It's really difficult to sound indifferent when asked why I became a strict vegetarian, or vegan. There is no soft answer. I don't want to contribute to factory farming and global warming. Sometimes it goes over just fine. People are supportive and congratulatory. Other times, not so much. I'm not trying to instigate conversation or change someone's views, but there are inevitably follow-up questions. There's one conversation in particular that had me thinking all weekend about it. I gave a somewhat extended answer to this person since it's a pretty good friend of mine. I quickly explained how I heard an interview on the radio with an author of a new book, and his argument was that being a vegetarian is the most an individual can do to fight global warming and factory farming. His first reaction was to say that he knew some vegans, friends of his, and veganism is basically a white, upper-middle-class phenomenon. He said it in a nice way, though. And after that he rattled off all the usual things to defend eating meat: What would I eat? I wouldn't feel full. Nature is brutal, as seen on the National Geographic channel. Humans are meant to eat meat, etc. These are the kinds of things I told myself if the thought of animal cruelty every crossed my mind while eating meat. We went back and forth a bit, and that was about it. He said that stuff, and I said factory farming was a new level of cruelty I couldn't support. It ended up with him admitting he wasn't sure about the whole thing, and I was very understanding.
The comment that really stuck with me was the one about veganism being a white, upper-middle-class phenomenon. Ohhhhhhhhhh, the irony. What group of people have been responsible primarily for the creation and expansion of factory farming? What group consumes the products of these farms more than any other group? What group increases demand for meat and its by-products exponentially? What group created the laws and tax incentives to encourage it? And resists any changes to the industry practices through lobbying? And buys the propaganda fed to them by the industry? Yes, white upper-middle-class people. And kinda the middle class. Ok, sorta all of America. But close enough. We have created a system and a subsequent demand for it's expansion through our lifestyles. That only strengthens the argument for veganism. Who better to change the status quo than those who created it? In fact, I think it's the only way things are going to change. Vegetarians and vegans number about 1.4% of the U.S. population. If that number were 50%, demand would be cut in half. And so on. The only thing is, I wish I thought of this irony in the moment. I think I kind of did actually. I just didn't want to point it out and come off combative, or like a white, upper-middle-class asshole. Maybe next time I won't be so reserved. Or I'll shut up a bit earlier. The choices, the choices, the choices.