Ethically driven vegans tend to look down on others who are into veganism for health benefits. Personally, I’m vegan for a whole host of reasons, ethical, health, environment, “anti-globalism” etc. But if someone asks me why I’m vegan I’ll always say it’s for my own personal health benefits. Me, me, me! A purely selfish motive.
I like to think there is good reasoning behind this. I’ll try to explain why by means of an unrelated example. One day I was chatting to a friend. Out of the blue he suddenly said: “I helped someone out today. A young man. He said he was down on his luck, had no money, and was hungry. I thought he might be a drug addict so I escorted him to a supermarket and bought him a sandwich. He was really grateful”.
Now if this had come from someone else then my reaction might have been different but the person in question was always full of himself, new everything about everything and always wanted to make a point. (Vegan stereotype attitude by any chance?) My reaction was: “That was very good of you, a nice thing to do. But personally, I choose to only donate to dog homes.” He looked shocked.
I tell the story because it reminds me of some of those anti-vegan jokes. “Why did the vegan cross the road?…. To tell everyone that he is a vegan.” Etc. Vegans are famous for volunteering their goodness and moral superiority (or at least that’s how it comes across to others). And as a consequence they traditionally end up rubbing non-vegans up the wrong way. Even people who don’t even personally know any vegans at all tend to generally be annoyed with them.
Therefore: I choose the health argument. I figure people are naturally selfish, naturally want something for themselves and usually want to improve themselves. Through this mechanism an audience naturally comes to me. To a comment like “you are looking really good these days, lost a lot of weight – how did you do that?” I’ll respond – “well I had to really, my doctor said I was in imminent danger of having a stroke or heart attack – so I switched to a plant based diet with no oil, simple stuff, does what it says on the packet”. End of story, and I walk off or change the subject… but the person will be back for more details. Then people want to know how I can do so much running and cycling… again it’s down to the diet… and real athletes I find already know quiet a lot about plant-based dieting – my story tends to just confirm ideas they have heard already.
But I guess it depends what our social circles are. I’m operating in a predominantly middle-aged environment. People are beginning to understand they won’t live forever and they want to start making health changes anyway. In a younger setting e.g. the millennials, perhaps the ethical argument is then better. An 18 year old probably doesn’t care about the risks of prostate cancer, but might be more motivated about animal welfare.
Anyway… I am preferring the non-ethical argument at the moment. I think it’s a great way of promoting veganism without putting people off by taking the moral high ground. Of course the ethical benefits stemming from veganism are close to my heart. I just don’t see how it matters how those benefits are achieved. People go vegan for many non-ethical reasons – and then end up understanding the ethical side: they initially do it for health, to cure acne, to cure eczema, for enhanced athletic performance, simply to annoy their parents or partners (J), to go back to whole food basics and know what they are eating… etc.
To throw in another example that may appear to be a bit off-topic: McDonalds is now busy rolling out its vegan offerings. Now I don’t support McDonalds (for ethical reasons) and I am highly unlikely to eat a McVegan myself. But if it brings veganism into the mainstream… that has to be good. I’m happy to change the rules slightly.
Apologies for the long ramble 😕