Plant-Based Pause No 18: A lot of People Will Get the Terms ‘Plant-based Vegetarian’ and ‘Tree-hugging Hippy’ Confused

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Let fear be a counselor and not a jailer.’ – Anthony Robbins

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Firstly, I want to explain the title of this post. I mean no offence to tree-hugging hippies, I’m just not one. A common assumption I get is that veganism is purely about animal rights. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any living being to suffer unnecessarily and animal rights is a very important cause to me, but it’s far from my top reason for living plant-based. I truly believe that all living souls on this earth are born equal whether human or not. I appreciate that is a controversial statement to deal with for a lot of people. I can’t help but think, though, that I could have just as easily been born into the body of a cow or a fish, and I would have been pissed off at the egotistically allegedly superior species trying to kill me for his dinner. The current state of affairs has led to an extreme, screwed-up world where we have genetically modified and farmed many species to the extent that we are dangerously endangering our own evolution. Having said that I personally also believe that we need to use animals to some extent to ensure our own existence. For example, you need cows to grow organic vegetables. More specifically, you need the fertiliser that comes from the cow. Unfortunately, 50% of cows that are born are male, and males cannot be kept together because they’ll fight (I’ve also seen this in male humans when working in bars 🙂 ). Therefore, male calves have to be killed because there is nothing else we can do with them. Chas Griffin explains this theory a lot better in his book ‘Scenes from a Smallholding’, but I hope you get the point.

There are many reasons why people choose to go meat-free – health, to help with fitness, ethics, environmental reasons, they just don’t like meat. I heard of one man who’d worked in a slaughter house and couldn’t face eating animals after that. Judging people based on assumptions is a bad human habit, one I’ve been guilty of myself in the past. Just because someone classes themselves as vegan or plant-based, it does not necessarily mean you should attribute other labels to them. When we turn vegan, we don’t have to sign a contract promising to recycle everything we use, never drive a petrol car again and adopt every stray animal we come across.

Some reactions I’ve had to telling people I’m vegetarian include:
‘Do you know anyone who’s died from CJD?’ – No, I don’t, but I’d been vegetarian long before the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the UK. Besides, I ate meat in the 80s, so if I’ve got CJD then turning vegetarian wouldn’t make any difference and I won’t know if I’ve contracted it until at least 2015 due to the incubation period.
‘But I saw you preparing meat sandwiches when you worked in Subway.’ – Yes, I didn’t have to eat the sandwich, but I did have to pay my rent.
‘You killed that wasp!’ – If the wasp annoys me, I’ll swat it. It’s the wasp’s own stupid fault, and I’m not a Buddhist. Likewise, if my survival depended on killing an animal for food or in defence, I wouldn’t hesitate. Unless it was a big, dangerous animal like a hippo. Then I’d probably run and hide.

To anyone who is reading this, whatever your diet and lifestyle choices, please don’t make assumptions about people. We all know that it’s really annoying. Instead, politely ask questions if you are interested in their motives. And to those who are being asked the questions, be patient and answer kindly.

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