Like every other vegan on the planet I have heard more than my fair share of ‘reasons’ why people won’t give up eating animals, or reasons why they think that veganism is just plain weird.
Of course some people use these excuses as a defence mechanism when something makes them uncomfortable, some just like to start a fight and some may be genuinely curious, never having thought much about the topic before.
Here are some of the more common (and some of the more ‘out there’) ‘reasons’ I’ve heard for people not going vegan, and why they are just plain nonsense.
1. Cows would take over the world.
Admittedly there are rather a lot of cows in the world today. And sheep, chickens, pigs, goats…you get the idea. So if everyone went vegan, we’d be overrun with errant farm animals. There would be poop everywhere. Think of all that methane! If everyone went vegan it would be an environmental disaster right?
Of course not! Why are there such large numbers of farm animals? Because we breed them – at an unnatural rate – for meat.
Now the chances of everyone going vegan at once are slim to none so we really don’t need to worry about cows roaming the streets. As people gradually turn to a plant based diet, consumer demand will have the inevitable knock on effect on the industries and fewer animals would be bred in the first place.
2. Plants feel pain too.
Do they really?
It’s just that the lack of a central nervous system would suggest that they really don’t.
Does a basil plant scream when you pluck one of its leaves to add to your delicious pasta sauce? Not that I’ve ever heard. Does a pig scream as you slaughter it? Yes.
In fact, the basil plant will simply grow another leaf and will likely thrive from having been ‘pruned’. It’s still alive. Little piggy is not so lucky. Limbs do not grow back and dead is dead.
Many plants actually want to be eaten. Trees shed their fruit so that we’ll eat them, poop out the seeds and produce more plants. Animals run for their lives. There really is no comparison.
And if you’re really and truly concerned with the welfare of plants, consider this:
Meat eaters are responsible for at least twice as many plants ‘deaths’ as vegans. You eat the greens on the side of your steak but your steak also had to eat a hell of a lot of plant life before it made its way to your plate in the first place. So save a plant today, and go vegan!
3. I tried being veggie once and felt really unhealthy.
I fell into this trap years ago. I was veggie and developed temporary gluten intolerance. I lived in Italy and ate nothing but pasta and cheese laden pizza for a year, all washed down with copious amounts of Prosecco. Not surprisingly I felt like crap and my poor tummy went on strike.
I thought the problem was a veggie diet when in reality the problem was MY veggie diet. Instead of doing a bit of research on a balanced diet and ways around the gluten intolerance (and there are many that don’t involve eating animals), I decided that I’d have to give up being vegetarian. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: doh!
Ask yourself: did I really give a plant based diet an honest try? Did I eat a well balanced diet filled with the nutrients my body needs or did I just play it by ear without giving it some real thought and proper planning? And no, veggie burgers and fries on a daily basis are not considered a well balanced plant based diet.
On a similar note:
4. I’m allergic to gluten/soy/nuts.
And all vegans live on tofu right? Of course not.
Plant foods are so incredibly varied. I’ve eaten nothing but plants for the last 18 months and I’m 100% sure that I still haven’t tried everything. If you don’t like, are allergic to, don’t like the look of any of the foods mentioned above, don’t worry, you CAN still be vegan – and a healthy one at that.
I personally know of one vegan who has a severe nut and sesame allergy. Admittedly there are some obvious vegan foods that he just can’t touch but he still has a varied and enjoyable diet. He’s the picture of health.
If gluten is the problem, check out our gluten guide or my review of Allyson Kramer’s Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. Can’t stand tofu? Want to avoid soy products altogether? Again, it’s no barrier to becoming vegan. If you insist on consuming meat substitutes try seitan instead of soy, and know that green lentils are great for a Bolognese or chilli sauce. Oat or almond milks are great in breakfast cereal instead of soy milk.
5. I have canine teeth. Clearly I’m a predator and meant to eat meat.
This one always makes me think of an extra who’s just wondered off the set of a Van Helsing movie. Now those vamps, they have canines.
Do me one quick favour, if you really believe that you have the teeth of a carnivore, google a picture of a lion. Done that? Good. Did you see the gnashers on that dude?! Now go and have a quick look in the mirror. Do your teeth REALLY look like those of a carnivore?
If the answer is yes, then stay the hell away from my neck. I’m calling for Buffy.
6. I want to breastfeed and vegans aren’t “allowed”.
I actually have come across this statement in an online baby forum and it takes the prize for the strangest comment I’ve ever personally received with regards to veganism! So what on earth prompted this view of vegans?
We don’t use any products taken from an animal, and of course humans are animals. Ergo, vegans can’t breastfeed their infants. Case closed? Well, not exactly.
The main problem with dairy milk is that it is taken without consent; it involves exploitation and generally speaking results in pain, distress, separation of mother and baby and the eventual slaughter of both mother and child. Now if you decided to artificially inseminate a human female, take her newborn baby from her at a day old and milk her dry before repeating the process until she can physically take no more then yes, her milk would not be vegan. It would be the product of slavery and exploitation.
Clearly we can draw no parallels between this process and that of a human mother, feeding her own baby (or someone else’s baby assuming she has given consent!). The mother willingly gives her body to her child. Yes there is sometimes pain involved (chapped nipples anyone?) and just like dairy cows, lactating women can experience mastitis and need antibiotics from time to time yet she is happy to go through this to give her baby the best nutrition available – breast milk.
So yes, vegans can and do breastfeed! Both of my boys have had the benefit of mummy milk.
7. If God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them taste so good.
I don’t really want to get into a big religious debate here. But if you believe in God then surely you also believe that God is compassionate, and if he intended for us to eat animals he would have had enough compassion and foresight not to have given animals the ability to feel pain and fear. And clearly they feel both.
Whatever your religion or belief system, I think the old ‘thou shalt not kill’ is pretty self explanatory and shouldn’t come with a get out clause of ‘except if something’s tasty’.
Incidentally, I’m going to cause outrage right now by admitting that animals do taste good. Then again, probably so do people if cooked with a bit of seasoning and maybe a bit of BBQ sauce. Doesn’t mean I’m going to start chowing down on human tenderloin.
8. I didn’t evolve and reach the top of the food chain just to start eating plants!
Firstly I’d like to wonder what makes you think that you’re top of the food chain?
Yes, humans have a great deal of intelligence at our disposal. Then again we’re also the only species hell bent on killing the very planet that sustains all life. Intelligence is relative.
Or is it strength that makes you think you’re top of the food chain? Well, I’m pretty sure that an elephant or a lion would have you beat there.
Is it speed? Nope, the cheetah has that one licked.
In fact, pit a human against any one of nature’s true carnivores and we’d soon see who comes out on top. Even if you did happen to have a weapon on you, there are very few of us who’d be guaranteed to avoid becoming an entree.
Perhaps it’s our ability to adapt that sets us apart? I wish I could remember where I read it, but I recently saw this argument presented as follows:
The best indication of evolution is the ability to avoid your most feared predators. For humans today, the most common cause of death is heart disease or cancer – diseases caused by eating animal products.
Using that logic, diving into a bacon sarnie of a morning is akin to one of our ancestors mooning a sabre tooth tiger to see what the outcome is likely to be.
9. Cows explode if you don’t milk them.
I was actually told this when I was a child and I believed it.
No, cows’ udders do not explode if they are not milked any more than a woman’s breasts explode if her baby stops breastfeeding. Sure they may squirt milk half way across the room (unfortunately speaking from personal experience here!) and be a little bit painful but her milk supply pretty quickly regulates and starts producing smaller quantities of milk.
Mummy cow is the same. She’ll produce just enough milk for her calf. As he gets older and starts to need less milk, she’ll adapt and produce less until they get to the point where the calf just doesn’t need his mum’s milk anymore and her supply dries up. She may experience discomfort at times but she won’t explode!
10. Eating meat is just what I’m used to, it’s how my parents brought me up.
Habits are hard to break and it’s also incredibly hard to acknowledge that our parents didn’t always get it right.
However, just because it’s the ‘way it’s always been done’ or ‘it’s what humans have been doing for centuries’, is not much of a reason to continue doing something. Many people have been brought up with parents who are racist or homophobic. Does that make racism or homophobia right or justifiable? Of course not. Men have been abusing their wives for centuries. It was once fairly socially acceptable. Does that mean that it’s acceptable in society today? Hell no.
Times change and history or habit just isn’t a good enough reason to continue your part in something that doesn’t seem right to you. Please, if you have an inkling that animals shouldn’t be killed just for your palate, don’t use habit or your upbringing to brush the thought aside, stand up and be part of the generation that heralds the change.
Over to you now. What are the best/funniest/daftest reasons you’ve heard for not going vegan? Share them with us in the comment section below.