By Jamie Lance, V Form
Veganism: The World Keeps Spinning Whether One Eats Meat or Not
Unfortunately, instead of speaking up about being vegan, I often feel the need to remain silent to avoid falling victim to stereotyping.
In the world we live in, cruel treatment of animals and unsustainable practices dictate both our present and our future. Deforestation is a legitimate problem with irrefutable effects. One and a half acres of trees are destroyed each second, resulting in a loss of biodiversity that contributes to vaccine research, greenhouse gas absorption, and oxygen production. If current rates continue, estimates indicate that no rainforests will be left by the year 2120.  Despite the significant effects of deforestation, a single factor drives the continuation of this practice: agriculture. The primary use of the cleared land is to create soybean farms, which are utilized in the production of a protein-rich food supplement for livestock kept in feedlots. 33% of all arable, or farmable, land is used for animal agriculture, an industry that is responsible for 20% of all greenhouse emissions. 98.5% of the global population who consume animal products are willing to benefit from cheaper meat, eggs, and dairy at the cost of the environment, their health, and the treatment of animals.  An easy fix to these dire problems would be to cut animal products from one’s diet. Although the data supporting veganism is undeniable and indisputable, the negative connotation that it has been associated with has created a lack of pride in the lifestyle choice.
Being uncomfortable with things that are different is not uncommon. People easily generalize groups and communities in which individuals reflect a diversity that goes unrecognized. Asians are smart. Muslims are terrorists. Hispanics are illegal immigrants. In this case, veganism has been associated with overly-passionate activists who attempt to influence choices and control eating habits. Simply by identifying as a vegan, I find myself being put in a confined category. My actions are not of value when I am subjected to inaccurate judgment.
“But vegetables feel pain, too.” “People who don’t eat meat are like rabbits.” “I could never be a vegan because I like eating meat too much.” “Animals don’t have feelings.” I heard all of these comments when I first expressed thoughts on adopting a vegan lifestyle. Frequently met with laughter, my earnest life choice is considered a source of amusement to many. The decision does not affect my peers and yet when people learn that I am vegan, I continue to hear phrases like, “I have no respect for that religion.” Subjecting someone to a generalization is a terrible and dehumanizing thing. Disregarded are my thoughts, decisions, and actions when one’s opinions are predetermined. The most effective way to convince people that I am an individual and not a stereotype is to invalidate it.
It is simple to live up to expectations of others, but it is much harder to convince them that they are incorrect. With the fear of adding burden, I have been reserved about my lifestyle choices. At times, I feel that I have to be lenient. Baked goods almost certainly contain butter and eggs, animal products that I usually avoid, but if someone gifts you cookies for your birthday, rejecting them is difficult. There is no way to politely decline the thought and effort put into the gesture without satisfying the stereotype of a rude, overbearing plant-eater. Frequently, I am unable to eat because of the lack of vegetarian options. Commonly found at barbecues are hamburgers and hot dogs, but many hosts do not anticipate the need to purchase alternatives for those who do not eat meat. Instead of expressing my predicament, I remain silent. I do not wish to make the host feel bad for not providing a meal to meet my strict dietary restrictions. Being a vegan is tough at times, but it only gets more difficult when I cannot be honest with the people around me.
I have tried to change the perception of vegans, but maybe that is what makes the threat of stereotypes so great: no matter what I do, people still hold negative opinions about my life choice. Vegans as a group and human beings as a whole have historically been unable to create changes in the minds of those who are not open to it. Instead of trying to disprove people’s ideas, time would be better spent simply living life. I can be vegan, you can eat meat, and the world can keep on spinning.
 “51 Facts About Deforestation.” Conserve Energy Future. N.p., 10 May 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
“How the Food We Feed Farm Animals Is Destroying the Environment.” One Green Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
“What Percentage of the Population Is Vegetarian?” Population Is Vegetarian? Lunchbox Bunch, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.