The first in a series exploring why vegans don’t eat animals
At barbeques, family dinners, and other social events where I’m the only vegan, someone usually asks me what it is exactly that I’m eating. Often it’s the soy-based version of whatever everyone else is having—like veggie burgers, tofu dogs or (for Thanksgiving) the obligatory Tofurky Roast. Much more interesting than my unconventional meals, however, is the range of reactions people typically have to them.
At one end of the scale are those who ask what I’m eating because they’re genuinely curious—and perhaps even eager (or at least willing) to sample some. Then there are those who skeptically ask “What is that?” and then respond to my answer by exclaiming “That looks really good!” while scrunching their nose up as if they’d just smelled a fresh turd. And finally we come to those rare outspoken individuals (like my brothers, for instance) who just bluntly proclaim that my food seems really gross.
While I appreciate such culinary critics’ audacious honesty, with all due respect I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve thoroughly thought this thing through. I mean, meat is essentially made from the corpses of creatures who were once (like us humans) composed of blood, bones, brains, veins, tendons, intestines, and various pumping organs. The main ingredient in milk products, meanwhile, is the reproductive secretions lactated by female cows or goats who have recently given birth, and eggs are essentially unfertilized chicken embryos. With that in mind, don’t some steaming vegan sausage links smothered in Dijon mustard and sauerkraut sound comparatively appetizing?
In addition to such aesthetic objections, there’s also the matter of all the extra crap that’s in meat, dairy and eggs. I use that mild expletive quite literally here, because animal products (especially those from factory farms) are commonly contaminated with fecal matter—the primary source of dangerous bacterial pathogens like E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella, which jointly kill dozens and hospitalize thousands of people in the U.S. every year. Meat and other animal products also contain the residues of various antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and other unsavory chemical compounds routinely used in massive quantities on factory farms.
OK, I know that people’s assertions about the alleged grodiness of vegan animal food substitutes do not refer to their contents, but rather how such products taste to them. However, I wonder whether their dismissive stance could be based on that one time years ago when they took a bite of some undercooked tofu and immediately wanted to spit it out, having assumed ever since that all vegan meat alternatives must be just as awful. If so, I hope the next person who asks me what I’m eating will accept my offer to share—because this time they may be pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s actually edible after all.