Just the other day I was in a grocery store buying food, and as usual, the cashier put me through a carnivorous interrogation asking about my diet, why I was vegan, and of course ending her interrogation with the usual “I could never go vegan because it’s too hard.”
It sometimes feels like I’m living in a nightmare that many folks got to escape when Starbucks cancelled their “Race Together” coffee plans. Each grocery shopping experience for me is filled with unwarranted questions and discussions about my political identity.
So, below I’m going to dispel some myths that I encounter almost weekly about veganism when I go shopping:
(1) “Veganism is too hard to do.”
No, that’s actually not true. Veganism is a political lifestyle that manifests itself through plant-based eating. [There are many different articulations of veganism and meat consumption all over the world, but I specifically focus on mainstream veganism and mainstream meat consumption in the U.S.]
You have to recalibrate yourself to actually be vegan if you’ve been trained to eat meat your whole entire life. Veganism is kind of like learning a new language. If you only speak English and you’re trying to learn to speak German, it’s going to be difficult.
BUT—you were also trained to speak English as well, right? Someone had to teach you the rules so that you could communicate effectively.
Similiarly, the ways in which Americans currently consume meat was taught through tradition and reinforced through the media.
Babies weren’t born asking for a big mac and fries. Their eating habits were taught to them, and then naturalized through advertising and marketing. When every image around you has someone eating a meat product, you won’t have a reason to question your own habits because everyone is doing it. There’s a reason why advertising agencies target children to ensure they become life-long customers. [ahem…McDonalds happy meals…]
Veganism isn’t hard to do. It’s easy to become fluent in it if you know how to do it right and you actually take time to figure it out. What’s difficult is UN-LEARNING meat consumption, and living in a society that privileges carnivorous consumers over plant-based ones.
How many times a day do you see advertisements for cauliflower or broccoli? Now, how many times do you see advertisements for chicken, beef, and pork products? Advertisements not only advertise brands, but also lifestyles.
So, to reiterate, veganism isn’t hard.
This is true for any political identity. That’s like being a sexist and saying that it must be “hard” to be a feminist. No, feminism isn’t difficult. In fact, it changes your life for the better…but living in a sexist world is hard.
(2) “Veganism is too expensive.”
Processed vegan foods can be expensive but buying items like lentils, beans, rice, vegetables, and fruit doesn’t have to be. In fact, because I’m *very* poor, I make sure that when I go shopping, I buy products that I can turn into delicious recipes that last a while.
For example, I make a mean vegan lasagna that lasts *all* week. I also cook beans and rice in bulk and then buy different vegan sauces and spices. I would also recommend buying a vegan cookbook, or even just using google to find delicious recipes. Veganism is really a lifestyle change. [Also, if you have the means to, plant a garden, or buy soil and place them into pots or any structure that can hold soil and plant your own vegetables].
When you go shopping as a vegan, you really just have to plan out in advance what you want so that your buck goes a long way. Again, this goes back to #1. Veganism is kind of like a new language, with it’s own unique rules, but it’s not difficult when you learn it.
Access to vegan foods can be difficult for some folks if they live in a food desert—which are spaces inundated with fast foods and unhealthy items with no grocery stores in sight. Therefore, access to vegan foods for low-income folks can be difficult because of racism and classism, but that doesn’t mean veganism is expensive or that veganism is the problem. Systemic inequality is unhealthy and expensive.
(3) “Veganism isn’t healthy.”
This is another myth. I can’t tell you the amount of times meat-eating folks tell me that they could never go vegan because they “need their protein.” This comment usually induces a laugh-out-loud reaction for vegans because our diets very much rely on protein.
In fact, our protein sources are: quinoa, tempeh, tofu, lentils, and much more.
I would argue that massive meat-consumption is super unhealthy and unnatural. There’s a reason why on television, medicines for heart burn, stomach aches, constipation, and sleeping aids are couched in between commercials for chicken dinners and fast food.
Look at this commercial for heartburn medication which accidentally points to meat consumption as the culprit:
Wow! Who knew heart burn could be so much fun!!
In fact, the U.S. [which is largely carnivorous], struggles with breast cancers, colon cancers, and other ailments that are killing us. In 2014, the Harvard School of Public Health found that women “who ate higher amounts of red meat had a higher risk of breast cancer.” Harvard also found that red meat consumption was linked to an increase in “type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.”
My own family has a history of breast cancer, diabetes, and colon cancer which is terrifying. When one of my family members was diagnosed with colon cancer, he immediately started adopting some vegan habits despite the fact that he was a die-hard meat eater.
It’s also important to note that if you are finding studies that say meat is healthy for you, you might want to check who is sponsoring the study because it’s already been demonstrated that a lot of meat businesses are already “in bed” with pharmaceutical industries. This is about money, folks!
(4) “Veganism is a white thing.”
While mainstream vegan representations in the media are usually white, that doesn’t mean veganism is. I even wrote an article listing 100 Black Vegans to help dispel this myth because it actually erases work that vegans of color have been doing for a while.
Vegans like Angela Davis, Dr. A. Breeze Harper, Bryant Terry, and Kevin Tillman are doing important work that connects veganism to anti-racist work. In fact, Dr. Harper created a conference this past April called “The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter.” There’s even a black activist named Ron Finley who is known as the “guerrilla gardener.” He plants vegetable gardens in abandoned lots, traffic medians, and curbs to provide fresh foods to folks who live in food deserts. He says “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
Watch his TED talk here:
Unfortunately, because of organizations like PETA which has connected veganism to “losing weight” and have even been involved in body-shaming camapigns, a lot of folks connect veganism with white-centric attempts to be skinny. Think about the vegan book “Skinny Bitch” as well.
In reality, not all vegans become vegan because they want to “get skinny.” Vegans like Serena & Venus Williams, Carl Lewis, and David Carter [known as the 300 Pound Vegan] demonstrate that diverse body-types exist within the vegan culture.