When the man least likely to talk sense, Al gore, released “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, a whole can of worms was opened. A whole new debate was starting to take centre stage and commitment to countering global warming became almost as important as health care when deciding which political party to support. What was so inconvenient about Al Gore’s truth was that his findings and his solution was at the mercy of the human race. It would take commitment from every living person to make things right and 12 years later this documentary has created a genre in itself combining celebrity with environmental investigation.
Sadly, we’re still not where Al expected us to be. Despite countries like Portugal, Mexico and Norway taking the necessary steps to escape the use of fossil fuels, the environment is still a massively debated topic and as of recently that discussion has moved towards animal cruelty, sustainability and diet.
“Eating animals… it’s just the way things are.” This is what my brother told me the first time we discussed ‘going vegan’. Much like him, I’d eaten meat my whole life and had always gotten involved in the online grilling of vegans with a little push from viral videos poking fun at the ideology – it was fun, supposedly-harmless and made total sense because nobody was going to guilt me into thinking the same as a bunch of anaemic hippies…
I’ve always been too full of pride to take criticism and I’d always seem to find competition in even the most collaborative environments. So, as I’m about to reach my first year without eating animal products, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how the discussion of ‘going vegan’ needs to evolve into a more honest space.
There’s a stigma when it comes to debating veganism. Many steer clear of discussing the lifestyle as a result of being exposed to the extremist and inaccessible way in which the message is often put across. Misconceptions are brought about by those who ruin it for everyone – the ones who treat the cause as a cult in which you must abide by a concrete set of rules, or be cast out and made to feel “not vegan enough”. These are the people who chased away Waka Flocka Flame to name just one in a long list of celebrities who’ve been attacked by purists and stalked to make sure they’re properly representing the community. These are the stories that make the headlines, these are the stories that reach the masses and this is the brush a whole community is painted with.
There are people like Ellen DeGeneres who preached veganism to the world, then sold leather in her clothing line or Zooey Deschanel who flew the flag for the vegan community before finding it “too difficult” to stay away from hamburgers. People can become irritable when what they believe in is compromised on a global stage (have you seen Fergie’s sales since singing the American National Anthem?) and there are many parts of the vegan community that need to evolve to create a space for debate that meat-eaters want to be involved in. Otherwise, you get stuck in an echo-chamber, preaching your beliefs to people who already agree with you.
In the same way, a lot of politicians or public characters who preach about climate change or the existence of global warming are seen as lunatic lefties recycling the concerns of Marx and Lenin like some deranged cult due to a very small percentage of misinformed people. For example, Trump’s denial of the existence of global warming tore the senate apart when he first stepped into office and has continued to haunt his presidency as his narrow-mindedness has again-and-again proved to misinterpret the definition of the term. The conversation isn’t about ego, it’s about making sure nobody is benefiting by refusing to act.
“You’re missing out on the great pleasures of life” one colleague told me last week. “You really aren’t going to change anything” is another zinger that I hear too often. It could be a result of upbringing, culture, marketing exposure or other outside pressures – either way, people end up with a fear of not following the crowd.
These outside influences do not allow the majority of us to see past our preconceived ideas of right and wrong. We’ll eat the meat from a cow, pig or chicken because that’s how Western culture has raised us – the happy Laughing Cow just wants you to have a nice slice of cheese, and Piggly Wiggly can’t wait for you to buy a well-priced family-pack of pork sausages. But when we see a video of Boknal in Korea there’s global outcry at the thought of eating dogs – a pet animal, not a food animal. When you look at it this way, it’s no surprise there’s this cognitive dissonance which we all suffer from.
They serve bat in Indonesia, cat in Hawaii, horse in France and rabbit in your local restaurant. We share videos of a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose and demand less plastic waste to protect the animal kingdom and then mass-farm members of it to satisfy our hunger. What needs to change when we’re discussing ethical dieting is how we open up to the truth. When I ate meat, my blood would boil at the idea of someone taking a part of my diet away. This is because, as hard as it was for stubborn me to accept, I was wrong.
It’s very ‘trendy’ to be vegan and mass media is riding on the coattails of its success. But maybe, instead of focusing on the number of people taking part in Veganuary or how many restaurants are offering a salad without feta in it, let’s talk about the 2 million animals that have been slaughtered around the world while you read this article.
Max Gayler is a British journalist with a fondness for radical culture. Now calling Barcelona home, he writes about music and film for Huck Magazine and Consequence Media while pursuing his love of documentary filmmaking.