Welcome. Hi. This is a story about the time I tried to be vegan and failed miserably and consequentially found out the drawbacks of both eating meat and eating vegan.
See. It all started about a year ago. I joined Netflix after finally giving into the years of the constant email abuse that gently chipped away at my fomo. I just simply had to join and see all of those original and unique shows that I was missing out on.
As it turns out it wasn’t the film oasis that I had been promised. More a nice wander down nostalgia lane to look at all of the noughties films I hadn’t bothered to watch in the first place. But nonetheless I quickly became swept away in Breaking Bad fever and was hooked by House Of Cards.
After binging on these and a few other highly addictive series I started looking for new ways to satisfy my Netflix craving. I watched a few comedies, got down with a few animés and swallowed a few sitcoms before finally finding the big hit I’d been searching for…
Man, I couldn’t get enough. One after another I watched deep into the night, usually before passing out on the sofa and then having to drag myself to work the next morning. I was watching them on the train, watching them as soon I had a spare five minutes, even watching them in bed while my girlfriend slept. I was addicted.
“But then the documentary that physically shook my core and made me reevaluate something deeply seeded my very nature.”
I wasn’t proud of my behaviour but they were just so good! They filled my little head with all sorts of knowledge and new information. From DMT The Spirit Molecule, to Man On Wire, right through to Zeitgeist (I’ll save my Zeitgeist story for another time). My mind was being opened in new and exciting ways.
But then I found the one. The documentary that physically shook my core and made me reevaluate something deeply seeded my very nature.
This pinnacle of trips into the weird and wonderful was none other than Food Inc. I was blown away. If I remember correctly I was coming down from a particularly bad time after watching Blackfish and Food Inc. hit me hard.
For those unfamiliar with the doc: it is a hard hitting insight into the food industry that looks at how food is manufactured and animals are commoditised purely for corporate gain. It’s mind blowing, it’s inspiring and it’s awful.
“Wham! My meat eating days were over just like that!”
That’s all the detail I can give as I think it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. But to give a little perspective: this meat loving, northern man-boy; brought up under the impression that meat was a necessity in every meal, that once had to wean himself off of McDonald’s because he’d been addicted to double cheeseburgers and couldn’t start a big day without a bacon sandwich; was turned into a vegetarian overnight. Wham! My meat eating days were over just like that!
Or so I thought…
I spent the next week in an existential food crisis. How was my food made? Where did it come from? Why the hell are we importing iceberg lettuce from Germany when I can can grow it in my back bloody garden? I spent hours in supermarkets wandering the isles like some sort of lost child that had been separated from his parents after being tricked into coming to the supermarket under the guise of visiting Toys R Us: I don’t want to be in here but I rely on these lying buggers to live.
“I spent hours in supermarkets wandering the isles like some sort of lost child that had been separated from his parents after being tricked into coming to the supermarket under the guise of visiting Toys R Us”
My girlfriend had also watched Food Inc and had been hit just as hard. We changed our diets, changed our eating habits and lived off only locally produced vegetables. I have to admit, the food was great and the challenge of making new meals every day was exciting and intriguing. And the biggest pay off was learning that you don’t need meat in your diet. At all. It’s completely viable to be a herbivore and still function as well as (if not better than) a carnivore.
This continued for a month or so before I convinced myself that I’m actually ok with eating meat. I will eat animals on occasion if it falls within a realm of natural causation. I only eat meat two days per week and only eat locally sourced meat from organic farms. I basically try and operate in the same way I would if I was a caveman trying to get by… I think I’d make a pretty poor caveman so trading a few money beans for another man’s chicken is okay with me providing that the killing was humane and the animal was given the freedom to do as he pleased when he was alive. It’s natural, it’s not wasteful and I eat it scarcely and responsibly (I still stand by this reasoning).
The issue I inherently disagree with is the commoditisation of animals. I irrefutably disagree that humans have any sort of right to force suffering in any other life if it can be avoided. A chicken is not a tomato; it cannot be planted to a tiny plot and forced to grow. It is a conscious life-form and should not be a a decimal point in a factory. The argument that being top of the food chain is sufficient reason to act as we do is irreverent. If anything, the fact that we understand the consequences of our actions is reason for us to take complete and utter responsibility for the ecosystem within our control. And right now we’re f*cking it up royally.
“The argument that being top of the food chain is sufficient reason to act as we do is irreverent.”
Rant aside I carried on merrily on my half vegetarian way. My girlfriend and I found a regular routine of eating veggie from Monday to Friday and buying locally farmed and organic meat using the extra ‘meat-money’ saved from our reduced shopping bill. Our guilt was under control, our moral compasses were pointing north and countless animals had been spared as a direct result of my double cheeseburger boycott. Problem solved.
Or so I thought…
Fast forward one year and I’m still a casual user of Netflix and still crave good quality documentaries. The problem now is that the documentaries are getting even better and their impact is hitting even harder. As a result I have found myself in another moral crisis even worse than the one before.
The cause of this crisis? Cowspiracy.
Image by Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46368369
If Food Inc. was a film it would be The Godfather. And Cowspiracy would be Godfather Part II; a deeper and more intense journey down the rabbit hole of true scandal.
Cowspiracy focuses on the dire and unequivocal environmental effects of meat production while diving deeper into the agendas of the organisations at the very top of the food industry. The arguments presented are both baffling and terrifying.
“We’ve been indoctrinated by a society that glorifies food porn and promotes meat consumption at every turn”
Did you know that 660 gallons of water is needed to create just one burger? All of that energy and resource to create eight pounds of flesh just to satisfy a human craving. And what’s worse? The fact that In America alone, people eat three burgers a week on average which has created a surplus if demand for cows to be reared on mass and with unnatural speed. Talk about fast food… And that’s just America! The global figure has to be astronomical. All because we’ve been indoctrinated by a society that glorifies food porn and promotes meat consumption at every turn.
As if that wasn’t enough these vast meat production houses contribute to being the third biggest contributor to carbon pollution. Even more than the combined exhaust emissions from all transportation! I recommend you watch Cowspiracy and you’ll also see into a world where there is a high chance ‘environmental helpers’ like Greenpeace and WWF are turning a blind eye to this unbelievable scandal as they’re heavily funded by the offending companies. Money talks, campaigners listen, corruption grows while they’re distracted.
So if you really want to make a difference to our environment then cutting down on meat consumption is far more effective than cycling to work or merely taking a quicker shower. Because if we carry on like this, water supplies will diminish, quality of health will continue to decline and animals will continue to suffer at the behest of blind greed and corruption.
“If you really want to make a difference to our environment then cutting down on meat consumption is far more effective than cycling to work”
But why vegan? Well like I say I was rocked again to my very core. I didn’t want to fund the processes that were operating on this sort of inhumane scale. I figured in a capitalist world of supply and demand, if there’s no demand then there’s no supplier (a very totalitarian I approach, I know). I was also convinced by the many other points made in the documentary like: why on earth do we drink milk? The only reason milk exists is because momma cow needs to turn baby cow from a fragile little calf into a giant, bulky bovine weighing over 100+ stone in a matter of weeks. Milk is super-cow-growth juice. It’s also the cause of countless health problems and is shown to cause fatty deposits in odd places: like man boobs. And I’ve been putting this liquid into into my body? No thanks. Not anymore.
So again, overnight I changed my habits. I cut out the milk. I cut out the eggs. I cut out the gelatin. I cut it all out. I was a vegan vagabond unshackled from the cavernous walls that had been unknowingly built around my by vulturous forces. I was free.
Or so I thought…
What they don’t tell you about being vegan is how isolating it is (and I mean isolating in a very mild form), but being vegan immediately isolates your food options to whatever single sandwich a food outlet has managed to fumble together in order to tick the box of ‘catering for all options’. (Here’s a secret: It’s usually something to do with humous.)
“You’ll never be able to visit the north east, they don’t cater for vegans.”
They also didn’t tell me how my Mam would nearly have a breakdown when I phoned her to tell her my latest calling in life.
“You can’t be vegan! You’ll starve! You’ll never be able to visit the north east, they don’t cater for vegans. It’s too expensive! What will we do for Christmas dinner?”
It made me laugh but fundamentally these are valid questions for a culture brainwashed into believing that meat is mandatory. And also, she had a point. If I’m struggling to find the vegan options in the diverse depths of London, what chance do I have of finding a falafel and three bean wrap in the spent suburbs of Sunderland?
“I was creating my own revolution, caring for cows yet to be conceived”
The problem is that veganism isn’t conventional. And if you think about it, that’s pretty weird. It’s easier and more resourceful to grow fruit and vegetables rather than caring and catering for cattle. Yet we clasp dearly to the notion that meat is good. I constantly found myself in conversation explaining my actions and defending my cause. Which was great as it gave me the option to talk about the corruption and confusion in which our culture is contained. It was carnivore conversion at its finest. I was creating my own revolution, caring for cows yet to be conceived while conspiring against pro-carbon companies and animal cruelty.
Yet still, even after all of this, I caved.
One night after a few vegan beers with the lady-friend we returned home ravenous for something tasty to crave our drunken munchies. Our cupboards were low on supplies and our fridge was empty. We had nothing to rustle up and the supermarkets were closed. We searched online for vegan takeaways and weren’t that surprised to find that they don’t exist. The impracticalities of being vegan had been gathering for a while now and the notion of not being able to chomp down on a midnight feast was the final carrot that took the humous.
“Within half an hour our pizza arrived and all of my previous convictions had melted down to nothing more than a cheesy, garlicky feast of confusion and disappointment”
Within half an hour our pizza arrived and all of my previous convictions had melted down to nothing more than a cheesy, garlicky feast of confusion and disappointment. I hadn’t lost all of my morals; I’d ordered vegetarian and there was still no meat in sight. But to be honest when you’re so set against something, there are no ‘get-out’ clauses. I had failed. Vegan was no more.
The effort, time and thought that had went into staying vegan was all-consuming. Everywhere I went I was reminded of my ‘abnormal behaviour’. Friends rearranged meals to accommodate my alternative diet. Unplanned meals were met with the same old bland selection of sandwiches. I was constantly preparing for meals miles in advance depending on my when and where I was. Being vegan should also come with a side-note saying *only suitable for organised people.
Unfortunately I just don’t have the time and resource needed to maintain this lifestyle. My work is hard, my days are short and I live in a culture where convenience is favoured and rules supreme. And right now vegan is not convenient.
Acknowledging this is infuriating, frustrating and demoralising. What I’m essentially saying is that I’d rather spend my time nurturing a career and lifestyle constructed to support this manifestation of greed rather than save the life of another being. I’m a sell out.
I’ve now gone back to a diet of veggie for five days and meaty for two while still carefully selecting the meat I eat to make sure it’s from a sustainable source. And I live in the hope that veganism becomes just as normal as, say, diabetes. Hell, if that happened, I bet there’s be a direct correlation between the rise of veganism and a decline of diabetes. I want to live in a world where consequences matter and organisations are held accountable for their actions. But right now I don’t see that happening any time soon.
“If were all a bit more conscious about where our food came from the current injustice of animal welfare would be revolutionised”
Still, if were all a bit more conscious about where our food came from the current injustice of animal welfare will be revolutionised and the environment would be far, far better off overall.
Who knows? You might even lose a manboob or two.
By Kris Makuch