I wish I hadn’t watched that video. I wish I could roll back time and forget this moment of enlightenment. Why do we treat animals so badly? Why do we mass produce living beings just so we can eat at McDonalds? I’ll never be able to enjoy a burger again, or a flat white. Even honey is off limits.
Vegan. That’s the dirty word, that’s the descriptor I never thought would define me. I’m normal, I’m just like everyone else, and “I’ll eat whatever you’re having!” Except I won’t. Because I can’t unsee those images. I can’t pretend that it’s fine to stick my hand inside a dead decapitated chicken and fill it up with lemons and garlic. I can’t fry a steak, or wear a leather belt, because I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of other living things.
So my transition starts. My girlfriend watches on disapprovingly as our fridge loses all meat and dairy, and hemp milk, oat milk and almond milk take up increasing amounts of space. She’s even less impressed when I proudly state: “The cat ate smashed avocado on toast for breakfast today.” I’m turning that carnivore vegan; she gets special cat food delivered in the post now.
All I see are healthy guilt-free alternatives; all my girlfriend can see is boring plain food. I tell her; “It’s for the best, we can radically change the world one meal at a time.” She tells me she’s hungry, and she’d rather stay ignorant. I’m not allowed to show her the evidence of the terrible things done in her name.
Things come to a head at 2am on a Wednesday morning. My girlfriend has been out drinking with her workmates and she staggers in and wakes me up – she’s absolutely smashed. She’s hungry and I follow her into the kitchen and watch as the realities of my veganism wash over her swaying form. Sourdough bread, almond butter, bags of kale, fresh mushrooms, seven packets of lentils (green and red), pearl barley and quinoa – this isn’t the menu for a drunk twenty three year old.
She slams the fridge door shut and decries the “vegan shit” filling up our kitchen. She wants pizza, pie, kebabs, sausages, burgers, but all I can offer her is homemade soup, or a banana smoothie. And I remember the phrase that appears in nearly all vegan media: “See the world through the eyes of the victim.” And I’m torn – who is the victim in this scenario: my drunk girlfriend? Or the animals that die so she can drunkenly sink her teeth into their decaying flesh?
But context is important too. We sit around and stuff our faces and we owe our lives to mass production and deception. We’re sold images of happy animals who die quietly and peacefully (after content little lives) and we buy their dead bodies wholesale.
My drunken girlfriend has bought the lie. She’s drunk so she wants meat (of course), she wants to stuff herself on unhealthy foods because that’s what you do. You drink too much, and then you eat a kebab; and it’s fine, you can be temporarily hedonistic. Until you wake up the next day with a pounding headache and a bad stomach.
We’re all victims. We’re all sucked in by late-night advertisements. We’re enchanted by the kebab shop myth, those late night vendors in brightly lit windows, hawking horse meat at ungodly hours – the moments where people are at their most susceptible.
I realise that we’re all victims of corporations that fill their pockets with our pennies, the tiny pieces of money that we all tithe daily to keep Coca Cola, McDonalds and other global purveyors of repackaged suffering solvent. So I fill up my blender with chickpeas, I dice up a lemon, crush some garlic, and I make houmous, good wholesome Middle Eastern food.
I chop up a cucumber and I hand it to my girlfriend. “It’s finger food,” I tell her. “It’s good.”
She looks at my arrangement with disdain but her belly growls and she starts to eat. She stuffs her face and devours an entire cucumber, all of the houmous, and promptly falls asleep on the sofa with a contented belch.
We don’t have to eat the shit they tell us is good, we can change our perspectives, we can reassess and reconsider the myths we’re sold. I don’t eat anything that had a face, or a mother. I don’t drink cow’s milk, monkey’s milk, elephant’s milk or rat’s milk. I’m a human; I don’t consume animal products.
But it took a massive shift in my reasoning to change my diet, and it’s hard to maintain. I miss cheese, I miss milk and cookies, but I can’t go back. I’ve learned something, a truth that sits uncomfortably inside me, and one that I can’t forget – we don’t need to eat animals (even when we’re drunk).
So in those moments of weakness, in those times where advertisements define your response, take a step back. You can be radically different. You can change the world one mouthful at a time by not accepting the pain and suffering that meat-eating causes.
But don’t try and change your girlfriend’s mind too quickly. Take inspiration from fast food advertising. Wait until she’s drunk and at her most susceptible – then feed her cucumber.