5 Things Non-Vegans say about Vegans
Eating 90% vegan for almost a year and having been vegetarian for about 5 years, I came across a lot of people who gave me their opinions about vegans. It often felt like non-vegans have a bigger need to talk about veganism than vegans, which is irritating at first glance.
There is an explanation though: Non-vegans have an urge to talk about veganism because they know deep inside that eating meat and dairy under today’s circumstances comes with issues. They just haven’t found the time and energy to address those issues. So if they talk about why veganism is not good, it’s usually about finding excuses for their own behaviour.
Stop excuses and trust the facts
Here’s my top 5 of opinions I got confronted with in conversations with non-vegan friends, colleagues and family members. I’d also like to provide my own view as well as underlying facts and information to assess the validity of each opinion.
1. Veganism is just a trend
“Lot’s of people are vegan because it’s cool right now and not because they do it for reasons. It’s like a year ago when gluten-free was a thing. I don’t have to follow every trend.”
– a friend
I guess this is a prejudice a lot of young people face because young people have the image to follow trends rather than forming their own opinion. This might also be the reason why many people of older generations don’t take students from the Fridays for Future movement seriously.
But back to veganism. The reason why I bring up Fridays for Future is that reducing the consumption of meat and dairy products is one of the most effective ways to reduce CO2 emissions and thus to slow down global warming. 20-30% of EU’s greenhouse gas emissions resulted from the production, provision and consumption of food, while 70% of those are linked to meat and dairy products.
Globally, livestock activities contribute around 18% to total greenhouse gas emissions. A newer study looked more closely at the byproducts of livestock such as methane, land use and respiration and came to the conclusion that livestock accounts for at least 51% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
To put this in context: The whole transportation sector causes 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, the five biggest meat and dairy factories emitted 578 million tons CO2 equivalents, which is more than those produced by the UK or by oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.
As long as we face global warming, vegan diet will continue to gain importance the more emissions we produce.
2. Vegans are inconsistent
“Once a vegan friend ordered a vegan dish in a restaurant. When the waiter said that it is cooked in the same pan as meat dishes, he didn’t have a problem. Some people just say they’re vegan because it makes them feel important.”
– an acquaintance
This one is closely linked to the previous one and results from non-vegans’ opinion that vegans are vegan out of belief or for social reasons such as admiration, acceptance and credibility. Others might think they are vegan because of taste or disgust.
But all vegans I know (including myself) chose to be vegan because of the environmental impact and unethical practices factory farming involves (see point 1 and 3). So eating something that was cooked together with meat or even tastes like meat might not be ideal for vegans, but it still doesn’t harm their principles.
3. Humans have always eaten meat
“Already Neanderthal men ate meat. It’s part of the human diet and helped us to develop.”
– a colleague
For most of us eating meat became so normal that we forgot that it used to be something special. Something for celebrations, Sunday roast and special occasions. Everyone only got a tiny portion because it was precious. My grandparents who had a farm knew how long it took for the animal to grow up and how much effort it was to keep it healthy.
Today we completely lost the connection to the animals we’re consuming. Combined with the price competition in the factory farming industry, meat and the animal it comes from has reached little to no value. The more we got used to eating meat every day, the more meat we demanded, and the more the industry produced. It’s a vicious circle powered by our demand of cheap mass-produced meat.
Animals in factory farming don’t have enough space, can’t move and are standing on their own excrements the whole day while being grown fat in a short amount of time. They suffer from emotional stress, injuries and inflammation in their bodies and – to make it worse – get pumped up with antibiotics to stay alive until they’re killed after a short life.
Besides this being a terrible practice – just imagine for one second you were a chicken in a factory farm – all of it, the stress hormones, the inflammation and resistant germs as a result of antibiotics end up in the products we’re consuming. This is not healthy. Neither for the animals in the first place, nor for us who eat their flesh.
Yes, meat and dairy have been part of humans’ diet for several centuries. Factory farming, however, is a modern phenomena that has nothing to do with how meat and dairy used to be produced and consumed in the old days.
4. Eating vegan is not natural
“I prefer to eat meat from an organic farm rather than some processed substitute with a lot of unnatural ingredients and supplements. Eco-systems need animals as they need plants to develop and sustain.”
– a colleague
This opinion is clearly influenced by the green lanes with grassing cows printed on every milk package. Buying meat from a local farm where one can assess ecological standards is a valid option. But most people buy food in grocery stores where 98% of meat comes from factory farming.
The only difference organic meat and dairy makes is that the animals are fed with food that is not gene-modified or contaminated with pesticides. When it comes to the treatment of animals – including space per animal, fresh air, sunlight and hygiene – organic farms don’t meet the needs of the animals.
5. Vegan diet lacks important vitamins and minerals
“Meat and dairy are important for your health. You will face deficiency symptoms if you’re eating vegan without supplements for several years.”
– my dad
This one is connected to opinion 3 and as all opinions here, it’s understandable. Humans are creatures of habit. And since eating meat and dairy in masses became the new norm as described above, changing diet will always involve fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Luckily fear, uncertainty and doubt can be addressed with research, which shows that this opinion lacks information about nutrition and food processing of the human body.
If you start digging into it, you will learn that having a balanced diet that provides all necessary vitamins and minerals doesn’t need meat and dairy products.
In fact, meat and dairy products can even harm your health. One reason is that you’re consuming byproducts like saturates and cholesterol that can lead to heart disease and other illnesses.
We also consume more than our body needs. For instance, 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant because our adult bodies are not prepared to keep drinking milk like a baby.
Another reason is the way how animals are treated in factory farming (see point 3). Not only comes meat and dairy from factory farming with byproducts like resistant germs and hormones, they also may lack the minerals and vitamins non-vegans refer to when they say vegan diet is not sufficient.
Meat gets its nutrients through the food animals eat. In factory farming, animals get to eat the same concentrated feed every day, most of it being gene-modified and contaminated with pesticides. It’s also a common practice to mix vitamin B12 into the feed, because pigs and chickens can’t produce it on their own.
Furthermore, the risk for a lack of vitamins and minerals is not exclusive to vegans, but affects everyone. In fact, vegans often have a healthier diet than non-vegans, because they make more conscious decisions about their food and help out with supplements where needed.
Hold your opinions loosely
As my role modal Erika Hall used to say: Strong options, loosely held.
It’s great if everyone has opinions and doesn’t fear debates about such personal and controversial topics like food. But please don’t hold them too tight because they keep your ears shut to new perspectives and insights.
Since statistics and research are mainly published by country and Germany is one of the big players in factory farming, most references in this post origin from German sites and thus come in German language.
Besides the sources linked in the paragraphs above, these are some online resources I recommend:
Vegan ist ungesund – YouTube channel about veganism, incl. information, recipes and product reviews (German only).
- Die Zerstörung der Tierindustrie by Brian Kraus a.k.a. Ungechillt – Video with lots of facts and linked resources on the current state of factory farming in Germany (German only). Most of the sources in my post come from this video.