Not So Fast, My Vegan Friend
(dedicated to Debe Doubae, who provided the seed)
Vegetarians come in many varieties, like the plants they eat. Some eschew meat only, if you’ll pardon the pun, but may eat fish. Some are okay with dairy, like eggs, milk or cheese. Hard core vegans have nothing to do with any animal product, including wool or leather. Many do it purely for the health benefits, while for others it has a philosophical or ethical basis, and can attain an evangelical fervor. The National Eating Disorders Association even has a term, “orthorexia nervosa,” meaning a fixation on eating only pure and healthy foods. Let’s leave aside the fact that humans evolved as predators, and we have the teeth to prove it, some of them being adapted for tearing raw, bloody flesh from bone. As with the other predators like wolves or tigers, our eyes are in the front of our heads. Bunny rabbits, chickens, and other prey animals have their eyes on the sides, all the better to watch for predators like us. If humans were meant to eat only plants, we’d have a fifty foot gut and two or three stomachs. But never mind all that.
There’s good news for vegetarians. Two weeks ago there was an AP newspaper story about the lone star tick. It’s native to the Southwest, but lately it has been spreading to other parts of the country. When it bites you, it injects a sugar known as alpha-gal, which is also found in red meat muscle tissue. It causes the body’s auto-immune system to kick in. From then on, every time the person eats red meat, it causes an allergic reaction, sometimes leading to anaphylactic shock. The folks at PETA must be loving this story.
I admire vegans for refusing to participate in the modern holocaust that is the factory farming of animals for meat consumption. They live their lives in the most inhumane and deplorable of conditions (animals, not vegans), and for one reason only — it’s more profitable. All of us who eat meat and dairy know this by now; and we either don’t care or are in willful denial. For myself, I’ve tried to cut out as much as I can, but I can’t go whole hog, as it were. At least I feel guilty about it, if that counts for anything. All that said, I respect vegans for their choice, and for their courage and commitment, but they are not without sin. They are also in denial, because for over fifty years we’ve known that plants are keenly sensitive to emotional changes in their immediate environment. Back in the 1970s there were even ideas about using them as lie detectors in job interviews or police interrogations. They can feel emotions such as anxiety and even pain. And they can scream, so keep that in mind the next time you’re pruning the roses. I would hope that just because the plant kingdom isn’t considered to be as evolved, that their anguish can be ignored.
The way we treat our food crops is little better than that of animals. Think about it. These plants are born and live in slavery and oppression, crammed together in open fields under the hot sun, and given no food other than what they can make from sunlight. They are immobile, so they can’t even move into the shade. They have no voice (that we can hear), little advocacy in public, and none in Congress. They’re drenched with toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides, and no matter what Big Ag tells you, this can’t be healthy to their overall well being, to say nothing of those who eat it. Some of these, like neonicotinoids, are systemic. In other words, the poison is incorporated throughout the plant’s tissues, so you can’t wash it off. Further, modern fertilizers contain mainly the big three — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — and not much else, so the soils these plants grow in are severely depleted of nutrients. That means the plants themselves are also depleted of these nutrients, and so are we.
At harvest, we mow down entire fields of corn or wheat, amputating them just above ground level, leaving nothing but “bloody” stubble. I say bloody, because plants also have circulatory systems, as you may recall from high school biology. When cut, they “bleed,” too. If you lop off a tree limb and don’t seal it, not only does the sap leak out, the tree is more vulnerable to pests and disease. Consider this atrocity: fruits and vegetables being cruelly plucked from living stems and branches, then left to rot and die in supermarket aisles everywhere. And it’s happening every day. Being eaten is a step up for them, as it brings an end to their constant suffering.
Obviously, we must kill to survive; it’s the cycle of nature. Killing is one thing, though, and murder is quite another. Murder I call it, and murder most foul, for there is not only motive but opportunity and premeditation behind the crime. Therefore, we have an obligation to kill humanely whenever possible, whatever the life form. If we carnivores simply buy from the supermarket down the street, we’re contributing to meat giants like Smithfield Farms or Tyson. Cage-free poultry and eggs are available, but try to find pastured meat, and if you can, try to afford it. For vegetarians it’s the same dilemma. Unless you go organic, you are giving your money to agriculture giants like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, or Con Agra. As food scholar Michael Pollan says, eating is a political act.
Fundamentalist vegans and PETA members are all hypocrites. Don’t look down your noses at me for wearing leather shoes or a belt, while you’re adorned in cotton or linen. If you want to absolve yourself, I’m afraid that from now on it’s polyester for you, including your underwear. That goes for sheets and pillow cases, too. You’ll have to sleep on polystyrene or polyethylene, which will take some getting used to. And no more paper, either, it’s made from wood. I can’t think of any humane way to cut down a tree. No newspapers, books, copy paper, or mail; you’ll have to do it all online. No wooden floors, walls, ceilings, or even 2×4 studs in the walls. You won’t need wooden bookcases anyway, without books, but also no tables, chairs, or furniture of any kind, unless it’s made of metal or plastic. No wooden toothpicks, gift-wrapping paper, party hats, toilet tissue, paper towels, or napkins. You can’t use paper money, but in an increasingly cashless society, that’s alright. You’ll have no fireplace to take the chill off a cold winter night. Just stick those wet feet up against the heat register on the wall, and if you have base board heating, you won’t even have that smallest of comforts. Rubber is a tree too, so you’ll have to find some kind of synthetic tires if you drive or ride a bicycle, since you would be against taking the bus or taxi.
It’s not all bad, though. When you go to the supermarket, you’ll be able to easily answer that most frequently asked question: Paper or plastic?