the WGV « Annoying Questions asked of Vegans

the humble—just kidding, this radish is anything but humble…the full-of-hubris, better-than-your-radish Watermelon Radish

Below are a few questions that vegans, new and old, get asked all the time. Some of my answers below get confrontational; this is why:

  1. I’m not a patient person, and I’ve been confronted with each of these arguments many times over the past 5-10 years, so I’ve got some rather terse answers up my sleeve by now.
  2. Few things bother me more than having to explain my reasoning to people who are less educated on a subject than I. Seriously, people, do your research before you argue anything. See also: American political debates with people who can’t cite the Constitution as the basis of their argument.
  3. If I really cared about not being confrontational, then I wouldn’t be publishing this in the first place.

Consider these condescending answers for condescending questions. (Scroll down for the more informed questions.)

Uninformed, annoying question: Where do you get your protein?
(Somewhat) civil answer: Since protein composes all living things, pretty much anything from nature that I eat is a source of protein! Particularly protein-dense nutrition comes from legumes, fermented legumes, and grains. I’m a fan of quick meals, but I always eat food. While we’re interrogating each other, how many grams of protein do you eat a day, how do you ensure against ammonia concentration and osteoporosis, and have you read Wikipedia’s List of common misconceptions?
Terse answer: Your dad.

Uninformed, annoying question: Doesn’t this look good/how could you NOT eat meat/cheese/this unidentifiable, factory-farmed, processed carcass?
(Somewhat) civil answer: Remember the saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—that things aren’t always what they seem? Well, we both see different things in this. You look at it and see your emotional attachment, and your unwillingness to come to terms with inconvenient decisions. I look at it an see an unsustainable lifestyle that’s self-destructive—just like I look at major clothing manufacturers and see children chained to sewing machines and sweatshops; I look at diamond rings and see imperialism and economic ruin for resource-rich nations; and I look at public-sector microfinance institutions and see profiteering and hypocrisy to the detriment of those who are trying to help themselves, their families, and their communities. I confront these truths about the way that I live and try to make adjustments to my life accordingly. You see, we just see things differently.
Terse answer: No, it doesn’t look good, it looks like a carcass, and how I can choose not to eat it just like this—voilà. I’m sure that whatever remains of the figments of your lighter self remembers what self-restraint is like.

Uninformed, annoying question: How do you eat enough/have enough energy?
(Somewhat) civil answer: Actually, a well-planned vegan diet is more nutritionally varied and and complete than the modern American diet, and only individuals with certain genetic abnormalities actually need to consume meat. Isn’t it nice to have choice? If you want to have some fun, then let’s start a food diary together. We can both write down everything that we eat for a week and what we do for physical activity, and then compare!
Terse answer: If you want to know what it’s like to have the amount of energy that I have, then try cocaine. Only make sure that it’s fairly traded, because drug lords wreak havoc on their local communities, as well as indigenous agriculture.

Uninformed, annoying question: Is bread vegan?
(Somewhat) civil answer: Real bread, that is, bread whose ingredients are only flour, water, yeast, and salt (with the addition of seeds, herbs, vegetables, etc.) is vegan. Challah bread is not, as it contains eggs, but most breads contain neither eggs nor milk. Sliced bread, that is, bread that is packaged for convenience and widely distributed, normally contains a list of ingredients a few inches of fine print long, and some of these ingredients derive from animal products. If you mean to imply that yeast, as a one-celled organism, should not be consumed in a vegan diet, then I have a Jain friend whom I’d like you to meet.
Terse answer: Does life begin at conception?

Uninformed, annoying question: Don’t you know that farming vegetables kills insects, field, mice, and other small animals—more by weight than would die if the same acreage was used for farming animals?
(Somewhat) civil answer: Actually, you know what, there isn’t even a somewhat civil retort for this. 68 people worldwide die each minute from hunger-related causes, most of them children. That’s more than one person each second, and that’s more than half of all deaths for any reason each year. Instead of being an asshole and asking me provocative hypothetical questions to elicit a response that will lead to an argument in which we both know we’re never going to compromise, how about you go deal with that crisis? (It’s a good idea, guys, to remember to do the same from time to time.)
Terse answer: (I’d probably skip the drama and cut right to a swift kick in the balls, or a kidney shot.)

More informed, maybe even inquisitive question: You’re vegan? Why?
Answer: Answers vary, and range from areas as diverse as ethical, environmental, personal, health, and sustainability considerations. For me personally, the first question that I ask of anything is ‘Is it sustainable?’ Eating factory farmed meat isn’t—not from an environmental standpoint, not from a health standpoint, and hell, not from an equality standpoint. I would that we took all of the money spent on factory-farmed meat and put it towards abolishing discriminatory trade agreements that flood developing-world markets and completely destroy their local agricultural industry. We should be raising food for humans, not beasts of burden whose flesh we then consume to the point of disease, and creating markets and entrepreneurial environments that create channels for the distribution of that food to hungry children and mothers. Honestly, people, it wouldn’t be that hard.

More informed question: Would you ever eat meat again?
Answer: Again, obviously, your answers will vary. For me personally, there are two circumstances in which I would, and I reserve the right to amend those. The first is if I were ever in a remote, rural, impoverished area working in some kind of empowering entrepreneurial context, and the locals decided to have a feast that was somehow in my honour, and not trying some of their meat would not only be a grave offense, but a waste of really precious resources. That’s just selfish and stupid of me not to accept. The second is if I were really, really old and in New England again after saving the world and eradicating poverty and hunger and inequality and all that, and there was some local clam chowder going on. Then again, the vegan version is damn close.

Best question ever (and yes, I’ve been asked this one, too): I’ve been thinking lately about maybe cutting down on my meat consumption a little bit. Can you help me?
Answer: Fuck yes! Let’s cook a three-course dinner together, crack open a bottle of wine, and talk about things that are awesome.

the Wicked Good Vegan