Meat eaters can get particularly defensive about what we vegans eat and why.
We’ve all been there.
Before you’ve said anything apart from kindly refusing a slice of their homemade cheesecake, you find yourself battered with questions and accusations.
Sometimes it comes as a shock, and we aren’t equipped to answer the arguments in an informed manner. Sometimes the best we can do is smile, nod, and fake lactose intolerance.
But those aren’t your only options. Here are some answers to 6 common arguments against veganism that you can use next time, which, let’s be honest, will probably be soon!
Informed Answers to 6 Common Arguments Against Veganism
“But plants have feelings too”
At first, I wasn’t sure whether to include this argument.
I found it a little too cliché and I was nearly sure that people used this argument only to troll us. Until I met Sven (name changed). Sven, an organic farmer, is fully convinced that plants do have feelings and can communicate with one another.
Perhaps he was using this argument to defend his carnivorous lifestyle, but, as somebody who works with plants for a living, he was sure of his conviction.
I was left speechless. It was only afterwards that I asked myself where he got that information from. Because it was certainly not from biology.
So, let’s get some facts straight: plants have no nervous system or brain and there is no reputable study that has ever shown that plants can feel the same physical, emotional and subjective pain as animals, human or not. Their chemical reactions to sunlight and being eaten are not the same thing.
But even if you truly believe that cutting a cabbage is the equivalent of stabbing a puppy, you should still be vegan: for every 1 kg of animal meat produced, livestock are fed about 6 kg of plants. Eating meat contributes to 10 times more plant killing than a vegan diet does. If that’s not a good reason for plant rights activists to go vegan, I don’t know what is!
“If you don’t milk a cow, its udders will explode”
Besides the fact that dairy cows have been genetically modified by humans to produce unnatural quantities of milk and live in a constant state of pain, there is another important reason why these cows are constantly producing milk.
Dairy cows are forcibly and repeatedly impregnated (I think there’s a word for that, and it rhymes with ‘grape’) in order for them to produce milk. Just like most of the human females I know, cows only produce milk after giving birth, to feed their baby. Once the calf is born, we steal it from the cow and usually slit its throat shortly afterwards. That way, we don’t have to share the milk. Once the milk jug is empty, all we have to do is impregnate the poor beast over and over again until she is eventually too weak to give birth to another calf, at which time she will go to her final destination: the slaughterhouse.
We are not “doing the cow a favour” by milking her. If you truly care about relieving the pain of her swollen udders, I suggest not forcibly and repeatedly impregnating her.
“But some rural communities in Tibet would die if they didn’t have meat and dairy”
Okay. Fair enough. If they have to consume animals and their products to survive, then they have no other choice. That’s their business. So, unless you are living in this situation, this argument is invalid, since it has literally nothing to do with the way you live.
“I respect your personal choices, you should respect mine”
A personal choice is one that affects only the person making the choice. That’s not the case when your personal choice involves physically and emotionally harming others. It is no more of a personal choice than it is a rapist’s personal choice to rape a woman or a thief’s personal choice to steal your credit card.
Being vegan is not just an opinion.
Your personal choice ends where somebody else’s choice is taken away.
“I’m reducetarian/flexitarian, I don’t eat much meat and dairy”
This stance particularly frustrates me for many reasons. Despite their good intentions, reducetarians are people who are explicitly aware of the conditions that animals experience or of the effect their breeding has on the environment, but continue to participate in it anyway, only to a lesser degree.
It’s kind of like saying “I used to beat my dog every day, but when I realised it hurt him, I decided only to beat him at weekends/when I go out with friends.”
But if using the words reducetarian/flexitarian means that people who still eat animals can stop telling people they’re vegetarians, then I’m all for it!
That said, some might make this transition for health-related reasons only. I know others who are just such picky eaters that it doesn’t make sense to them to go vegan. I’m not going to tell someone who can only eat fish and chips to eat chips exclusively.
“It’s impossible to be a competitive vegan athlete”
I’m not extremely enthusiastic about competitive sports, so I’ve always had trouble naming athletes who are vegan (or athletes in general for that matter) when somebody brings this issue up.
If you’re like me, you’ve always lost this point.
Hopefully you can just memorise these examples (let’s do it together!) of gold-winning Olympic medallists who are vegan. That should be enough to debunk this argument.
- Carl Lewis: Ten-time Olympic medallist – 9 of which were gold – and the only American male weightlifter (vegan or not) to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
- Murray Rose: Six-time Olympic medallist – 4 of which were gold. Murray is considered a true pioneer of Australian Olympic swimming.
- Edwin Moses:, Moses won 122 successive races, all of them on a plant-based diet, breaking four world records and winning two Olympic 400m hurdles titles. But where does he get his protein from, right?
- Cam Awesome: A super heavyweight boxing champion, Awesome went on a winning streak thanks to his newly found strength and energy. Now that’s Awesome!
There are plenty of vegan athletes in the world. Why would consuming unhealthy dairy and meat make you a better athlete anyway?
Is there any good reason not to be vegan?
When somebody says they’re vegan, that means they’ve made a choice to change their lifestyle. It means they’ve looked at a normalised situation and realised it’s wrong.
It means they’ve made a choice that goes against the grain. It doesn’t mean that we’re judging people who haven’t taken this step. We’ve all been in their shoes: you rarely find a vegan that has been one their whole life. Most likely we were misinformed or ignorant about the truths of the meat and dairy industries. Maybe we were so deeply convinced by the constructed superiority of human beings that it seemed okay. Maybe we truly believed that animals do not feel the same way we do.
Despite that, many non-vegans are offended by this choice. It is not our job to judge them, but it is our job to inform them when they ask (or even when they don’t ask, if you’re into that). And we should debunk invalid arguments like the ones above when we have the energy for it.
Do you often find yourself in this situation? Share below some arguments against veganism that you have trouble debunking!
Maeva is a Barcelona-based copywriter and translator working with French, English, and Spanish. She is particularly passionate about veganism and women’s health issues. When she’s not writing or translating, you can find her playing guitar in the sun or traveling Europe by train. Visit her website >>HERE
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