Vegans have something called V-day, an individual annual commemoration of the day they went vegan. It’s a bit like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. Mine is the day before I joined HappyCow.net, a guide to vegan and vegetarian restaurants. HappyCow.net sends out a yearly reminder and I just received one today.
I wasn’t sure when my V-day was. My memory was hazy. I thought that I might be confusing social networks. But in the review I wrote when I joined HappyCow.net, I appear to identify myself as vegan. So from now on, I’ll have to remember that my V-Day is on the Cinco de Mayo.
A problem with being vegan is that you really can’t just take off and go someplace. You have to think about how you will eat. It’s another hazard, along with spending what seems like forever scanning ingredient lists at grocery stores and worrying if you dare to eat something your friends have cooked. These days, if I eat meat accidentally, I feel intense nausea.
I’m vegan for several reasons. What actually got me into it was that the diet was cheaper. But it also has health benefits, is good for the environment, and is consistent with anarchism. I see the relationship we have with animals and with our environment as directly threatening human existence on this planet.
The argument is problematic however. Given a need to feed a rising population with a decreasing supply of land for agricultural purposes, it is important to use what land is available carefully. Some people assure me that if we abandon “green revolution” techniques—contrary to how we might understand the name today, the “green revolution” is largely about monoculture, intensive use of fertilizer and pesticides, and expensive seed—we can feed a burgeoning population if we all go vegan. But not all land that is currently in use for food production is suitable for farming. Some can only be used by grazing animals.
From my perspective, a more serious shortcoming is that nearly all (if not all) indigenous societies are hunter-gatherer societies. Peoples at high latitudes and at high altitudes generally cannot grow enough food to eat. And short of destroying their societies—a genocidal act—I do not see how they can go vegan.
It’s my third year being vegan. And I will remain vegan. And I will continue to encourage others to go vegan.
Because despite the shortcomings, the argument that in commercial societies our attitude of supremacy to the environment and to other species is our undoing stands. Particularly in commercial societies, we have a choice about what we eat. Even in cities, we could be growing ridiculous amounts of food on rooftops. The choice about how we eat and what we eat has ethical consequences. And as Mother’s Day approaches, we can choose to eat animals that have mothers, whose eyes we can look into, who feel pain and fear.
Or we can choose not to.
- EscapeFromSF, “Specializing in fake meat–it works!” HappyCow.net, May 7, 2008, http://www.happycow.net/reviews.php?id=12296↩
- John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008).↩
- Bodley, Victims of Progress; Robert Henson, The Rough Guide to Climate Change, 2nd ed. (London: Rough Guides, 2008); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).↩