“The problem with vegans is they’re always going on about being f***ing vegans!” so says any comedian (and now contro-polemist) for the last ten years.
They’ll then affect a sort of standard snobbish-middle-England-accent with an upward inflexion, and then that character will ‘come up to them’ and start telling them they’re a vegan and what they don’t eat, and why this makes them great and you should do it and blah blah. But the comic will hit back with his (it’s nearly always a man) rapier wit and say something about meat or looking like a cow or some such genius.
The crowd laughs, we all know one of them don’t we?! Bloody vegans! Ha ha ha.
And that’s how it goes. It seems not only are ‘vegans’ the new mother-in-law along with Brexit voters as a reliable target for lazy comedy slags, but they are these nightmarish annoyances who wander into every situation with a chip (fried in vegetable oil) on his or her shoulder and start lecturing everyone about their dietary requirements.
Of course, vegans don’t tend to do this. At least, if my limited experiences as someone who’s chosen to be vegan are anything to go by, the opposite is often true.
When eating out you’re pretty much forced to declare yourself a vegan once the menu arrives. It’s simple, almost like someone answering a question. Think about it, virtually everything is on a menu has meat, or dairy or some animal by-product, so being laid back about it isn’t really an option.
“The ‘vegans are so annoying’ backlash seems to currently throb from a couple of sources”
The recent resignation of Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell was really just another example of professionalised outrage but has stirred up more sneers at vegans.
His departure following a joke in a private email to a journalist that suggested an article on “killing vegans, one by one” said more about society’s seeming inability to handle perspective.
As Giles Coren said, “It was a stupid email but should not be a career-ender. Vegans are not a race or a gender or a sexual orientation or a differently-abled group. They just choose to eat plants.”
Of course, there will be people who love to broadcast their vegan diet, but then, I imagine those people will bark their perceived virtues at every opportunity. They will say, ‘I’m a vegan’, as opposed to I’m vegan. Which seems a small point, but kind of implies you’re a different breed to meat eaters.
It’s no truer to think that everyone who voted to remain in the EU went on the People’s Vote March and is an insufferable ass-clown with zero self-awareness and a Range Rover. Identity politics is a tapeworm in society right now, and no longer lives merely on the left. Lazily coming up with anecdotes about vegans hammering on dinner tables demanding a kale sorbet is a bit 1970s.
The ‘vegans are so annoying’ backlash seems to currently throb from a couple of sources. The less common one is from misguided traditionalists and certain characters from intellectual dark web (though both Ben Shapiro and Sam Harris recently said they would think about it and that ethically, there’s no contest), the most common though is the strange marriage of the aforementioned politically correct comics, now so low on a supply of feasible jokes that they swerve into a small crowd of vegans. With hilarious consequences.
And as a fairly inexperienced vegan, I have certainly witnessed first hand the response when someone susses out your dietary choice, and at least 50% of the time it’s defensive. And it’s this defensiveness that has lead to what is most likely a myth that vegans are driving down high streets in a Prius with a loudspeaker proclaiming they are more or less cruelty-free.
You get all sorts of stupid questions attempting to trip you up, or poke pinpricks in your philosophical stance, none of which bear scrutiny. And yet the conversation is often framed as if you’ve just said, ‘I don’t eat meat and hate cruelty to animals which makes you a bad person’.
It’s been said before, notably in an article by Chas Newkey-Burden, going vegan is undeniably a correct moral stance for anyone with a conscience;
“So let’s drop the pretence that all views are equal — or at least concede, to paraphrase Animal Farm, that some are more equal than others. If you eat meat, then yes, as a vegan, I do think I’m better than you. And I suspect that deep down you agree.”
And there’s the rub, when faced with an unambiguously better ethical choice than your own, for some it’s just too maddening. And what does piggy do when he gets mad? Destroy!
It’s just holding up a mirror to someone, the mirror’s not the problem is it, it’s your stupid face.
“As someone from Essex, I have recently been delighted to find that not only is there vegan Spam, but vegan batter.”
And the arguments simply aren’t there, and if you stay calm (and us vegans are usually Jedi calm) you eventually burrow down to the root which is a whiny ‘it’s too harrrrrrrrd to be vegan’. Piggy likes his meat and doesn’t want to fink about all the nasty fings in da world while he has a burger.
Once you do choose, there’s isn’t much chance of going back. And it really isn’t that hard these days. One of the supposed defences of mass consumption of meat is that as we developed cities, we moved away from agriculture, yet somehow, cities are the best place to live if you’ve chosen to go vegan.
As someone from Essex, I have recently been delighted to find that not only is there vegan Spam, but vegan batter. Which means I can now legitimately relive my childhood plant-based and eat Spam fritters. Take that society.
There are a plethora of people out in the world helping to make it an easier choice like the excellent Kerry McCarthy and the fact is, while you don’t need to go around shouting the odds about it, you should be proud to be vegan.
To paraphrase Stewart Lee, I’m not saying I’m Jesus, that’s for you to think about.