An open letter to militant vegans

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Dear militant vegans:

Please, please, for the love of all things holy, do a favor for everyone -- non-militant vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike -- and shut the fuck up already.

I know many of you are going to start banging out angry comments without reading the rest of my argument -- and that is your prerogative. But I would like to state, for the record: I am on your side.

I've been a vegetarian for ten of my thirty years on this planet. I agree that the mass production of meat, dairy products and eggs are more often than not cruel exhibits of the lengths to which human beings will go to make a buck. The benefits of a meat-free existence are myriad: lowered cholesterol, weight loss, greater energy, increased karma points. And as a recent convert to veganism, I can attest to the fact that its benefits are incrementally greater: clear skin, vibrant energy, increased memory, less lethargy.

Want to know why it took me so long to try out veganism? Because I was already tired of people rolling their eyes and tying me to your crazy, militant asses when I disclosed that I was a vegetarian. And I knew coming out as a vegan would only make it worse.

How successful do you think Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are at convincing the public that God hates fags? How many people do you think those nutjobs have converted to their way of thinking by protesting funerals and blaming the earthquake in Haiti on poor behavior? Well, guess what? You come across as equally batshit crazy when you start ranting to people about caged chickens and slaughterhouse practices.

Once again, I agree with you. But you know, there are better ways to bring people over to your way of thinking than attacking them. Meat-eaters already know that an animal has to die so that they can enjoy their Kobe beef and pork green chile. Obviously, beating them over the head with info they already know does nothing but piss them off.

Why not instead share some cold, hard facts about global warming with that Prius-owning carnivore? Not in attack mode; instead, say, "Hey, did you know that the world's meat consumption has been estimated to be responsible for 51 percent of all carbon emissions?" If people already care about the environment, it's not hard to share with them some ways they could make a difference by cutting out meat just one day a week.

Or for your diabetic friends who're struggling with a weight problem -- why not be a resource and offer to show them some tasty, meat-free recipes to help them along their way? Some people think going meat-free means you eat nothing but salad, sprouts and tofu. Host a cooking class in your kitchen and direct them toward a good low-fat, meat-free cookbook -- that will be far more effective than lecturing them on the evils of a meat-based diet.

Your all-or-nothing attitude is not only unhelpful, but actually an obstacle to leading people down the vegetarian/vegan path. Many people say, "I could give up everything except lobster/steak/barbecued ribs." Instead of berating them, try this mild response: "Well, why don't you try it and see how you feel?"

Another roadblock that kept me from going vegan was the fact that cheese is one of my very favorite foods. I didn't jump into being vegan head-first -- instead, I figured I would try it for a week or two and see how it felt. Well, I came to the conclusion that as much as I love cheese, I love the increase in energy and beauty benefits even more. So I'm sticking with veganism. But all you who told me that I had to go 100 percent vegan or go home were instrumental in preventing me from taking that step years ago. Just so you know.

How hard is it to put a muzzle on that mouth of yours and lead by example? My husband isn't vegan; when I told him I wanted to try it, he said, "Fine, but I'm not taking that step." Instead of going into nagging-shrew mode, I replied, "That's okay -- there are plenty of things we can still eat together, and I'll just start making dinner more often." Now he's slowly creeping my way after seeing how it's benefited me, and how I'm not really sacrificing much in terms of taste.

Neither one of my two brothers is a vegetarian, but I've been inviting them over for dinner for years, and recently started showing one of them how to cook. They both know that a meal at my house is going to be a meat-free affair, but they keep showing up, because they enjoy the food I make and want to learn how to impress a future girlfriend. My co-workers have noticed my increased energy level and my elevated mood. And instead of beating them over the head with how cruel and inhumane they are to even consider eating meat, I simply share with them what I've been doing and let them know I am here as a resource if they ever want to consider taking that step themselves.

You're undermining your own argument when you take the all-or-nothing stance. Guess what? Not all meat comes from a factory farm. By doing a little research, consumers can learn about the practices at different outfits and make an educated decision about meat, milk and eggs. By purchasing from companies with integrity, you're making an economic statement about what you'd like to see in the marketplace.

That's voting with your dollars -- and by doing so, you're sending a message to the meat, dairy and egg industries that will inspire them to adopt humane practices, and the companies that choose not to do so will see their profit margins falling.

Plus, in Denver -- and other cities across the country -- it's possible to keep your own chickens and goats for eggs and milk, putting the responsibility for those animals' well-being directly into the hands of the consumer. How is it a bad thing to promote responsible animal husbandry? And do you realize that decrying all eggs and dairy as inherently evil calls your credibility into question? I come from Midwest farm stock and can remember the truly free-range chickens clucking around my grandmother's yard and the roaming cows not hooked up to milk machines. Perhaps you don't agree with eating eggs or drinking milk -- that's your choice. But claiming that there is no such thing as a cruelty-free egg or glass of milk is ludicrous.

One last point, and then I'll wrap up this rant: How is it helpful to attack someone like Rachel Kesley, the chef at WaterCourse Foods, who was a vegan for three years but decided to add consciously raised-and-slaughtered meat and eggs back into her diet because her energy levels were low? She listened to her body and did what was best for HER. By screaming, "Don't listen to your body -- listen to ME!" you are only causing meat-eaters to conclude that anyone who chooses not to partake in certain foods is a shrill, angry person with no regard for individual choice and body chemistry.

I'm tired of being lumped in with your ilk. My choices are just that -- MINE -- and I respect the rights of others to make their own choices, whether they're vegan, vegetarian, a conscious meat-eater or stop by the drive-through every night. Get off your high horse, shelve the self-righteousness and lead by example. THAT is how you change eating habits -- and lives. Otherwise, you're just an animal-loving version of Fred Phelps. And nobody likes that guy except his fellow church members. And maybe not even them.

Sincerely yours,

Veggie Girl

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