If you’re vegan, the same questions seem to come up over and over again like that annoying pop-up on your phone that you constantly have to cancel. Whether you’re meeting new friends at a party, in line at the grocery store, or getting a ride in a cab, there’s a common handful of questions that seem to be the initial reaction to someone learning that you’re living a vegan life. Here are some ideas to inspire your comprehensive, enthusiastic answer to your moment of everyday activism. Or if you are the questioner, now you don’t have to ask a vegan (though most of us love to talk about it!)
1) Where do you get your protein?
If I could have freed one animals from a slaughterhouse for every time I have heard this question, I would have no need to write this. I’ve got to hand it to the meat and dairy advertisers. They had a product to sell, and that product was high in protein. They have accomplished one of the greatest dupings of the public since the “smoking is good for you” campaign. They successfully scared us into believing that you must have protein from animals, and lots of it, to survive, build muscle, have healthy babies and so on. It’s simply not true. Plant protein is not inferior or even scarce. Plant protein is abundant and if you’re eating a healthy, balanced, vegan diet, you’re most likely getting plenty of it. In fact, most vegans get about one and a half times the RDA of protein.
Protein deficiency is very rare, but not unheard of in the vegan community. Most people in the U.S. with protein deficiency issues are those with eating disorders, on extremely low calorie diets, or people who are low-income and not getting enough food. Essentially, people who do not or cannot meet their caloric requirements. If you’re getting enough healthy calories, you’re likely getting enough protein. It’s that simple. Eat plenty of beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts. These are wonderful, nutritious vegan foods that are high in protein.
Another thought on protein, there is no need to combine your amino acids by eating beans and rice in the same meal. The body “pools” them for you. The American Dietetic Association states that you can eat different amino acids at varying meals throughout the month and the body joins them together. They also say that children, pregnant women and athletes can get all the protein they need on a vegan diet.
The short answer, “All the protein you need is in plants like beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts, and they are much healthier than meat, without animal suffering.
2) What do you eat?
Everything else! There is a wide variety of vegan foods out there, you just have to go to the right places. Shopping at natural foods stores can open you up to a whole new world of delicious plant foods, but most grocery stores have vegan foods now too. Beyond the wide variety of vegetables and fruits, there are whole grains like quinoa, millet and amaranth and a plethora of beans and lentils. There is also pasta, couscous, polenta, tempeh, seitan, tofu, etc. Ethnic foods can be made vegan at the restaurant or at home like Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean. Many people say their diet has more variety now that they are vegan.
The short answer, “Everything else! There is an abundance of plant foods. My diet is actually more diverse now that I’m vegan.”
3) We were meant to eat animals, it’s natural.
If it’s so natural, how about hunting your prey as other natural carnivores do. Use your senses sniff out your prey, hunt with the chase and plunge your teeth into the jugular and eat the raw, bloody flesh, fur, organs, and bones.
This is not appealing to you? Well then, you can go into the garden and pick a strawberry and eat its raw, juicy flesh. Which would you choose? Which seems more natural? Do you salivate and think about dinner when you see roadkill? We are not carnivores. We can survive and thrive on an all plant diet. Why not choose compassion?
We are evolving. We now live in houses, poop in toilets, freeze our food. Would any of this be considered “natural”? The more we learn about the abundant benefits of not eating animal products, the less “natural” they will seem.
The short answer, “It has been scientifically proven that we thrive on a vegan diet and actually live longer than meat eaters, what is most natural is what is healthiest for us and that is a vegan diet.”
4) What’s the difference between killing plants and killing animals? Don’t plants feel pain?
Would you rather mow your lawn or hit a pig with a stick? Would you rather weed your garden or kick a chicken? There is a huge difference. We know inherently through observation of behavior that animals have the capacity to suffer and feel pain. It’s the same way we know a baby feels pain. Pain is a lower brain stem function that all animals, avians, and fish equally possess. According to our scientific knowledge, it takes a central nervous system to feel pain. A cow or chicken or fish can suffer just as much as a dog or cat. Unlike plants, animals cry out when in pain and struggle to get away from suffering. A child knows to pet a rabbit and eat a carrot.
Some will argue that plants feel pain. Is has not been scientifically proven, but even if it were true, a vegan diet would still cause the least suffering. If you eat animal products, you are actual killing more plants as the animal ate plants before slaughter. This wasted grain, that could be going directly to humans, is another excellent argument for veganism. The path of least suffering is always vegan.
The short answer, “Would you prefer to mot a lawn, or hit a pig with a baseball bat? There is a huge difference.”
5) Aren’t your shoes leather?
Well, no. Most vegans don’t wear leather, but some do. We all should be striving to make personal choices that will improve our world. Striving is a key word here. Perhaps someone has chosen to put their energy into avoiding animal products in their food, but haven’t taken it to the level of their clothes. It’s a process.
Actually, what the person is asking is “aren’t you a hypocrite?” Even the purest of vegans usually uses some animal products. It’s practically unavoidable in our society. There is gelatin in tires and film. Some beer and wine use fish or eggs in the clarification process. White refined sugar sometimes uses the ground up bones from the slaughterhouse in the refinement process. We do what we can and avoiding meat, dairy, and eggs is a noble endeavor. These are the products that the industry makes the bulk of their money on, not gelatin. Being vegan is not a contest, it’s an ethical practice about being conscientious and making better decisions. And it’s commendable, no matter what you wear on your feet. Oh,and there are now lots of vegan leather shoes!
We are all hypocrites to some degree. But if we are not setting our goals higher then we can actually achieve, we become complacent. I would argue for hypocrisy over complacency.
The short answer, “No.”
6) If you were stranded on a desert island, and all there was to eat were animals, would you?
First of all, how likely is this scenario?? Ok, let’s play along. There are always plants to eat. There are animals on that island that eat plants. Whether someone would have the knowledge to know where they are and which ones are not poisonous is another story. Salty seaweed is always a good option.
The answer to the question is probably yes. Reluctantly, I think that most people would do whatever they had to to survive. But guess what, we are not on a deserted island. Quite the contrary, we are in a first world smorgasbord of vegan options. Thank goodness! You would probably get sick of seaweed.
The short answer, “We are not on a desert island, we are in a first world smorgasbord of plant-based food. Aren’t we lucky that we can choose compassionate, healthy food?”
7) Indigenous people eat meat. Would you tell an Inuit to go vegetarian?
No, we would not. Their climate, location and circumstance forces them to eat meat to survive. But we are not in the Artic. We have an abundance of local plant foods to choose from. Actually, our survival hinges on us, the developed world, eating a more plant-based diet.
Our livestock production spews greenhouse gases, destroys rainforests, causes severe topsoil erosion, wastes vast amounts of water, and pollutes what’s left. The whole planet’s survival pivots on how much we consume and destroy. A shift to a plant-based diet in the first world could vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reforest more than 600,000 acres of land in the U.S. and could save the Inuit people.
The majority of the world’s indigenous people eat a mostly vegetarian diet, like in India and China. That is changing, however, as these countries become more affluent and adopt western diets.
The short answer, “Most indigenous people on the planet actually eat very little or no meat in India and China. Climate is a factor, so aren’t we lucky to live in an abundant agricultural climate with local vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and beans.”
8) What about when you travel? It’s way too hard to stay vegan when traveling.
Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or internationally, you can always find vegan food. You might have to dig a little deeper to find healthy options, but if you are persistent, staying vegan while traveling is rewarding.
In the U.S., every major city has a health food store and a Chinese restaurant featuring at least one veggie and rice dish. There are 435 Whole Foods Markets in 42 states in the U.S. alone. Most restaurants will create something for you if there is nothing vegan on the menu. If you are planning a trip, do a bit of research before you go. There are excellent websites that offer information on natural foods stores and veg-friendly restaurants in an area like www.happycow.net. Some cities might surprise you and have excellent options. For example, a fabulous and internationally renowned vegan restaurant called Sublime resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Not exactly the hub of alternative living. Lexington, Kentucky has a large co-op market with a wide variety of clearly labeled vegan options in the bakery and deli.
Vegan treasures are hidden everywhere. Isn’t that one of the joys of travel- to find unknown pleasures and experience new things? We can do all this and still not contribute to animal suffering.
The short answer, “If you do a little research, you can always find vegan food. Vegan treasures are hidden everywhere and you can make your travels rewarding by not contributing to animal suffering.”
9) I’m very athletic and need energy/protein. Aren’t vegans scrawny and weak?
There is no nutrient in animal products that can’t be found in a superior plant source. Superior because plant foods are high in fiber, antioxidants, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, with no cholesterol or saturated fat, unlike animal products. Generally, when people are “feeling low energy” and think they need protein, they just need calories.
The short answer, “The world’s strongest man is vegan. Google it.”
10) Animals eat other animals, why shouldn’t we?
Actually, most animals are herbivores and omnivores. The animals used for food by humans are herbivores. Carnivores are the minority of animals. Humans are physiologically omnivores. Omnivore means option. We can survive, for a while at least, eating almost anything (our modern Standard American Diet proves this to be true.) It’s a handy survival tool that has helped us to spread into the farthest, most inhospitable corners of the globe. Most other animals don’t have a choice. We do. If we truly are the supposedly intellectually superior species, then we should act like it and cause the least amount of suffering possible to gain the greatest health for our bodies and the planet and go vegan.
The short answer, “We are very lucky that we have the choice to cause the least amount of suffering possible to gain the greatest health for our bodies and the planet and go vegan.”