Do Vegans Know What We’re Missing?

If you’re like me, you often encounter people online who, typically in response to a vegan posting about veganism, take it upon themselves to announce their plans to eat a steak or some other extravagant meat-based dish. Attached to the post may be a photo of said dish. “Can’t wait to eat this ribeye tonight!” the caption might say. “If only you had some real meat, you’d know what you’re missing.”

But if you’re again like me, you do know what you’re “missing” because you were not vegan for the first decade or two of your life. In my case, I went vegan shortly before my 20th birthday. I ate meat every day of my life, and enjoyed it, as you may have, too. As I said recently, I ate slim jims for twenty years before I went vegan. I know what meat tastes like. And guess what? I’m good without it.

The tactic is silly. I find it hard to accept that people who make this sort of claim actually believe that the person at which they’re directing their ire has never tried meat. But the alternative is that they’re just saying whatever they want to say without any regard for the truth, which I also find difficult to accept. People want to be right — or, at the least, not wrong. I suppose that as long as they do not know they are wrong, they find such an argument acceptable — compelling, even. If you see someone claiming that you’ve been vegan or vegetarian all your life, call them out on it if it’s not true!

At the risk of potentially pathologizing such behavior, let’s think about the psychological state underlying the claim.

Veganism is about ethics. The people who believe “bacon tastes good” is enough to overcome the ethical imperative of veganism are arguing that our taste buds be placed above our moral sense. And not only are they arguing that their own taste buds are of the utmost importance, but that yours are, too. They want you to stop caring, because meat and animal products are delicious.

Moreover, it’s an appeal that reeks of addiction. I’ll be careful here — I don’t really subscribe to the idea that meat and animal products are addictive, though they might be. What I mean is that it’s reminiscent of what I imagine the internal monologue (conscious or unconscious) of someone suffering from alcoholism. Sure, they know that they’re better off without alcohol, but doesn’t it just make you feel incredible?

We know what we’re “missing.” We’re “missing” the taste of blood and flesh. We’re “missing” our contribution to unnecessary animal suffering. What we’re not missing is delicious food that happens to be made from plants — some of which is nearly identical to animal-based meat.

Vegans aren’t missing anything worth missing. Perhaps it’s the apologists that are missing something — a sense of ethical duty that children often find remarkably easy to grasp.

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