A number of months ago, when I wrote a post about how overwhelming it is to attempt veganism and to avoid foods now known to be problematic (i.e, all stuff with high fructose corn syrup) one of my friends commented (privately, I believe), that I should be careful, or I'd end up an alien in my own world. (I was proposing giving up ALL products with high fructose corn syrup, all peanut butter and all products with GMO ingredients, AND being vegan and buying exclusively organic.) At the time, I thought that comment was a bit dramatic, but now I'm not so sure. He may be right; trying to do all these things will box me into a lonely, limited corner. I suspect it's a huge reason why more people don't attempt veganism, or at least don't attempt it consistently.
The ONLY vegans I know are you guys here on the internet. I have no "real-life" vegan friends. I find myself frequently in situations where I have to make non-vegan choices. For instance, when shopping for sports equipment for my kids, I'm constantly confronted with leather. Should I not let them play? That choice seems ridiculous. Should I just search higher and lower for the elusive non-leather baseball and soccer stuff? I've tried the latter and had mixed results, both in terms of quality of items and in terms of ease of finding them. One kid ended up with leather shoes because, after going to four stores, nobody had a non-leather baseball shoe in his size. Maybe there's actually a hidden group of vegan parents of baseball players buying out all the shoes for 10-year-old boys. I dunno. I certainly haven't met them. I suspect there's just a lot of 10-year-old boys playing baseball. :)
The latest alienating -- literally -- experience is the struggle I'm having over WHY to be vegan, and to what extent. The most vocal (and academic) vegans emphasize that there is no sufficient reason to justify continuing disparate treatment of non-human animals (Thank you, Tim, for your words). We don't *need* to eat them; we can get what we need from non-animal foods. Despite that we know they suffer pain and know they're alive, we continue, as a society to treat them as objects -- as if they existed purely for us (for food, for clothing and for entertainment). We know that over centuries we've bred them such that they meet OUR needs but would not exist in nature as they are (many domesticated animals no longer know how to breed and suffer horrible physical oddities because, for instance, we've raised them to have more meat than they "should" have or to produce more milk than they would need to have for their own young).
Despite the vast evidence -- philosophical, scientific and logical -- that one can present for WHY animals should no longer be treated as they have been, most people find it "extreme" to suggest that the reason to eat a plant-based diet is NOT just for us (it's better for the environment and our health), but that it is better AND MORE ETHICAL for the ANIMALS. As soon as I even suggest that I'm starting to think that way, I feel as if my friend's warning has come to pass -- I'm an alien in my own world. I'm an extremist and a weirdo.
The pull of cultural and religious and social norms is amazingly strong and those are the only arguments, really, that people can use to justify their continuing to eat meat and dairy. And those norms are, as all cultural and religious and social norms are, relative -- they are not simply "right" or "wrong" but instead are what we are used to.
And the more I think about WHY people do what they do, the more I think -- even as a sociologist -- that simply doing what we're used to doing is not a sufficient reason to continue to do so.
But I still feel like an alien.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.