Max Fisher On Vegans

May 7, 2009

Max Fisher just wrote another article on vegetarianism for The Atlantic. This time around, he confronts veganism through his vegetarian eyes.

Fisher’s still at a point where he views veganism as an unreasonably huge sacrifice:

The logic behind veganism makes perfect sense to me; then again, so does the logic behind giving up all one’s possessions for charity and living a life of ascetic minimalism. It’s more moral, it’s more ethical, and, like most people, it’s more than I’m able to do.

I think of vegans the same way I think of Peace Corps volunteers: I’ll gladly cheer them on as they make the world a better place, but I’m about as likely to give up dairy as I am to live without electricity in Guiana for a year. I like my air conditioning, I like my pizza.

I think anyone who’s been vegan for any length of time would find this an unfair, even silly comparison. I’d like to send Fisher off with a copy of Robin Robertson’s (all vegan) Quick-Fix Vegetarian for a month, and see how his opinions change. Even easier, he could just read yesterday’s guest article that I wrote for FatFreeVegan.com. Basically, the people who view vegan eating as a towering sacrifice are consistently the same people who’ve not made any concerted effort to sample new vegan foods on an ongoing basis.

Fisher hits much closer to the mark when he continues:

Fair or unfair, [vegans have] gained quite a reputation as the angry vegetarians–the vegevangelists who have harsh words for meat eaters and, if you seem at all receptive, will give you some literature to read.

Just before Mark Oppenheimer published his wonderful Slate article on life in a “mixed marriage” (his wife is vegetarian, he is not), he wrote on his personal blog, “Hard to say who will send me more angry mail … the vegans or the beef lobby.” I don’t know what the response was, but if his experience was anything like mine, his inbox became Vegan Target Number One.

All of this has more than an element of truth. If anything, it’s far too kind. I’ve got to say that, far and away, the most galling soul-depleting people I’ve ever met are consistently vegans. The damage that angry vegans do is incalculable. Angry vegans are why Michael Pollan has a confused and reactionary view towards vegetarianism, they’re why Vegan.com won’t ever have an online forum, and they’re why meat-eaters always have a ready excuse to dismiss animal protection concerns.

The first commandment of veganism shouldn’t be about diet; it should simply read: be nice to people. It all starts there.

But it’s a reporter’s job to look past the outliers, and Fisher didn’t meet that challenge in this piece. Who cares what angry vegans have to say, when there are people like Paul Shapiro, Vegan Outreach, Michelle Taylor, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, the VegNews crew, and hundreds of others who work every day to advance vegan eating in a gentle and pragmatic way. And as for the angry vegans? Who gives a shit? They’ve already received way more attention than they deserve. Link.

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