Society considers vegans fussy, but in fact, most omnivores are fussier eaters than vegans. Omnivores typically have a narrow diet. They shudder at the thought of eating tofu, yet they are happy to eat the innards of a dead animal. How ridiculous to wince at the sight of tofu – a product derived from an innocuous bean – yet get gastronomically aroused in the presence of guts and muscle from a dead being! Guts and muscle that once enabled a being to experience life, now slumped on some plate, quickly putrefying and filling with bacteria.
Typically vegans include a wide variety of foods in their diets. Plant foods that most omnivores have never heard of, let alone tried. The range and variety of foods a vegan can eat is massive. The edible plant kingdom is huge and far outstrips the range and variety of animal foods that omnivores commonly eat. So frequently an omnivore’s diet is more restricted than a vegans. The difference between a varied omnivore diet and a vegan one amounts to dead animals and their excretions.
About a week ago a friend of mine invited me to a seminar. He is an omnivore and I decided to bring lunch for both of us. The reason I did this was because I knew that if I brought food he wouldn’t be purchasing any dead animals and it was another opportunity for him to experience vegan food. And even though I know that it is highly unlikely that he will ever be a vegan, I wanted to help him understand what vegan food was all about. When I told him I brought sandwiches, his immediate instinctive reaction was to be negative and make a joke about it. His mind is so closed to veganism that he instinctively made a joke. I find this extremely irrational given there is nothing icky or grotesque about eating edible plant foods. Plant foods are not procured from the bodies of animals. They are not procured from the flesh, guts and bones of animals. What substance is more stomach-churning than rotting animal parts? I don’t know of any. On the other hand, plant foods are innocuous. No pain is involved in the procurement because plants don’t have a central nervous system, they don’t have nerve receptors, they do not have the capacity to experience anything. Now back to my friend. When he got around to tasting the sandwich he was surprised. He actually enjoyed the sandwich and said it was the best sandwich he ever tasted. What’s interesting about this is that he has tried vegan food before and he enjoyed it then too. His mind is so fixated and restricted, that every time he is presented with vegan food his irrational fears are renewed. It doesn’t matter that he has had positive experiences with vegan food in the past, each time he is offered vegan food he expects it to be a nasty experience. Later on I offered him a vegan cupcake. This cupcake looked no different to a non-vegan cupcake, yet his instinctive reaction again was of disgust – he made another joke. When I eventually convinced him to try it, he was pleasantly surprised again. It didn’t matter how many times he ate vegan food that was enjoyable, every time he was offered vegan food his immediate reaction was negative. If that is not fussiness, I don’t know what is.
Now let’s look at the big picture – let’s move away from talk of diet because veganism is more than just a diet. Let’s change our focus to the wider understanding of fussiness. To be “fussy” in the strict sense is to be excessive and particular about trivialities. Were the suffragettes fussy in their demands for equal rights for women? Are people who avoid buying sweatshop products fussy about labour practices? Is the expectance of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work fussy? Is the person who avoids buying products made from child labour fussy? Of course not. None of these stances/actions are fussy. And neither is a vegan when they intentionally avoid products and practices that are tied to animal exploitation and abuse. There is nothing trivial about animal exploitation and abuse. And showing concern about the suffering of sentience beings is not fussy. On the contrary, it is a necessary expression of an evolved human, of an ethical being.
Society needs to revise its attitude towards individuals who take steps to avoid unethical actions and use good judgement to inform their decisions. It can only be considered a good thing to avoid unethical actions. On one level, veganism is about avoidance. The vegan recognises that some actions need to be avoided because they are unethical. This avoidance should never be deemed fussy because the driving force is ethics. Ethics is an important concept, not some triviality like taste or fashion. While avoiding unethical actions, at the same time veganism is expansive because it promotes positive actions. It is not enough to just avoid doing bad things, we should also take actions that improve the lot of sentient individuals.
As I have demonstrated, omnivores are typically fussy about what they eat. They are fixated on their taste buds; they let their taste buds drive their actions, but are lax in their acceptance of responsibilities to dietary actions. This dietary laxness is indicative of their general moral laxness and conversely, their mental restrictions. The omnivore psyche is a narrow mindset, which restricts ethical thought and ethical deliberation. And hence they have moral blinkers on, blinkers that guide them to certain types of foods. On the other hand, the value system of vegans drives them to do the right thing and avoid certain foods/products. Their sense of right and wrong and their motivation to do the right thing informs their decisions.
People think veganism is a restrictive lifestyle, but letting tastebuds, convenience and tradition dominate your life is a restriction beyond measure because it lets the trivial dominate, suppress and incarcerate the significant.