This article appeared in today’s Telegraph and I’m sure it encapsulates perfectly how most of the UK thinks about vegans. It also demonstrates beautifully all the hypocrisies, hyperbole and misguided assumptions which I’ve faced over the last year and been so frustrated by. So I thought I should share it with you along with a few of my own thoughts…
1. Her description of vegans as ‘skinny’, ‘hungry’, emaciated, starving, walking skeletons is just so far from what I’ve experienced it’s ridiculous! I don’t know many fat vegans that’s true – although my love of bagels smothered in peanut butter and jam is putting this to the test! – but the vast majority of all the vegans I’ve come across are the picture of health, really value and respect their bodies and are all really well-read and informed when it comes to nutrition and dietary needs. I for example, know far more about where I now get my potassium, zinc and magnesium from etc – before going vegan I thought these were just random squares from the periodic table, no idea they were related to leafy veg, avocados and chick peas!
2. Vegans are ‘joyless’ people – again this is just so untrue and unfair. It might make us feel better to tell ourselves that life without Dairy Milk, Domino’s Pizza and McDonalds is so depressingly austere and miserable that it would never be worth it. But in truth all the vegans I know love the fact they are vegan. They all say that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. It makes you feel good about the decisions you are taking (in relation to the environment, your health and certainly for the animal slaughter you are no longer responsible for). Far from being ‘joyless’ – I would describe the vegans I’ve come across as curious, independent, strong, positive and confident – you’ve got to be to take on something like veganism as it can be really tough in the face of adversity and judgement from friends, family, strangers and journalists such as Hannah Betts! All the vegans I know value life enormously, love nature and the environment and that’s exactly why they’re vegan!
3. Citing Bill Clinton as an example of someone who looks less healthy now than he did before he turned vegan is such a laughably ludicrous claim it shows how desperate Hannah is to discredit veganism and how badly she has failed! Look tot The China Study if you want to discuss data controlled medically approved research – The China Study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel. The authors conclude that people who eat a whole-food, plant-based/vegan avoiding all animal products, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates will escape, reduce or reverse the development of numerous diseases. They write that “eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy.”
Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and then stent surgery in 2010. His consulting physician has publicly said that Clinton’s conversion to veganism is the best possible diet for a healthy heart. He himself said a year after converting: “I’ve lost more than 20 pounds so far, aiming for about 30 before Chelsea’s wedding. And I have so much more energy now! I feel great.”
4. ” In a list that encompasses Ellen DeGeneres, Morrissey, Sinéad O’Connor, Moby, Joaquin Phoenix, Emeli Sandé , Tobey Maguire, Leona Lewis, Jessica Chastain and Alicia Silverstone, the phrase “hot, raw sex” does not immediately spring to mind.” Really?? Am I confused or are you talking about these people?
Yeah – I can barely look at them they’re so offensively unattractive….
5. “I became a vegetarian for precisely the macroeconomic/ecological reasons that Peta and its furry friends so admire” says Hannah. Then I’m afraid the only logical and rational end to that thought process is veganism. Dairy produce is just as inefficient and environmentally damaging as meat production. Fair enough to not want to go vegan – but please don’t be so hypocritical and ignorant as to claim that you are a strict vegetarian for reasons which would logically make you vegan if you really cared about those said reasons and then mock/discredit/alienate those people. It’s farcically illogical! I find it bizarre when people are vegetarian for environmental reasons or animal welfare reasons and not vegan (or at least admit that this would make more sense) because the dairy industry is possibly the cruellest, most wasteful and most damaging of all.
6. “…a diet confined to plants is an asceticism too far: denying the body, as it denies the life – social and otherwise; facilitating animal existence by curtailing human”. This is such skewed logic. ‘Confining’ your diet to plants does not curtail human existence in any way, shape or form – it prolongs life if anything! Again, we love the idea that vegans are emaciated, unhealthy, calcium deficient walking zombies – this is a complete myth! Do some research and discover for yourself!
7. “For vegans give up not only the obvious meat, fish, eggs and dairy. They are obliged to renounce: sugar (coloured with bone char), honey (the toil of bees – read my colleague Stevie Parle on how to cook with it), red foods (cochineal, made from insects), sweets, mousses, margarines, peanuts and crisps (gelatin, made from animal waste), soy cheeses (the milk protein casein), many breads (butter, whey), beer and wine (tropical fish bladders), even orange juice (often omega-3 enhanced) and the medicinal Bloody Mary (Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies)”. This is citing the most extreme aspects of veganism and is a blatant scaremongering tactic. There are plenty of vegan beers and wine, nearly all bread is vegan, masses of crisps are vegan, there are loads of vegan butter alternatives, loads of vegan cheese alternatives and plenty of vegan Orange Juice!
8. “veganism is profoundly boring – for oneself and others. Strictly speaking, vegans must also boycott leather, suede, fur, wool and silk”. Again – I don’t know any vegans who have found being vegan ‘profoundly boring’ – again the exact opposite is true in my experience. I have loved learning and experimenting with all the new ingredients, cuisines and foods I now cook with and eat. I eat a far more colourful, varied and tasty diet than I ever did before. I feel far more engaged with the world around me and it’s led me to live much more mindfully. Clothing really isn’t tricky – there are just fewer options (which I actually love as I hate shopping at the best of times!). But obviously this is a supply and demand issue – which is improving ever day as consumers become more aware of where and how what they’re buying got there and demand more ethical, fairtrade, cruelty free brands.
9. “…turning up to a dinner party at which one’s host has contrived to provide meatless fare and rejecting it on the grounds that it contains a thimbleful of chicken stock”. This again si the kind of social scenario that people love to imagine – but in reality just doesn’t happen. I don’t know any vegans who upon turning up to a dinner party where an effort has been made to provide them with a vegan mean would ever reject it if someone had accidentally added chicken stock. And I find the idea that we are being ‘difficult’ gets pretty boring too. I’m constantly apologising for being a ‘pesky vegan’ and I’m fully aware that people find it inconvenient… but any decent friend would surely be respectful of your choices and not feel ‘put out’ by it. Would you berate a Jewish friend coming to supper as you have to avoid ham, sausages, chorizo and pork chops? Would you berate a coeliac? And the idea that it’s a huge hassle to provide for a vegan.. seriously? pasta and passata…. baked potato and baked beans… cous cous and roast veg… any vegetable soup…. it really is NOT that hard to figure out I’m sorry…. it’s also a far cheaper option so if anything you should be everyone’s favourite dinner guest!
10. “..while many avoid the foie gras and veal crate extremes, a jar of honey, or a round of goat’s cheese, do not seem especially savage”. Grrr…. find me a vegan that describes a jar of honey as savage! This kind of journalism, whilst amusing and fun to read, is also so frustrating in it’s blatant perversion of any credible arguments. All it does is cement in the reader’s mind a totally inaccurate image of vegans and veganism and I think it’s actually quite irresponsible, shameful and saddening from someone who clearly knows better as she herself has been a strict vegetarian for 30 years for environmental reasons. Perhaps she knows that an honest account of veganism wouldn’t go down quite as well as a sirloin steak, the predictable unimaginative choice, with her readers so took the easy option. Am sure she’s right – ratings after all are ratings but it just seems such a waste of an opportunity to debunk some of the myths surrounding veganism and help inform people of the very real reasons why we should all be trying to cut down our animal products intake and increase our plant food intake.
11.”My own episodes of even non-fish consuming vegetarianism have also coincided with anaemia, vitamin B and D deficiency, inability to recover from illness, exhaustion and hair loss. “Trimmer” vegans may be, but the ability to bruise while resting my chin on my hand and the sight of hairballs around my flat did not immediately imply “fitter””. This is again utter rubbish and there are countless dieticians and nutritional experts who will refute this. If her hair was falling out then her diet was lacking in all kinds of vitamins most likely – all of which, other than Vitamin B12 which all vegans must take as a supplement, can be found in plentiful supply in a plant-based diet.
12. “..Evangelists are not renowned for being all fun and games, zealots seldom the coolest people in the room”. Seriously? We’re now lumping vegans in with ‘evangelists’ and ‘zealots’. At this point think we see what a ridiculously one-sided account of veganism this has been – with absolutely no interest in the underlying issues or growing realities of veganism. What a sham – a very funny and amusing one – but still a total sham! Sigh…
I suppose the frustration kicks in when people who really should know better continue to pedal this mythical stereotype, merely so they can reassure themselves that it would be the wrong decision and choices to make. Why not be more honest and say, you know what it probably does make sense to cut down if not totally exclude all animal products, but I just can’t be bothered, or I could never get my other half to sign up and I can’t be faffed to cook 2 meals, or I just love cheese too much, or I can’t face the social scrutiny and judgement that my mates will inevitably make. All of these are totally plausible reasons. But please don’t try and obscure the very real issues of animal cruelty, environmental damage and human disease which surround consuming animal products by turning people off with this ridiculous idea that living a vegan lifestyle is boring, joyless, unhealthy and pointless. Your not just abusing your own intelligence but you’re preventing people from having the courage and knowledge to make informed, good decisions.
There – rant over!