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After two years, I have decided to no longer call myself vegan.
During these two years, not only have I had to battle with my own morals on the subject of factory farming, but I have also had to have incredibly awkward conversations with waitstaff who are just trying to do their job, and don't get paid nearly enough to clearly know every ingredient on the menu (especially when it's unclear like isinglass or gelatin).
Not to mention all the times I've been bombarded with questions like, "Where I do you get your protein?" I've been made to justify myself at every turn and made to feel bad for not following my own rules to the letter.
First of all, fuck anyone who has made anyone else feel bad for eating. Like seriously, we all have to do it everyday and life is far too short to care about what goes in someone else's mouth (same goes for sexuality—if it doesn't affect you, shut the fuck up about it)
Secondly, I can't speak for all of us, but the vast majority of people I have come into contact with (even those who I think are complete tit stains) are trying to live a good life. Unless provoked, no one I have met has gone out of their way to hurt anyone or anything.
So with that in mind, can we stop attacking each other?
Some people will eat meat, some people will kill an animal to do so. Some people will sit through an entire video of atrocities that go on in abertiose and all they will take away from it is that they crave steak.
There is no world—without totalitarianism—that will be 100% meat free.
Now, if you are vegan I would like you to do me a huge favour: take a moment and really understand why you are doing this. What is your purpose?
Is it for your health? Awesome! How great do you feel? Isn't it great not to be tired all the time? How nice is it when your partner mentions how great you taste ;)
Is it for the environment? Does it make you feel good that you're lifestyle is beneficial for the planet?
Is it for the animals? How awesome is it that nothing dies for your meal?
Are you doing this for the right reasons?
Or is it cause you want to feel superior? Do you have misplaced anger? Do you want to feel part of a counter-culture? Do you just want to judge people? Is it to be trendy?
Not everyone wants to hear about your gym routine and certainly no one wants to be made to feel like they are personally responsible for the destruction of the planet. People really don't want to be blamed for the atrocities of factory farming. It's like blaming the average German for the Holocaust.
When I really thought about it, I couldn't be absolutely sure where I stood on the issue.
I mean, I've never really been one for exercise other than skating and I only started working out when I had a load of extra energy from going plant based.
I live in the UK & it's not super apparent the destruction agriculture has and I still maintain that I would kill an animal if I had to. If a bull was coming towards my family and I had a gun then without hesitation I would pull the trigger.
So let's go back to the beginning—I lied, I convinced two people in London that I was vegan in order to secure myself a room in an overpriced flat close to my work.
However there was a problem: I am a terrible liar.
I was so anxious about hiding something from people I was living so closely with that I had to do something. Should I come clean?
Of course not, I couldn't do that! I was in too deep, plus these are the kind of people who would do whatever they could to get me out of the flat if they knew I wasn't vegan.
No, instead I decided to do the only logical thing I could think of at the time.
I became a vegan…
Turns out it's really not that hard. There's no test you have to pass, you don't need to wear a uniform and there are alternatives for most things these days so it's not like I was giving up much. It wasn’t half as difficult as one would think.
As with any healthy decision, after a few weeks of paying more attention to food I started to notice changes. I realized how much better I felt, which I attributed to not eating stuff that’s been pumped with antibiotics to stop them from causing a plague. Even milk & cheese seem gross to me now, and pizza just looks like an uncomfortably long shit.
I started to get excited. This is amazing! I've got to tell everyone! I have all these vegan friends & I can talk for days, weeks, months about how great it is that we are part of this community!
After a while though, I got bored with the community. Like with any new discovery, being vegan eventually just became a new normal. There's more to life than just talking about some new vegan product that is coming out.
Also I came to understand that it's not as easy for others as it was for me. Some people will accept all facts and still not agree with my point of view, and, really, why should I expect them to? I'm all about free speech and all.
So I stopped talking about it. I'd indulge anyone who asked but I was no longer a “proud and loud vegan.” I would not mention it unless specifically asked (aside from when I was drunk). This is when I adopted the philosophy of not caring what anybody else puts in their mouths and avoiding any confrontation when it comes to food.
But then I had this question nagging at me.
What does it mean to be tagged a vegan? This label that defines a lifestyle and an ideology?
The only answer I could think of is that I was part of a cult. My own sense of superiority was turning me against everyone who opposed me, even in the most extreme cases—my own family.
What solidified my distaste for the community was of course, none other than Facebook vegans. After seeing a post on some piglets that were saved from a slaughterhouse I noticed the last line:
‘Anyone making bacon jokes will be banned.’
I really want to know what the jokes were. I can laugh at cannibalism jokes doesn't mean I agree with eating humans. It was this overly sensitive narrative that started to make me uncomfortable.
I could see that this kind of thing is just dividing people, it's not providing a decent balanced conversation & is just an echo chamber of people telling each other how great they are.
Being a jerk doesn’t convince anyone even if you’re a correct jerk.
Unfortunately I got sucked in and I engaged. (I had good intentions). I tried to play devil's advocate.
I still would like to understand and learn how to create a better world and don't feel that can be done by ignoring critics and people who think differently. I listen to the views of people who have any kinds of diets, and encourage people to think about what their food is, where it comes from and how it has been treated along the way.
I will never judge anybody for doing what they need to survive, and I feel negativity is only going to stick anybody in their own way, regardless how they morally feel about it.
I was engaging in a post about a landlord refusing vegan tenants, which apparently is discrimination. I naively asked how it was different to 'no smokers, no pets’ or 'creatives only.’ To me, it was a reasonable statement.
But then it happened
As I read each letter of the response comment, I could hear that whiney voice and suddenly realised why these people are so hated.
“Are you even vegan?”
A shudder travelled up my spine and right then there I decided: I am no longer vegan.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to go outside right now and bite the neck of a rabbit and drink it's blood, nor will I begin to start eating/drinking dairy.
Hell, I'll still feed my meat eating friends seitan and tell them it's beef.
But there is no way I will continue to associate myself with this community. I feel if it continues to house this pious, self-righteous attitude, it will do more to discourage people from what is supposed to be—a healthier, more compassionate way of living.
How can you preach a more wholesome, compassionate lifestyle with this kind of aggression?
If you are vegan and have got this far, thank you—being aware of criticism is a good thing. If you would like to help me make a difference then encourage convenience. Cook for your friends whenever you can without prefacing it with 'this is vegan,’ and if people like it, they will ask. Take people to vegan restaurants and talk about anything other than how bad meat eaters are, make it their new normal too. Be proud of what you're doing but be aware that not everyone shares your view.
How boring would it be of everyone thought the same?
Can we please ditch negativity, in favour of variety?