As vegans, we hear a lot of the same rhetoric time and time again:
I just couldn’t do it, I could never be vegan.
You are protein deficient.
Plants feel pain.
And so on. One of the oddest excuses for continuing to eat animals, in my opinion, is the whole “I eat meat for survival.” This is one that I never hear someone say to me in person, though it comes up frequently in online discourse. Here, on the other side of Twitter, is someone who thinks one cannot survive without animal products. Does this person think I’m a ghost?, I half-wonder.
Of course, it’s a completely dishonest line of argument. And the person saying it probably knows it, too.
You can point out that every reputable dietetic organization states that a well-planned vegan diet is perfectly healthy. You can ask for a reference where you can read about the magical nutrient contained only in meat. Or you can point out that you’re a living, breathing human who don’t need no meat.
That’s where they’ll retreat from their claim about survival and start to babble about amino acids, B12, and protein. It doesn’t matter that all amino acids are found in plants, that a B12 supplement is vegan, or that most people believe they need far more protein than they actually do. (Seriously, next time ask how much protein they think they need in a day. You won’t believe what they’ll say.)
Or they’ll allude to some unmentioned health condition that requires them to eat meat, likely because they know only a real jerk would question them about it.
Another favorite is the poverty angle: I can’t be vegan because I can’t afford it. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t address it here.
The best response, however, is the quip about humans being “designed” to eat meat, or the fact that meat may have allowed humans to develop large brains. Never mind the fact that evolution does not design and thus produces no finished product; we haven’t stopped evolving, so our past has no bearing on how we should live today. And if our newfound ability to cook meat provided our ancestors with the excess calories to develop these large noggins, that’s great, but I suggest you look at the average American waistline if you think we suffer from a shortage of calories today.
It reminds me of when Slavoj Zizek half-jokingly stated that vegetarians are “degenerates” who will “turn into monkeys.”
In the end, the “meat for survival” argument boils down to this: I think veganism is either unhealthy or too difficult for me to do correctly, so I will continue to eat meat.
It’s not such a bad argument if you consider laziness a virtue.