18 February 2011

10 things everyone should know about vegans

When many people think of the term "vegan" they immediately picture a malnourished, stick-in-the-mud, chopping on a head of lettuce while longing for a Big Mac dipped in cheese sauce. And, of course, as vegans we know that couldn't be farther from the truth. Without further adieu, here is a list of ten things everyone should know about vegans.

1. Vegans love to eat. Or make that loooove to eat. Our taste buds and appetites are in fine working order. We salivate, drool, get food cravings, and can chow down, gobble up, and overindulge with the best of 'em. And all with plants! (Not that we're bragging.)

2. Vegans aren't masochists. Being vegan doesn't mean deprivation or sacrifice—our lives are richer, not poorer, for following a plant-based diet. And we don't get off on hair shirts or self-flagellation, either, just for the record.

3. Vegans have a sense of humor. That's right. Your average vegan is not an incessantly intense, laughter-impaired stick-in-the-mud. We like to have fun as much as the next person; we're just not going to torture animals to do it.

4. Vegans aren't all malnourished skinny bitches. We're female and male, we come in all shapes and sizes, and we're probably the healthiest people you know.

5. Vegans aren't just young, privileged, and white. We proudly count among our number people of color, the working class, and folks of every age. And we're getting more diverse all the time. Because you don't need a certain skin color, bank balance, or birthday to be an ethical eater.

6. Vegans care about people. Just because vegans are deeply compassionate toward animals doesn't mean we're misanthropes. Far from it. We don't want any of our fellow earthlings—whether two-legged or four-legged, furred or feathered or finned—to suffer or be exploited.

7. Vegans don't rely on "willpower." Veganism isn't about gritting your teeth and toughing it out every time you pass a burger joint. We're not white-knuckling it every day of our lives. Once the logic and beauty of veganism clicks in, the rest becomes easy. Anyone can do it. Even you.

8. Vegans aren't following a "fad." Sure, it seems chic to be vegan these days, what with rap stars and former Presidents all championing a vegan diet. But trust us, this isn't a blip on the cultural radar (like the macarena or singing plastic fish). As the economic, environmental, and ethical hazards of animal-based food systems are made increasingly evident, the more mainstream veganism will become.

9. Vegans understand you. The great majority of vegans weren't raised that way. We've gnawed our share of babyback ribs, noshed on McNuggets, ordered pizza with extra pepperoni—and there was a time when we couldn't imagine giving up any of those things. Ever. Sound familiar?

10. Vegans are optimists. And that's because we know, first-hand, that change is possible. We see how our own lives have transformed, how a diet that once sounded impossibly radical now feels completely sensible and indispensable. We know if we can change, anybody can. And we know that every little change means a little less suffering, a little less cruelty, a little better world.

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook
Elizabeth is an Asian-Appalachian writer, activist, and college professor living in north central Massachusetts. Once an avowed carnivore, she was a vegetarian for 15 years before making the conversion to veganism. She is passionate about trying to live a life that lessens, rather than contributes to, the amount of cruelty and suffering in this world. Follow Elizabeth on her Vegosphere blog and Facebook page.

Photo credit: cc:flickr.com/photos/readerwalker, adapted