Diana Wagman just wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Times on her travails as a vegetarian at Thanksgiving. With the exception of her daughter—also a vegetarian—her family is utterly unsympathetic and downright rude about Tofurky, a vegan turkey substitute.
I’ll be alone this Thanksgiving, microwaving some Tofurky. (UPDATE: It turns out there’s a bit more to dealing with Tofurky than microwaving.) My one invitation was to a dinner where they would be entirely welcoming and respectful, but I would be the only vegan. That’s too much an imposition, I feel, on my would-be hosts. Also, I become the standout. Even if I say nothing about being vegan, the topic is inevitable, and just as inevitably, regardless of what I say or think, I am the one, by the very act of being vegan, silently wagging my finger at other guests for eating meat.
Wagman doesn’t connect her family’s rudeness with the mere fact that being vegetarian or vegan is a moral statement, a recognition that we might biologically be omnivores but that we have a choice, a choice that has environmental, social, and economic impacts. Ultimately, being vegan and anarchist is a recognition that hierarchy in all its forms is a threat to our survival as a species, that our presumption that the earth is there for our exploitation is destroying it, that our choices about how we relate to others have led to violence—still possibly including nuclear war—and that our choice to inflict suffering on animals comes at the cost of our own humanity.
My family is scattered across the country; we don’t get together much for holidays. So my mother feels badly about going to that Thanksgiving, the one to which I was also invited, tomorrow without me. She and I will go to a vegan dinner tonight at a local vegetarian restaurant instead. But I opened a can of tuna for my cat (who gets a rather destructive itch on the back of her neck with vegan cat food). It is a reminder that what makes us human, what makes us different from other animals, including my cat, is that we have that choice. And the fact that it is a choice is what makes it moral.
Maybe next year, I can go to Farm Sanctuary for their Thanksgiving.