Vegans should be more understanding that not everyone can become vegan
By Alexis Zygan, Staff Writer
For folks who struggle with eating disorders, the heavy restrictions of a vegan diet can also result in triggering their disordered eating.
Aligning actions with core values and passion is vital when persuading someone to change their lifestyle. Militant vegans take their passion for activism to the extreme with aggressive tactics that negatively depict the community and disregard that veganism is not feasible for everyone. An example of a militant vegan is an activist who dogmatically preaches their attitude on why eating animal byproducts is heinous. I have been vegan for five years and believe that militant veganism does more harm than good for the vegan movement.
Although most militant vegans assume that their aggressive tactics encourage people to eliminate animal byproducts from their diet for good, food is integral to lifestyle choices, everyday routines, and is closely tied to cultural practices and religious beliefs. Some of which involve entirely cutting out meat from their diet, such as in Jain Dharma, while in many Indigenous cultures, hunting deer meat has been a staple of their diet for centuries. Not to mention how allergies to tree nuts make switching to a vegan diet difficult when receiving all necessary nutrients for health. For folks who struggle with eating disorders, the heavy restrictions of a vegan diet can also result in triggering their disordered eating.
My introduction to a meat-free lifestyle was through a community of people who mainly ate vegetarian because they found it was cheaper and ethical, unlike factory farming. The Smiths introduced me to the idea of meat as murder, and I never went back since, even after taunts about not getting enough protein or iron. I effortlessly transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism as I do not have any allergies, never enjoyed cow milk, and have access to vegan alternatives for cheese. Since I live in the city, veganism became an ethical and easy option which aligned with my values.
When militant vegans from the activist group Anonymous for the Voiceless stand in front of SkyTrain stations with a flat-screen television showcasing gruesome imagery of factory farming from the documentary Earthlings, passersby tend to avert their gaze. The graphic and bloody depictions of animal abuse inside these farms are hard to look at, even after you have cut out meat for five years.
During my transition to veganism, I never went out of my way to watch documentaries such as Earthlings that depict the torturous practices of factory farming, rodeos, and puppy mills. Earthlings is worth watching but is hard to stomach, especially for those who grew up eating meat because of their culture or family practices.
Most children do not have the autonomy to determine family meals. I grew up eating meat and attended a Rodeo while visiting family in Texas. I refuse to look back on these decisions with guilt; I made the best choice based on the information I knew at that moment.
Some studies showcase evidence that eating too much red meat and dairy foods is bad for the planet and health. But the expectation from militant vegans for all people to restrict meat from their diet is unrealistic. Instead, advocacy groups should be focusing on encouraging folks to take on the challenge of Meatless Mondays. One day without meat is a step in the right direction. Therefore, resources on food-related lifestyle changes help the masses make an informed decision about whether vegetarianism or veganism fits best with their cultural and religious practices without harming the complex relationship they have with their bodies. Tellingly, most companies advertise their products as plant based as it has a better image associated with it versus the vegan movement. In other words, militant veganism should step back and reassess as their tactics are not helping anyone.