A common tactic employed by non-vegans to dismiss veganism is by painting the animal-free lifestyle as a mere preference, equally as valid and defensible as the alternative they subscribe to.
You’ll notice this if you engage with non-vegans in debates frequently enough, whether it be on social media or in person, about the merits of going vegan. Typically, it will come up in the context of whether or not one can justify not being vegan.
There are a few statements that can be recognized as this form of dismissal. Some common ones:
- “I don’t care if you’re vegan, just leave other people alone.”
- “Why are you forcing your diet on other people?”
- “To each his own.”
- “I don’t go around telling you what to eat.”
The implication is that trying to convince others to go vegan makes as much sense as trying to persuade people that the best ice cream flavor is, in fact, chocolate and not vanilla. You’re not going to change people’s minds about what they like, so why bother?
This tactic demonstrates either a misunderstanding of the purpose of veganism or a desire to avoid a conversation about ethics. In most cases, I’ll bet on the latter.
To drive the point home — that veganism is not a mere preference — I’ll use an analogy I’ve used before.
Say you’re walking by your local Planned Parenthood. There are a handful of protesters outside holding signs. It’s obvious they’re there to make their opposition to abortion known to the public. Upset, you decide to engage one in conversation.
That conversation is profoundly unlikely to end with both parties simply agreeing to disagree. Both sides — the pro-life and pro-choice factions — feel that they are standing up for victims: the pro-life crowd is defending fetuses they believe are human beings, and the pro-choice crowd is defending a woman’s right to maintain sovereignty over her body. Both feel that there are significant consequences at stake involving suffering and the loss of life. It is extremely obvious to everyone that the debate is not over preferences; it’s a debate about public policy that has enormous implications.
In an honest conversation about the merits of veganism and nonveganism, the same is true: no one believes they are discussing mere preferences that one side wants to impose on the other side.
But in less-than-honest conversations — specifically, ones in which one party wishes to avoid defending their position on ethical grounds — you’ll notice veganism presented as a strawman in this way. Painting veganism in such a way is strongly in that party’s favor because it substitutes for a discussion about the suffering of animals.
So next time you spot it, call them out. Veganism is not a preference; it’s a lifestyle far more ethical than the alternative. And know that when one wishes to present veganism as simply an opinion, they are attempting to derail the approaching debate.
Don’t let them!