In the last few years there’s been a rise in the amount of vegans in the UK.  Veganism is no longer a thing that only a few individuals do, it’s a lifestyle that many are adopting for reasons such as health and animal welfare.  But are vegans simply people who don’t eat meat?  Or is there a darker side to this lifestyle choice?

Last Wednesday a program aired in the UK focussing on veganism.  Dispatches: The Truth About Vegans delved into the world of vegans and tried to understand this rising trend.  The program began with some positives, vegans explained the benefits of the diet for health and how good it made them feel.  Other’s spoke of the importance of animal welfare, and how veganism is helping to save animals which many see as equals to humans.  But this positive message was short-lived, and after only a few minutes the program made a sharp turn, and began investigating the horrors which some vegans are involved in.

Vegan extremism

We were shown a world of animal activists, how many vegans are campaigners, going on marches and even protesting outside farms and businesses that are involved in the meat industry.  There was a clear message that some vegans are prepared to go so far as to break the law and can be intimidating people with little care for fellow humans.  The program showed a farmer who had apparently been harassed by vegan campaigners and even had his farm broken into as a result. 

At the end of the program we were left with a clear message, that although not all vegans are like this, there are many – a growing number – who are more than willing to do whatever it takes to support their cause.  After watching the program I didn’t know what to think.  Dispatches is usually a very fair and interesting program that delves into the truth behind certain companies and shows the reality of what is happening in our world, but after watching this program, I don’t know if I’ll watch another in the series, this show left a sour taste in my mouth.

The real truth about vegans

The reason I watched the program to begin with is that I myself am a vegetarian, in fact, apart from a little milk in my tea, the rest of my diet is completely vegan.  I don’t eat meat, eggs, honey or even vinegar, and I do it for my own reasons.  I’ve been a vegetarian since a very young age, and primarily do it now for animal welfare reasons.  Yes, I’m one of the vegetarians/vegans who believes that animals are sentient beings and that they shouldn’t be eaten.  I’m one of those people who want equality for animals, an end to the meat industry, an end to animal cruelty and I believe all animals deserve to live…So, by the standards set out in the program, I’m a vegan extremist and should be protesting and going on marches and ramming the message of pro-veganism down people’s throats…Except I’m not.

The truth is that many vegans, in fact most vegans out there are people who just don’t want to eat meat.  The majority of vegans out there today are just normal everyday people who just happen to omit certain foodstuffs out of their diet.  Vegetarianism and veganism is a lifestyle choice, and many do believe in animal welfare, but a growing number of vegans out there just do it for health reasons.

For those that do want to save the animals, to put an end to the meat industry, we do want to bring awareness to people about what goes on and why they should stop eating meat, but I’m not an idiot, I know I can’t change everyone’s opinion overnight and going the extreme route, protesting at farms, breaking into private property is not going to solve anything.  Campaigning outside of fast food restaurants won’t stop the meat industry.  You have to stop the demand for meat, not just attack those that supply it.  If anything, extreme campaigning will lead to people turning the opposite way.  Imagine trying to convince a child to give up sweets, or an adult to give up a favourite food.  Are you going to be successful by yelling at them and bullying them, or are you more likely to be able to stop them if you talk to them, show them valid reasons why they might want to stop.

Stop the stereotype

With the rise in veganism there has clearly been a rise in the stereotype.  Vegans having strange hair cuts and strange hair colours.  Vegans wearing alternative clothes, living in tents, hugging trees…The UK has traditionally looked at vegetarians and vegans as strange.  When someone who visits me knows I’m vegetarian they believe they can’t eat any of my food because I don’t present them with meat.  They also don’t know what to feed me when I visit their houses.

The stereotype of being a vegan is that you are somehow weird, crazy or just overly extreme.  But most people are not this way, and the world needs to stop stereotyping people for what they eat or how they feel about animals.  Would I want a world that is purely vegan?  Yes.  Do I believe animals are equal to people?  Yes.  But does that make me weird or crazy?  No.  It’s my opinion based on my interactions with people, animals and this world.  And I shouldn’t have to defend it, justify it, or have it ridiculed, just because I choose to live this way.

Vegans are normal people.  Extreme activists are extreme activists.  Most vegans have a more pacifist nature.  Don’t lump the two in the same group.  We’re all entitled to live the way we want.  And for me, being a vegetarian or a vegan is as normal as the sky being blue.

What do you think about veganism or vegans?  Do you have a different view?  How do you feel about stereotypes?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂