I’ve never heard of Alexandra Jamieson before today, so I don’t know how important or influential she is, but this article was drawn to my attention as somebody with vegan sympathies.
Let me say at the outset that I’m not actually quite vegan – I eat free-range eggs and even fish occasionally, so technically I’m not even vegetarian, you might call me flexitarian. I don’t drink milk if I can avoid it, but I have cheese rarely. I aim for vegan as much as possible.
But I have been vegetarian on and off for the last 20 or so years, and I was fully vegan for a few months last year. I even considered writing a book to convince Christians to become vegan.
I had two reasons to become reason. One was my own health, which if you’ve been reading for a while you will know is not good, and has been for over ten years. I have an as yet unspecified illness which is currently called ‘ME/cfs’. In short, my health is pretty dire. I am overweight and in constant pain. So I hoped that going fully vegetarian and then fully vegan would help.
In fact quite the reverse happened. I put on even more weight and got even sicker, and my cholesterol was raised from the year before when I tried paleo.
I found that although I’m not coeliac, I can’t tolerate much wheat, so adding wheat and fake meats into my diet exasperated my IBS to the extent that my GP started to be convinced that it was in fact IBD or Crohns. My brother has Crohns so it was a real worry. But I found that as long as I scaled back the wheat and the fake meats, my bowels behave themselves for the most part.
I was actually much healthier on a paleo / primal diet. All the science that I have read on carbs and cereals convinces me that a cereal / carb-based (as opposed to plant-based) vegan diet is potentially very detrimental to health, especially if you have metabolic difficulties with carbs, as people with PCOS and other endocrine disorders do.
My second reason though was conviction that, regardless of my health, it is essentially wrong to take the life of an animal, and further, to take the produce of an animal who is kept in cruel and inhuman captivity.
I admit I don’t have the same strength of conviction when it comes to fish as I do for mammals, but I have no doubt that the methods required for mass rearing and slaughtering even of fish are quite different than those required for small scale rearing.
I have always, since I was a pre-teen, thought that it was cowardly of a person to eat an animal if that person was not willing to do the actual killing themselves. I know I wouldn’t be. Could I kill a fish? Perhaps. (I’m not sure, perhaps not. Probably not, thinking about it. If I saw a fish suffocating and struggling I would probably have to throw it back.) A cow? A pig? A chicken? Never.
Hypocrisy and cowardice are things which I abhor. So I try to limit my own. OK so it is currently limited to fish-eating. I have at least stopped eating my favourite prawn sandwiches (my non-kosher guilty secret) after discovering the slavery scandal linked to supermarket prawn supplies.
But Alexandra Jamieson’s article disturbs me. Relativism, looking for ‘your truth’ as opposed to ‘my truth’ is so convenient! It becomes possible to justify almost anything that way. But there is an objective truth here, that animals are abused on an, unthinkable, indescribable scale.
And this is the problem with health-based veganism.
If you are a vegan for health reasons, without the moral conviction, it is doubtful that you will stay vegan. Being vegan is hard. It’s awkward. It’s difficult. It can make you a social pariah, and eating in restaurants is a challenge, and it may not reap the health rewards you are seeking.
But if you look into the reality of the way animals are treated, if you spend time with animals and realise they have feelings, that they feel fear and pain, and suffer when they die and when they are held in captivity, producing milk in painfully inappropriate amounts, if you know that it is the right thing to do, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding as a vegan.