It seems that every time I visit with my parents, there has to be at least one conversation about veganism. It’s not that they have anything against vegans, but why, oh why, of all people, would their son have to become involved with such a thing? At least that appears to be the subtext behind their words.
With my mother, it’s always the same thing. Although she is not a dentist, she seems to believe that destiny lies in the teeth. “The kind of teeth you have tell you what you’re supposed to be,” she tells me. What she means is that humans have canine teeth designed for ripping and tearing flesh. I had a similar go-‘round on this subject with a coworker some months ago.
Mom spent years as a science teacher, which explains her point of view. Her error, I attempt to gently relate, is that biology must be tempered with anthropology and geography. I patiently tell her that, since she believes in the theory of evolution (as a God-fearing man, I harbor more than a dollop of skepticism), she must be aware that the apes and monkeys from which humans supposedly arose are vegetarians. As they spread out from the jungles of Africa to more temperate climates where fruit and juicy vegetation were not available during the winter months, they learned to be hunters to survive and, over the eons, evolved canine teeth to better chew the bloody carcasses.
I thought I’d have better luck with this than I ever do in advancing ethical and Biblical arguments for vegetarianism, but alas, no dice. Mom is going to believe what she wants to believe. Just like everyone, right?
My father offered that he had never heard the word “vegan” until my sister used it several years ago, explaining that vegans are “an extreme form of vegetarian.”
What once may have been regarded as extreme, I reminded him, is now commonplace, or at least well-known. As for calling one’s self a “vegetarian,” I told Dad that it can mean almost anything. Heck, back in my fish-eating days I referred to myself as a vegetarian because I didn’t eat land-based animals. The word “vegan,” I added, is rather specific. It refers to someone who eats no animal products.
The only “variety” of vegan that I have heard of to date is the raw vegan. I’m sure there are many others with which I am not familiar.
I suppose I should call myself a “convenience food vegan,” since I rely on so many soy-based substitutes for animal products, such as vegan “deli slices” from Yves and Tofurky and frozen entrées from Gardein.
Despite the fact that vegans comprise a tiny minority here in the United States, I have noticed that more accommodations are being made for us as the years go by. For example, it is encouraging that one is able to order a vegan meal on a cross-country flight. Even the labor union at my place of employment offers a vegan option for its monthly lunch meetings.
Of course, it’s encouraging to see the expanding variety of vegan products available at the supermarket. They may be considerably more expensive than animal products, but at least they’re on the shelves. And I know they wouldn’t be if no one were buying them. Where there’s money to be made, the goods will make their way to the marketplace.
During a visit to Whole Foods Market today, to pick up my favorite vegan cheese and a vegan donut for dessert, I couldn’t help but notice how the store attempts to make shoppers feel better about eating meat.
“Five step animal welfare rating,” reads one of the signs at Whole Foods. “Your way of knowing how our meat animals were raised.” Mean animals? For real? I suppose I have to count myself among them, as I, too, was composed of meat the last time I checked. Obviously, our fellow creatures receive no respect whatever. Just a moment’s thought will lead to the realization that our pets are made of meat, too. In the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy was way ahead of her time in 1939 when she referred to Toto as “a meat dog.”
“Raised on a vegetarian diet” screams another sign. Really? Me, too! I only hope I escape the fate of the animals whose hacked-up body parts filled that particular refrigerated case. I couldn’t help but notice that, tucked away on the bottom shelf, were packages of pig’s feet.
Whatever you may think of the ethics of ending the lives of members of the other species with whom we share this planet for the pleasure of our palates, even if you believe that dentistry is destiny, you have to admit that the blood, guts, body parts and gore that is meat is pretty disgusting.