It’s not giving up cheese.
You probably love dogs. Or maybe it’s cats. Even if you don’t particularly like them I bet you think people shouldn’t hurt them for their own enjoyment. You’ve probably heard stories about people doing this and felt shock and outrage.
Now imagine you wake up tomorrow, feeling the same way about dogs and cats as you do now. Only the way the rest of the world views them has changed. You now live in a world where:
- everyone you know eats dogs and cats
- they eat them in front of you and discuss how much they enjoy eating them
- whenever you go on a road trip you see dogs and cats being farmed for meat and dog or cat dairy products, or being transported to the slaughterhouse
- the characters in your favourite tv shows all eat dogs and cats
- the ads during the shows promote eating dogs and cats
- some of your favourite restaurants only sell food with parts of dead dogs and cats in it
- people sometimes mock or tease you for not eating dogs or cats
This is the world vegans live in, only instead of dogs and cats the animals we see everyone exploiting are chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, fishes, etc.
Becoming vegan is like waking up to a world where everyone, including people we know to be kind, caring, and intelligent cause these animals to be treated in appalling ways purely because it is normal. It is the water we are all swimming in, and most people will never be challenged to try to pop their head above the surface.
Some of us try to change that, to give people a glimpse of what is happening, and while some join us, this will also bring further derision our way. Most people want us to pretend it is not happening and, if we must be vegan, be content to let everyone else keep swimming in the water of animal oppression.
This is the hardest part about being vegan. It’s not changing our food. I barely changed my eating habits at all; I ate pasta, curries, salads, pizzas, burritos, burgers, and stews before and I still do. A few of the ingredients are a bit different but the flavour profile and experience is essentially the same. It might be more of an adjustment for people who are used the eating ‘meat and three veg’ type meals but, come on, they should be updating that for their enjoyment let alone because of the evils of animal agriculture.
It’s living in a world absolutely drenched in animal oppression. Where it’s so normalised it’s often unnoticed. Where even as a vegan you cannot avoid having to take medications that have unnecessary animal ingredients or using money made with animal-derived ingredients. It’s sometimes not being invited to things because people don’t understand how easy it would be to feed you, or being invited and having to watch everyone gleefully part in a mass atrocity. It’s people who used to go to McDonald’s with you suddenly playing the part of a nutrition expert and asking where you get your protein.