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Animal Advocate Doesn't See Why Veganism Is So Difficult To Do

Illustration for article titled Animal Advocate Doesnt See Why Veganism Is So Difficult To Do

In an interview with Salon, veganism advocate Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson explains why meat eaters mock vegans, why Michael Pollan is wrong, and why he thinks things are getting better for animals.


Masson says omnivores make fun of vegans "because of a bad conscience. I think to some extent people think: 'You know, they're probably right, but, boy, would it be inconvenient for me.'" And according to Masson, omnivores should have a bad conscience. Of milk, he says:

I feel that it's not ours to take. The milk is there for a calf, not for a human. We're the only species that drinks the milk of another species.

Think about it: You couldn't get within 100 yards of a wild cow to take milk. The bull would gore you to death. The cow herself would run away. They don't want to be milked. It's really a false conceit to say, "Well, they don't really mind." Of course they mind. It's just that we breed them to be docile, and we put them in stalls, and we make them artificially pregnant. It's totally unnatural.


When Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski asks "wouldn't you do more to reduce animal suffering by advocating ending the worst factory farms than arguing that we should all go vegan," Masson replies: "Reform has never been my strong point. I really like to think along the edges — a more radical approach." He goes on to critique the idea — espoused by Michael Pollan and others — that farm animals can have good lives.

Near the end of the interview, Masson says things are changing for the better. Part of his evidence: "I just heard a fantastic statistic that at Stanford University, a quarter of the undergraduate student body is vegetarian." I was a vegetarian undergraduate at Stanford, and while the percentage of vegetarians may have changed dramatically in the four years since I graduated, I remember the figure being about 11%. And we did get made fun of. Partly, I'm sure, because of meat-eaters' "bad conscience," but partly because we were perceived as self-righteous. And sometimes we were.

Masson says "you could never pass a law that you can't eat cheese. Never, ever. That will never happen. [...] It feels like, I think falsely so, but it feels like it's my God-given privilege to eat whatever I goddamn please." This makes cheese-eaters sound like entitled assholes, but really food is a central part of almost all human cultures (except, say, breatharians), and to ask people to give up something their mothers, their grandmothers, and their great-grandmothers not only ate but also, as Masson acknowledges, developed rituals around, is actually a very big deal. We may be the only animals who drink the milk of another animal, but we're also the only animals who refrain from eating certain things for moral reasons, and to say that being vegan or vegetarian is more "natural" than being omnivorous is a total crock.

When I was at Stanford, a lot of vegans and vegetarians used our commitment to the cause to disparage American food culture, deriding bread and milk as disgusting. I remember one girl turning up her nose at some cheese, labeling it "bacteria food" — we had to point out that the tempeh she was eating was also fermented. The way Americans eat has lots of problems, to be sure, but telling people that the historical basics of their diet are gross and unnatural isn't the best way to get people to change. Maybe if Masson were more interested in reform, he'd recognize that, as much as animal life deserves respect, so does human culture. It's reasonable to ask people to eat less meat and dairy — it's even reasonable to ask them to go completely vegan. But we have to understand that this represents an enormous shift for people, a break not only with habit but with history. Sometimes it's good to break with history, but it's always hard, and animal rights advocates need to recognize that.


Don't have a cow! [Salon]

Earlier: The Ethics Of Eating: Veganism, Food & Fashion

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I totally agree with "citrus buddha!" Being a vegetarian is one thing, but vegans are like a religious group. I've yet to meet a vegan that isn't extremely condescending, or is healthy for that matter (always REALLY skinny or really fat).

I was a vegetarian for 11 years. I did not do it for vanity, religion, or because I thought animals were cute and fluffy. I did it because I don't like factory farming. Many vegetarians/vegans will agree with that. But what if you raised a cow who had a very happy life, free to roam around? If "torture" truly is your reason, then you should have no problem with free range. These people are kidding themselves; they are vegetarian for a completely different reason.

I now eat meat for a lot of reasons. 1. I became educated. 2.I was extremely unhealthy. 3. no matter what you do you will harm something. Do vegans ever drive, ride a bike, or walk? You're killing hundreds of bugs every day. Do you ever clean your house? Chemicals will kill something. You can use synthetic products over animal, but how do you think they were made? 90% of vegans are mindless and uneducated, just self-righteous.

We are omnivores; we have incisors. A large percentage of people actually have MORE difficulty digesting vegetables (me included). People don't always know why their stomach hurts after eating a salad. We are not the only animals who "torture" their prey. Go watch a cat some time, you might be surprised how vicious they are. There have been quite a few vegan parents imposing their diet on their infant and have been arrested for child endangerment. Why? Because it's NOT HEALTHY.

If you want a vegan go ahead, but don't act like you're superior, because you're far from it. I consider it teetering on the edge of eating disorder. Instead of meat, you shove yourself full of fried food and pastries. Oh and to all you vegans who go out to Indian food, there's yogurt in EVERYTHING! SUCKERS!