by Svenja Birchen
So, let’s talk a little about one of the most influential food topics of our days. If one hears about veganism there are so many prejudices and thoughts which come immediately into our head and which is the case for a lot of other topics as well. Why are vegan people so complicated? What do they actually eat? What is still possible for them to eat? Why do they drink a milk substitute which is full of chemicals?
I think these thoughts are making the actual picture too easy to draw. These are questions which are asked in favour of eating meat or animal-based products. The problem I see in this debate is that everyone thinks they know not only what is right but also the true facts about the food industry and the vegan lifestyle. But why do we do that and what is right at the end?
In my opinion humans tend to point their fingers towards everyone else except themselves. For me this is a human trait, and everyone does it from time to time. We don’t want to think that we are also guilty and part of a problem. That’s why we tend to transfer the guilt to someone else regardless if it’s the meat eater or the vegan do-gooder. Today it’s extremely hard to do everything right at any moment. The food industry is so big and far reaching that it’s difficult to rebuild a connection with our food on our plates. Normally, we simply go to the supermarket and we grab everything we want without thinking about the groceries themselves or their origins. We even don’t think about how great it is and how thankful we should be that we CAN grab everything we want. There are a lot of people who really don’t care about where the food comes from, what the production of it does to the environment and who has to produce them. But here we see: even vegans can’t prevent all the bad things about food. They are limited in what they can eat, so sometimes even they cannot prevent themselves from buying a pollutive article in the supermarket. To get this clear: I’m not a vegan nor do I hate them or whatsoever. And I’m not an exaggerated meat eater either. I try for myself and, especially for all the victims of the major corporations from the food industry, to become a conscious consumer. Green-conscious, health-conscious, energy-conscious, cost-conscious, community-conscious, nutrition-conscious, quality-conscious and so on. We can see here: all the variations of consciousness referring to food are already hard to accomplish and to balance them against each other. What I want to emphasize here is simply the fact that humans cannot do everything right. No one can. But that should not prevent us from trying and from becoming better every day. So back to my question: who is guilty then? And what is right?
To my mind, we waste so much time by answering these questions that we simply forget what’s the point of all this. Shouldn’t we care about the food we eat? Isn’t that the point when we think about food itself?
In my opinion, what most people care about, concerning their food, is definitely if it’s healthy or not. And by this I don’t think about people not going to McDonald’s anymore. I mean they care about the fact that their food can make them sick. No one thinks that a meal full of chemicals and GMO’s is a good thing. If there is a scandal which gets public, most people are shocked. An example here would be the scandal where horse meat got into many products of beef lasagne. This was a huge thing and many people were afraid of what they ate and how this could even happen. But then, after a week or so, we forgot about it. We also forgot that Jamie Oliver sued McDonalds for selling unhealthy crap and we still go to McDonald’s on a regular basis. We know a lot of facts about our food. Even if there is the slightest possibility, we would not read the news or know about it because we are permanently on social media, we can easily look it up because of some help from google. Knowledge can be a rare thing if one is flooded by it. To distinguish between real and fake news is becoming more and more difficult nowadays. Nevertheless, I don’t assume that we have a lack of knowledge concerning our food and the food industry in general. I rather think that we lack the wish to really know. If we are aware of these facts and problems concerning for example the food production in general and if we have the wish to know, then we must admit that we, as consumers, are part of the problem the industries are facing and simply taking into account. This would mean we would have to challenge ourselves and our way of living and in the worst case: we would even have to change our lifestyle. Humans are slaves of habit how can something force us to change our wonts?
Vegans are definitely people who had these thoughts. They made up their mind to change their old behaviour and thought about possibilities to make better decisions for example concerning the lives of animals. They decided to save them. We all do know that vegans are only humans and also make bad decisions. No one is infallible. Still there is a lot of hatred towards them if we examine some discussions on social media platforms for instance. Why is this the case? Is it because we can’t understand why they do it? Is it envy that accompanies this rather negative picture of them? Are we jealous because we think, all things considered, that vegans do the right thing? As far as I can see, this could be partly true. People we think make good choices, make our own look like they would be the bad ones. This could encourage envy and anger towards them and at the same time it could make us ignore that mostly we feel great disappointment and the feeling of failure in ourselves. To recap: this is the thing about pointing our fingers towards everyone else except ourselves. It’s warping the reality, not about vegans, but about ourselves.
But is there nothing we could do without becoming vegans? I think there is definitely another way to become more sustainable in our choices. A lot of articles in journals, newspapers and other information sources are telling us what to do to be more ecology-minded all the time. Eat less meat, fly less, sell your diesel vehicle. Of course, these things are already big things to change. But we could also start by small degrees. We could try for example to take the bus sometimes or to eat a vegetarian dish instead of a meat dish once a week. We actually know what we have to do but at the same time we do not know. We constantly wish that everything will turn out the good way for us without the necessity to change our way of living and our habits. We don’t want to renounce on something. But, if we don’t start to make better decisions towards our environment, on which things will we have to renounce in the future? We don’t have to be envious, angry or whatsoever towards vegan people, especially not if we try to make more green-conscious decisions ourselves.
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