How to answer the stupid questions your’e asked a vegan

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It is January, and many of you vegetarians and perhaps some meat eaters too, will take the leap and try to go vegan, giving up all animal products for a month. Perhaps you’ll do it for health reasons, or in an attempt to shift a few of those Christmas pounds, or following a New Year’s resolution to try to live more consciously. Either way, as a vegan I can tell you from experience that you’ll need to be prepared for the barrage of stupid things people will probably say to you every time you sit down for a peaceful lunch and try to dig into your falafel wrap.

“Doesn’t a vegan diet make you unhealthy and weak?”

No, I am very healthy, thank you very much. I ran a marathon a few months ago. Vegans typically have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower body mass indexes, a lower risk of death from heart disease, and lower overall cancer rates than meat eaters. The Mayo Clinic in the US recently reported that a plant-based diet could add four years to your life.

In fact, leading athletes, including weightlifters, sprinters, ultra-marathon runners and boxers, are vegan. Venus and Serena Williams adopted a plant-based diet in 2012. Since then, Serena has won the US Open three times. Scott Jurek, widely regarded as the greatest ultra-runner of all time, eats vegan. The only US male weightlifter to qualify for last summer’s Olympic Games, Kendrick Farris is – guess what – a vegan.

But where do you get your protein?”

The same places that cows, gorillas and elephants get theirs – and have you seen the size of an elephant? I am fine. Go worry about something serious like, say, global warming.

Which brings me neatly to the next stupid question…

“It’s a shame you don’t care about humans as much as you care about animals.”

Veganism is kind to humans because animal agriculture is the most destructive industry on the planet. The meat industry emits more greenhouse gases than all transportation in the world combined. A vegan diet will cut your carbon footprint by 50 per cent. The livestock industry also diverts grain from the mouths of the planet’s one billion starving people. Of those countries experiencing famine, 82 per cent use vast proportions of their grain to feed cows and pigs that will be eaten in Britain and other first-world countries. But hey, seeing as you raised the issue, let’s have a look at all the Nobel Peace Prizes you’ve won for your human rights work.

“It’s normal to eat meat, we’ve always done it.”

Meat-eating has indeed been going on a long time. So have lots of other crimes against humanity. Does their longevity legitimise them?

“Animals can’t feel pain.”

Many animals have nervous systems very similar to our own; when they are harmed, their bodies react much like our own would. They scream, writhe and try to escape. That’s why abattoirs invest so much money in horrific machinery to stop animals destined for slaughter from fleeing.

“Wasn’t Hitler a vegetarian?”

That’s a myth, but seeing as you feel we can extrapolate from information about historical vegetarians, it’s worth saying that Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, Voltaire, Einstein and Gandhi were veggies too.

“Plants feel pain, too.”

Plants have no central nervous systems, nerve endings or brains (much like people who say plants feel pain).

“I make sure I only eat meat from humane sources”

Countless apparently “humane” producers have been exposed as hideously cruel ventures, merely playing to consumers’ vanity. For instance, Hillside Animal Sanctuary investigated farms that sign up to the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme and reportedly discovered worrying conditions. Also, you make sure? You perform spot-checks at the farms that your meat comes from? You ask for objective evidence when you eat at friends’ houses and restaurants? Really? Or are you telling – no pun intended – porkies?

“I understand vegetarianism, but why be vegan?”

Many reasons, the biggest one is that dairy is scary.

“Are you still vegan?”

Yes. And I see that you are still passive-aggressive.

“What would happen to animals if we all stopped eating meat?”

In the short term, animals being kept for meat and dairy could be rehomed or moved to sanctuaries. In the longer term, we would no longer bring innocent individual creatures into this world merely to enslave and then kill them.

“Isn’t it boring being a vegan?”

Well, sometimes.

“Mmmm, bacon!”

It’s good you think pigs are special, because they are: they’re smarter than cats and dogs, capable of solving problems, learning words and phrases, and playing computer games. But did you know that clipping piglets’ teeth and cutting off their tails without pain relief is standard practice in the meat industry, and that many male piglets are castrated without anaesthetic? Piglets who grow too slowly are killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors. This standard industry practice is called “thumping”.

Mmmm, bacon indeed.

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