12 January 2011

A Vegan No'Mo

Note: "Voracious Vegan (www.voraciousvegan.com) became "Voracious Eats". It seems Tasha has taken down the blog completely. Probably due to angry vegan a-holes who are "attacking her", i.e., pointing out the massive holes in her argument.

This is old news, but I realized I never "published" my response to the whole debacle.

Tasha was a favorite blogger of mine...until this post. The problem is not even that she is no longer vegan for health reasons; that's personal. It's that she goes from being a "vegangelical" to a person espousing such anti-vegan rhetoric that it is jarring. Not only that, but many of her points are...just wrong. It really does read like someone taking a few pages out of The Vegetarian Myth. When study after study (The China Study, the World Health Organization study, the thousands of people who have been healed by a vegan diet) show the health benefits, it is incredibly irresponsible to attempt to disprove the positive effects of it based on personal anecdotes.

However, what I am interested in is her complete 180 of ethical beliefs. So Tasha was a 'vegangelical'; veganism was her life. She fully identified with it. Had a blog about it. Convinced other people to go vegan. It was no doubt incredibly disheartening and embarrassing to be told you "had" to eat meat. So what do you to?

You find shoddy examples to tear apart your entire argument so you think you have another foundation to stand on. She considered meat-eaters cruel and lacking in compassion, but there is no way she could be those things. Thus, her definition of what is cruel and uncompassionate had to change or be manipulated in order to retain that sense of superiority. She states: "But I will no longer think anyone is a bad person or a failure if food justice isn’t at the forefront of their agenda." So only now she decides this, because, again, she can't be a that bad person she often spoke about.

Welcome to the danger zone . . . of idealogues. Of people who use social movements as religion.Of people who use subcultures as an identity or a cover for low self-esteem and other personal issues.

I thought about what I would do in that situation. Or how I would feel if my partner were forced to eat meat under the circumstances. I realized I would probably cry through my meal, accept that this is what I had to do to survive, and eat the smallest amount possible. Why? Because a change in dietary needs does not mean all the ethical arguments for veganism are thrown out the window.

". . . Again, not true. As a vegan I will be the first to admit that I was dogmatic and extremely rigid in my beliefs. But this journey has cracked my shell and I simply cannot see the world that way anymore." Agh! She does not realize she is seeing the world exactly the same way before except from a different view. There is no real change in the way she views the world.
It's like a religious experience, replete with the hateful vegan God and it's evangelical evil mini-vegan followers.

"I can try my best to eat local and organic, but I’m not going to stop myself from buying imported, non-organic food if I want it. My decisions on what to buy at the store are not going to transform the world. Like I said: consumer activism is not the answer." This is from someone who claims she is getting a Ph.D. in Women Studies and Global Affairs or Consumerism. Unfortunately, her blog is no longer active so I cannot confirm exactly what she said she was studying. That quote, though, brings up one of the saddest mistakes that people make: Don't do anything because it won't do anything.

I feel this notion is due to the fact that we uphold social movement leaders to such high standards that they seem inaccessible to the average citizen. Culture often forgets that people are people (why should it be?), regardless of what they accomplish. Ghandi did not develop satyagraha straight out of the womb. He was a lawyer in England. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not decide one day he was going to change racial relations in the United States. He read Satyagraha and felt compelled, because he realized it only take a few people to start something. Cesar Chavez (who was totally vegan, because he understood the connection between human rights and the food production system) was a migrant farm worker without much education. Malcolm X spent his early adult life as a criminal and only became active after a stay in prison. Earlier activists? Emma Goldman came the U.S. from Russia with no money and no knowledge of anarchism. Margaret Sanger was arrested on a regular basis just to be able to give women the chance at having some sovereignty over their reproductive systems. Sojourner Truth was an ex-slave who could not read.

Movements need time to gain momentum. We are spoiled in many ways, because we were not around all the social turmoil of the past. We did not have to experience the development of child labor laws or be forced to eat at designated racial counters. Thus we see activism and social change as just a small portion of history - usually post-Civil War and mid-20th century. But, seriously people, you think Corporations just handed us an 8-hour work day? You can thank anarchists, socialists, and labor union leaders for that one.

All these "amazing people" are still normal people with many flaws who, in many ways, were far more disenfranchised than we are and who at many points did not do "anything" because it looked like no change could or would occur or they felt they lacked the resources.

Occasionally I also wonder if we hold these people up to such high pedestals in order to excuse ourselves from taking any form of action. We're not like them. We could never do these things. It is hard to explain to people that not only are we like them, but we have far more amazing resources than they did. Despite these resources, it still takes time, effort, and dedication. As we can tell by the fight for marriage equality, it can be tiresome and long. Does not mean it is not worth it.

Also, although consumer activism is not THE answer, it is part of the answer. We live in a (pretend) Capitalist society and the system is not going to be overthrown anytime soon. However, regardless of whether or not you feel it is ethical or moral to eat meat, we do have a moral obligation not to support destructive industries. I don't say no to things things I am morally opposed to, because it makes me feel like I am "better" than others. I do it because, to put it bluntly, I care. As I have mentioned before, I still feel like one needs to remain unidentified and humble in the face of their choices. I am not special because I am doing something I feel is right. It is also naive and unproductive to claim one thing is ever the answer. Of course veganism does not solve world hunger...but doing nothing doesn't exactly do much to promote a more egalitarian society either.
Vegan, R.D. does an amazing job with tearing down just about all her health arguments. That will not go viral though. Stories of patronizing vegans (as if omnivores are never rude or patronizing) and vegans who *gasp* secretly eat meat are what the public wants.

If you're going to be an ex-vegan, that's great, but don't attempt to use faulty arguments to prove a point that doesn't exist as a way of belittling the choices of the people who do or can.

That said, it takes a lot of balls to come out with it in public so I salute her on that. Either way, this is one blogger I can take off my Reader list.