Unless you’ve been living under as well as on a rock, you’d doubtless have heard about the latest social media row between Piers Morgan and Greggs. Britain’s largest bakery chain and Breakfast telly’s biggest tw*t exchanged a war of words regarding Greggs newly launched vegan sausage roll. Morgan took to Twitter to condemn the move, with his typical Churchill-dog bluster – “Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns”.
Naturally, social media did its usual thing and people got very outraged about something incidental – in this case, a SAUSAGE ROLL MADE OF QUORN – for a short space of time. Oh 2019, you’ve let us down already you whimpering sod.
Still, it got me thinking about vegans and how, whenever the mere word is uttered, someone, somewhere, will pipe up with a scathing put down or a withering remark. They really seem to rub people up the wrong way. It intrigued me. Thus, a decision was made: After a truly stereotypical British Christmas in which I oversubscribed to the great Anthony Bourdain’s mantra of “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park”, I thought it best to have a wee detox. And, for extra LOLZ I set myself an almost impossible task. This meat-loving, cheese-devouring, butter-spreading, utter-bastard carnivore would give Veganuary a go.
Sort of. I reckoned I could manage 2 weeks.
What better way to rid myself of the herculean toxins coursing their way through my veins, rendering me nothing more than a bloated, self-loathing walking cliche’? This would be quite the challenge bearing in mind I am the man my wife once called “a walking meat sweat”.
What is a vegan and will they hurt us?
Veganuary continues the lame and recent British tradition of portmanteaus (Vegan + January = Get it?) but to be honest, it’s at least mildly refreshing to hear one other than Brexit hogging all the headlines. For many, the presentation of the Vegan is one of the idealist hippie: a sandal-clad, robe-wearing, placard-waving embodiment of irksome self-righteousness. The Simpson’s eco-warrior fits this message perfectly when he utters – “I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow”.
The Vegan Society define themselves in somewhat less crude terms:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”
Recent research suggests that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a bit less steak and everybody loves animals, don’t they? The health benefits to veganism suggest the move to a plant-based diet can prolong your life, result in weight loss, assist your alertness and mental health as well as reducing one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
Veganism is, undoubtedly on the rise. Depending on what studies you read, approximately 5-7% of the British population are now vegan but perhaps more startling is the fact that 31% are eating less meat and 19% fewer dairy products. There appears to be a sea-change of sorts (a seaweed change, if you will. Sorry) in the cultural mindset.
Cow farts could kill us all
Humankind and our unfettered capacity for sh*thousery have rendered the planet nothing more than a boiling globe of cat memes. Maybe it’s too late, but the newer generation seems keen to atone for the recklessness of generations past. Even if you don’t give a flying f**k about slaughtering animals and think it’s a right laugh (you bloody sadist), maybe you’ll care about cow methane? Each year, more than 50 billion land animals are bred for meat, milk, or eggs. That’s a f**k-tonne of cow farts, mate.
The emissions from the delicious beasts could literally kill us all. If cows farts end our existence, that seems somehow fitting for us as a species. It seems then that vegans are, undeniably, environmentally conscious and raising the collective awareness of all of us. Or…are they?
In an October episode of QI, one of the questions posed to contestants was out of almonds, avocados, kiwi, butternut squash and melon, which of these were vegan. The answer was none. The production of all these items relies on those buzzy wizards of pollination – the humble and fastidious bee. They are transported in swarms across the producing countries in what could be perceived in an unnatural manner. It sounds a lot like bee slave labour tbh. The argument here being – if vegans won’t eat honey due to the unnatural exploitation of the creature in question, how can they profess to eat these other vegan superfoods?
Is this a 1st world problem of a bored and entitled populace? Is it a lifestyle choice in keeping with the times – the Instagram likes for how food looks bearing greater significance than any genuine concern over where the food has come from? Prices for the likes of quinoa and almonds are so high that they are unaffordable in the countries where they are produced. Eating meat from a local Manx farm is, by this logic, a more ethical choice than eating an avocado that has travelled thousands of miles to get here. All of this has the whiff of good intentions being swept up in confusion and misinformation.
For all the triumphalism of the Gregg’s story, theirs is not a decision made on ethics. It is purely a business one. The pastry purveyors are simply catering to a marketplace where demand exists and, in truth, they have capitalised on our society’s insatiable thirst for serial offence and tribal debate. It’s savvy but it would be disingenuous to claim this was a choice grounded in morality as opposed to pound signs.
Don’t be a tw*t
All in all, the deeper I began to delve, the less solid my foundations became. I watched the Channel 4 documentary ‘The Truth About Vegans’ and I felt my fist clench and the ire smother me; there was nothing but militant self-righteousness on display. Yet, conversely, I would read more about Veganism and discuss with friends and, it would soon become apparent the actions of the rabid zealots had clouded the whole practice. I thought of the bees – those magnificent stripy pricks – and the hypocrisy of vegans when those poor gits are being migrated for resource just for our precious almond milk. I mean seriously, how do you even milk an almond? It must take ages! Then, I read the words of Dominika Piasecka in response to this – “Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable. We are aware that many forms of farming involve indirect harm to animals…However, we do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid one hundred percent of the cruelty OF suffering and exploitation to animals that we should not bother at all”.
Even if the motives for someone’s veganism are vanity and narcissism, it takes stoic discipline to continue down that path and that is to be respected. If someone who has spent their life devouring mixed grills in all you can eat competitions can’t compute the concept of eating kale and chickpeas; that’s understandable too. This is a new concept and will take time to embed into our culture.
Perhaps the antagonism directed towards vegans is based on our own insecurities? As the vegan stance gains in popularity, the self-seeking questions we pose ourselves will increase too. How can we be better and more pertinently, do we want to?
The basic message is: Don’t be a tw*t. If you decide to become vegan for ethical, moral or health reasons then fair play. Don’t bang on about it like a self-righteous dullard. This kind of rabble-rousing is, I’m sure most moderate and rational vegans would agree, highly detrimental to their message. In the same way, Jamie Oliver’s intentions are good, we can’t abide anyone telling us how to live.
If you’re not vegan but hate on someone who eats a Quorn sausage roll then your life is good; you really have no genuine concerns going on, my friend. Your meat isn’t going anywhere.
I don’t know the answers. I’m only a few days into this veganism lark and we’ll find out in a later article how I get on. What I’ve discovered is that we start chipping away at existential questions about the self-awareness and consciousness of the common bee, one suspects it’s time to take stock of all the luxuries we in the west have been afforded. And be thankful. Thankful that we’re not bees.