Vegans wonder why there is so much venom surrounding their decision to refrain from eating meat or wearing animal products.
There’s even a term for the negative reactions against veganism and vegetarianism – and it’s the new phobia of our times – ‘vegophobia’.
But unlike other forms of prejudice, vegans are fair game in politically correct Australia with even Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling vegans “green-collared criminals” with “shameful un-Australian” conduct when they hijacked major intersections in Melbourne and other areas to get their point across. And there was no opposition from Labor leader Bill Shorten who told the protesters to thank farmers rather than attack them.
Despite their lofty ideals, vegans seem blissfully unaware of the destruction they are causing to farmers’ lives and livelihoods. It is no coincidence that during the 18 months when I lived in rural Australia, I did not hear of or see a single vegan – not one!
In fact, mention vegans to farming communities, and they’ll describe ignorant city folk who want others to know their so-called “truth” about animal agriculture without ever personally having experienced what it is like to live on the land and experience the anxiety and hardship that comes with it. Farmers mock vegans who feel that they can define Australian agriculture after watching just a couple of videos.
How about creating videos of farmers spending sleepless nights hand-feeding their starving animals using baby bottles? Unfortunately there are no vegans present as graziers cajole their sheep into eating twigs and leaves, even orange peels, as a result of the drought.
Once-green farmlands are now a brown and yellow chequerboard and the gurgling water holes are muddy traps for farm animals to get bogged down. From there it is only a matter of time for feral pigs and other wild animals to launch an attack.
Seeing the laws of survival at play on a daily basis gives farmers another type of wisdom – rougher than our city sensibilities would allow.
That’s not to say they are heartless. Farmers will cry out against the shocking live export conditions of sheep shipped off in the scorching heat or cruel puppy farms. And humanity is indeed not just a monopoly possessed by vegans.
In rural Australia, however, vegans are viewed as vampires wishing to suck the lifeblood of the economy. Activists are targeting their livelihoods and trespassing on their farms that are also their homes.
For non-vegan city folk, the threats vegans pose are harmless. At worst, a day late to work, can be dealt with. But it’s the inevitable hypocrisy – present in every person regardless of their dietary habits – that causes many to eye vegans with an air of suspicion. After all, how can someone who refuses to wear leather boots and insists on using a specific vegan shampoo also want the air conditioning on in the office at full blast and drive a gas guzzler around town?
Unlike those who have dietary restrictions due to lactose intolerance, high cholesterol or just for religious reasons, vegans get a bad wrap. Part of that is due to the fact that they read more into people’s reactions than they should. After all, those who have ever been on a diet know that people say all sorts of crazy things half in jest and party because they’re jaded.
“What? You don’t want souvlaki because you’re on a diet? Watch me eat it! De-li-cious. You really don’t know what you’re missing.” But we just laugh it off and know that the scales will be tipped in our favour in the end – quite literally so!
And it’s not just the farmers who feel threatened, but also – our very Greekness! What’s Easter without lamb on a spit and chocolate eggs? What would we do without souvlaki or yiayia Marika’s galaktoboureko? Can we give all that up? And even if we had the willpower to do this, should we?
In a vegan universe, you would see no cattle happily grazing under the watchful eyes of stockmen. After all, our consumption may be harmful to these cattle, but they would not be bred for consumption were there no meat eaters. And therein lies the meaty question – Is it wrong to bring these animals to the world, even on the condition that they are bred in humane conditions? Then there are the farmers whose livelihood is under threat. Would it be fair to deprive them of the ability to raise their families?
And that’s not where the questions end – Can we love animals and eat them too? Therein lies the meat paradox.