The holidays are a perfect microcosm of some of the underlying reasons most people find veganism unappealing. As someone who thinks from a very analytical and logical perspective most of the time, it is hard for me to accept some of the more social and emotional considerations people have surrounding veganism. I can understand these factors, but in my mind they hold absolutely no weight in the matter.
I adore food and the days centered around eating as much of it as possible are some of my favorites. So I was not immune from the initial hardships of a vegan lifestyle. That first vegan holiday will be hard. You’ll have to give it a bit more effort. Finding new recipes to try or cooking your own dishes when you’d normally have everything prepared for you. Maybe there is a particular dish that represents a lot of tender memories that you can no longer enjoy with your family.
Every year I still go out of my way to put on a good show for the holidays. I pull up pictures of past Thanksgiving meals on my phone to satisfy the many questions I’m sure to receive from friends and coworkers. What do you eat for Thanksgiving? You don’t have turkey?? Yet no one ever seems happy with my reply. I can’t tell if they are disappointed I was able to show them an immaculate meal, calling into question their own commitment to a meat filled holiday, or if they still find my meal sad and feel pity for me.
To be honest, this part of my holidays is harder than my dietary restrictions themselves. I detest playing the vegan emissary. Answering the same questions, hearing the same responses and comments year after year with a stiff smile. I feel it’s my duty to at least give a good face to veganism. Even though I know it never changes anyone’s mind in the end. I know it would be worse if I gave them a reason to believe a vegan holiday was desolate and pathetic or that vegans are hostile, angry, or unfriendly. Most people are dying to believe those things already.
However, it makes me sick to play the part of the happy, welcoming, friendly vegan. I don’t want to have to cater to people’s childish, selfish concerns about a vegan diet. In my mind what I eat or don’t get to eat for holiday meals is totally irrelevant. Sometimes I just want to shout: Animals are suffering. Animals are dying. For a fucking meal. Its absurd. It’s horrific. It’s an outrage. Why are we talking about if I miss my mom’s homemade stuffing?! Even if I ate the paper plates on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t give anyone the right to murder another being.
I know most people’s minds are not so black and white. But to me it’s the most black and white issue there is. Nothing justifies unnecessary death. We can live perfectly happy and healthy lives without meat and dairy products. That should be the end of the discussion. There is nothing else to consider. Why must I dance around this fact with everyone I meet? Even trying to nail someone down on that simply fact doesn’t work. The mind is a slippery mistress. Even though I’m sure everyone can agree that killing animals is wrong, they somehow build a defensive, exclusionary wall around the killing they participate in. And that wall is impenetrable.
So today I prepare to play the “good vegan.” I will bring delectable dishes that hardly anyone will try. I will ignore the jeers and unoriginal jokes. I will avert my gaze from the body parts my family happily fills their plates with. And I will try to remember that I was once one of them. I will try to remember that the mind is fascinating and complex. It’s defense mechanisms are strong and enduring. And 2 + 2 does not equal 4 when it comes to human beings. Killing and eating animals is horrific and cruel, my family and friends kill and eat dead animals, but my family and friends are not heartless or cruel. Some days it’s hard for me to accept that.