument exists over whether or not the time-honoured tradition of ingesting semen comes into conflict with the animal-free lifestyle. And so it was that one of life’s great questions emerged: can vegans swallow?

Now, let’s take a moment to ask our good friend, the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, to help us out here. By definition, a vegan is “a person who does not eat or use animal products.” If we’re counting on the dictionary to help settle the debate—though it’s not necessarily a case-closing piece of evidence—we’re looking at an even stickier situation. I can already hear the rumblings of a “are humans animals” debate brewing, which isn’t a topic I’d like to get into right now (Side note: they totally are. Get off your hierarchal highchair, folks). In order to avoid the risk of diluting the debate with another issue, I chose to disregard the dictionary and go to the next best source: actual vegans.

Asking the question of whether vegans can swallow or not, to be brief, elicited a variety of responses. They ranged in seriousness, from thoughtful and attentive answers to simple quips like “But vegans don’t get laid.” Unfortunately, the more humorous the retort, the less useful it was in helping me to answer my question.

Journalistic difficulties aside, what was the general response that I received? Worth noting is that every non-vegan I surveyed declared that vegans are not allowed to swallow, if only on a technicality. All of the vegans I spoke to said the opposite, and that veganism isn’t a lifestyle based on technicalities, but one based on ethics.

“I don’t know how anyone could think that,” one vegan responded, frustrated when I told him that most people think vegans can’t swallow. “I’ve heard people bring it up before as a ‘fuck you’ in a conversation. Veganism isn’t about following a strict definition; it’s about following the mold behind it. If you boil anything down to the definition, you’re not doing it for the right reason.”

One vegetarian I spoke to was strongly in favour of vegans being allowed to swallow, based on the absence of any harm being done to animals. “My issue’s with animals being abused. The animal’s not being abused; it’s actually pretty happy.”

Even Makayla Cox, a vegetarian adult-film star from Vancouver who’s flirting with the idea of switching to veganism, supported a vegan’s right to swallow—though she’d never thought about how the transition might affect someone in her field of work. As far as Cox knew, it had never been an issue. “I know some girls don’t, but that might be a comfort thing. In porn, they can’t tell you what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. I guess it might cost you a job or two though.”

After interviewing everyone from porn stars to my own mother, I’ve come to the conclusion that the topic is both more complicated than I initially thought, but also a lot simpler. The ethos behind veganism isn’t that you’re avoiding animal products at all costs; it’s about pursuing a more ethical lifestyle, which includes ethical treatment of animals.

If you’re a vegan looking for a definitive answer to this question, ask yourself: is the guy being subjected to unethical treatment or some kind of abuse prior to the situation? If not, then you should feel free to consume as much protein shake as you please.