I am a vegan. It is something that I avoid telling people at all costs. Whenever I go out to eat with friends I quietly scan the menu for dishes I can eat without making a fuss about it, but no matter how much I try to blend in I always have at least one big mouthed friend who feels compelled to notify the whole group "Nikki is a vegan!" Next comes the onslaught of questions:
"Is there anything you can eat at this restaurant?" Yes, I can eat here.
"Will it gross you out if I order meat?" No, I don't care.
"Do you get enough protein?" Most people eat too much protein. I'm fine.
"Is that healthy?" Yes, I'm not dying.
"Won't you get high cholesterol without meat?" Fruit & vegetables have no cholesterol.
"So whats wrong with meat?" I don't eat it.
"How long have you been vegan?" About ten years.
"You started young! Is your family vegan?" No, we're not a tribe of vegans.
"What made you become vegan?" Stuff.
"Do you have powers like the vegan from Scott Pilgrim?" My middle finger does.
The prying doesn't stop once the food actually comes. That's when everyone wants to stare into my plate to see if what I am eating looks like it's worth swearing off meat. To most people it doesn't. For the few who do think my food looks "interesting" they always wanna sample the contents of my plate, as if my dinner being "interesting" has somehow made it communal property.
That blows. But I would still rather hang out with them than most vegans that I know. They totally act like Todd the Vegan from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Before I go any further, I must make a distinction between the vegan diet and the vegan lifestyle. The vegan diet is plant based, which basically means we don't eat anything that came from an animal. The vegan lifestyle takes it a step further, not only is their diet plant based but they also refuse to use products that contain animal by-products or were tested on animals and they don't wear clothing that came from any living creature (that includes fur, leather, silk, wool, etc.) Just like many folks don't wanna buy clothes made with sweat-shop labor or buy conflict diamonds, many vegans chose the lifestyle out of compassion for animals and do not want to participate in what they consider to be exploitation.
I think that veganism gets a bad rap not just because the diet requires one to cut out meat and animal byproducts, but also because of the elitist stank attitudes of some vegans. I have to admit, there has been more than one occasion when I've overheard a vegan going on a self-righteous tirade that made me think of Todd the Vegan from the movie, and more than once they ended with me telling him/her "Yo...Shut! The! F*ck! Up!" It weirds me out how the same health conscious people who are so passionate about animal rights and supporting local farmers can make the vegan culture look so wack by making us seem like a legion douchelords who think we are better than everybody. And of course, this isn't EVERY vegan, the few who are the most annoying are typically the most vocal and it makes us all look bad.
If you're unfamiliar with Todd the Vegan, check him out for yourself.
Ummm...I'm not that kinda vegan.
When I initially became vegetarian almost 15 years ago (I was a kid when I made the switch, my mom was so vexed,) I did it because I loved the animals and I was opposed to the cruelty that animals face. But after becoming a homeless runaway, witnessing a murder, and experiencing a few other messed up things people shouldn't go through my compassion for the animals sorta subsided. I mean yeah...Free Willy and all...but I'm a Black kid from the hood, my priorities are elsewhere. I still rock leather because leather is bad ass and good pleather is hard to find. And I still eat honey, I don't care if it is nothing but bee barf. Animals pollinate everything plant we eat anyway and the only way to avoid that is to become a wateritarian. (Is that even a real thing???) Really, I remained vegetarian through my teens because of the health benefits I read about... and because all of my friends were doing it. I became vegan (reluctantly) about 4 years after I initially stopped eating meat, and I again noticed a change in my body that I really liked. For example, I always have a ton of energy, even though I rarely sleep. I am totally straight edge (I don't drink or smoke or use drugs) but I can outlast most of my friends on the dancefloor because I'm naturally energetic, which ironically leads to people thinking I'm buzzed all the time. LoL. WRONG! Another benefit of my vegan diet is that no matter if I am working out or just being a total lazy pig I stay in pretty good shape. As a teen I didn't notice that fact until all of my meat eating friends started gaining weight during freshman year of college but I didn't. My weight stayed the same until I was 21, I started eating a ton of vegan junk food and picked up hella weight. Once I decided to slim down I lost the weight rapidly, and it has NEVER come back since.
One of the major motivators for me to stay vegan, though, is the fact that it is my way of lowering my carbon footprint. That is an issue that I actually care about. Your “carbon footprint” is a measure of the impact that your activities have on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the environment (too much greenhouse gas is bad because its contributes to global warming.) People don't really know the environmental impact of a meat based diet. You know how there have been hella commercials on tv lately asking for donations for people who don't have access to clean drinking water? Well, there are more than 17 billion livestock in the world (that’s triple the number of people) and that leads to a huge consumption of drinkable water all over the world for livestock production. Raising livestock also depletes natural resources like fossil fuels and topsoil, and according to the Nature Conservancy, every second of every day a football field of rainforest is being destroyed and most of it is being cut down to farm and raise livestock. That blows, right? A 2006 study by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, concluded that one person switching from the average American meat-beased diet to a vegan diet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,485 kg per year. So between the trimmer waistline, the fact that a vegan diet makes you less likely to get certain cancers that run in my family, and the environmental benefits, the vegan diet is worth it for me. I don't cheat on my veganism either, once you stop eating certain foods for so long you don't even crave it, meat is no longer food to me. I don't have anything against people who eat it, I just don't. Plus there are so many great vegan foods on the market that you never have to miss anything. Have you seen my thighs? They're big as hell, I'm not starving at all.
And I have to admit, there is a lingering love for the animals in my heart. The way that animals are raised for food is just disgusting... it's so gross that I can't even go into detail here without feeling really messed up. If you want to learn more about that then CLICK HERE, but I warn you, it's pretty disturbing. This is the kinda stuff that turned me vegetarian in the first place. Dammit... thinking about this makes me wanna go toss out all my leather shoes and try to find some non-shitty pleather ones. I'm not perfect and I don't always make the right choices, but at least I'm trying, ya know?
Aside from all the awesome aspects of vegansim, the ugly side can not be denied. People like Todd the Vegan do exist, which made his presence in the Scott Pilgrim movie even funnier. Don't let the stigmas around the vegan diet discourage you from finding out more about it or trying a few vegan dishes, I can promise you that it does not automatically turn you into a lame. Since the diet has become more popular, more & more people are embracing it so you'll be in good company if you do give it a try. Just be warned, every once in a while you're gonna run into a vegan who is a self-righteous smug little ass-hat. I've argued with more than one of them. The most recent argument went down like this:
(TRANSCRIBED STRAIGHT FROM A FORUM)
"If you wear leather then you are not a vegan." Yes I am, I don't eat the leather.
"What about the injustices to animals, do you care at all?" I'm black, do u care about the injustices in our communities?
"You are making it a race issue to avoid the topic." You are negating my point to support your argument.
"I'm just waiting for you to admit you don't care about animals." Tell that to my spoiled ass cats.
"If you wear leather you might as well eat meat." So u are saying a vegan diet by itself has no other benefits?
"I'm saying the most responsible, intelligent choice is the entire lifestyle." So the vegan diet has no positive environmental impact?
"I have a greater environmental impact because of my lifestyle." What kind of car do u drive?
"I drive a Hyundai Elantra but I'm saving up for a Prius." How long have you been vegan
"I have been a real vegan, unlike you, for eleven years." And how long have u been driving the same car?
"I have had my car for 2 years." So u've been vegan 11yrs but STILL u bought yo car 2yrs ago that runs on fossil fuels, which is bad for the environment?
"I said I am saving up for an earth friendly car, I can't afford it yet but when I can I'll get one." So u figure u're not a hypocrite for polluting the air we breathe until you get a new car? You're pro-animals but anti-humans?
"That's not what I said." I'm not judging, I don't care. U started this argument, remember? According to your logic since I don't own a car & I eat a vegan diet technically I am more environmentally conscious than u. Pow.
"The diet by itself means little without the lifestyle, you can't separate the two." AGAIN u are saying the vegan diet doesn't have benefits outside of saving the animals? Screw the health or environmental benefits, if I'm not gang banging for animals then I might as well eat steak?
"You are putting words in my mouth." No, which is it? Cuz what about the chick who said she just doesn't relate to compassion for animals? You shouldn't have been bitching at her to become vegan then, BY YOUR OWN LOGIC
"EVERYBODY should be vegan. Period." According to what law? Nobody does anything without a reason for doing it.
"I didn't say it has no positive environmental benefit, I said it has more benefit when idiots grow up and adopt the vegan lifestyle." So what u are saying is vegans are looking to recruit idiots. Gotcha.
"Now you are just being ignorant. This is why PETA exists, to inform people like you who think they're making a difference when they are really just spinning their wheels." I thought PETA was okay with people wearing leather.
"Why would you say something like that? You are joking right?" PETA put Waka Flocka in an anti-fur ad. Do you think he doesn't wear leather or eat burgers? He's probably eating meat riiiiiiiight now.
"You are missing the point of the advertisement entirely." What it conveys is it's ok to eat meat & rock leather as long as u don't wear fur. Do u think cows are not as cute as rabbits or something? LoL. Good thing u don't speak for PETA, u'd make them look bad.
"Why are you twisting my words? We're supposed to be on the same side. Are you a vegan or not?!?" According to u, no.
He logged off after that :o)