It does not help, of course, that I seem to be on a mission to provoke myself by thinking and over-thinking about animals and the environment. I was quite happy in my vegan bubble in London/Cambridge; not having to deal with carnists, save for the few occasions when my meat-eater housemate cooked some strong-smelling dead flesh like bacon, lulled me into the delusion that they don't exist. But now I am back in Singapore. There is a family Christmas lunch, and I currently feel like I'd rather choke to death on a combination of coriander, carrots and celery--also known as the vegetables that I hate the most in the world--eaten raw and without any seasoning whatsoever than to sit through an offensive and painful feast of dead flesh. Especially given that I know how some of them feel about 'extreme' vegans.
The lack of information and awareness about the point of veganism in Singapore, and sometimes even what 'vegan' means, is a significant reason I don't really see myself living here in the immediate future. I have literally never seen a restaurant garnish a 'plant-based' dish with dairy cheese before until I came back to Singapore. At least they don't claim it's vegan, I guess; but given the inherent scarcity of vegan dishes at all, it is vegan by default. And since the restaurant/cafe is unlikely to reduce the price of the dish in proportion to the price of the cheese that they will not add, I don't see why I'm effectively paying them not to add the non-plant ingredient to the supposed plant-based dish.
But the more important thing that upsets me is the manner in which carnism is so deeply entrenched in our consciousness. It is disappointing when even the UN does not have the courage to call for rich countries, like a US, to switch to an entirely plant-based diet to fight climate change. If there is a clear link between meat consumption and climate change, and there is, and if climate change is an urgent matter in need of urgent solutions, and it is, then why are we seemingly content with cutting carbon emissions by 18% or whatever it is? Why are we not aiming for an even bigger reduction by calling for a complete switch to a plant-based diet by those who can afford the choice? The answer is simple: we are a society brainwashed into believing that we need meat and animal products, that it would be intolerable to give them up; and so it is more feasible, presumably, to encourage people to eat less meat instead of giving it up completely.
I have never been a halfway sort of person. In this sense, I suppose I am extreme: I either commit or I don't. I either like something or I don't. Faltering in a midway no man's land makes no sense to me--which is why I deeply regret the last 19 years of my life, or more realistically (for I had no push to be vegetarian when I was the most morally committed person I knew), the last 3 years of my life that I wasted as a vegetarian, during which I actively and directly sponsored the deaths of billions of non-human animals. But now I have committed. And there is no turning back.
Of course, back then, I pushed away the cognitive dissonance, I buried my head in the sand, I didn't want to know. I told myself that I didn't object to the animal product--dairy, egg--per se; what I objected to was the killing of the animal for food, and so being vegetarian was enough. But by-products. But the inherent and unavoidable cruelty of human animals towards non-human animals, and of modern farming practices. What I told myself was a lie, for the truth is, virtually all animal products are tainted with blood. Eggs are produced and sold at the expense of male chicks, useless to the egg industry, who are either gassed or ground to death. Milk comes at the expense of 'excess' bull calves who are killed within 48 hours of their birth. Let's not begin talking about how calves are forcibly separated from their mothers, as if animals do not experience any emotional bonding at all (they do), or about how cows are forcibly impregnated to produce milk for us humans to drink.
What is 'extreme' about not wanting a part of any of that? What I find extreme are the morally indefensible things that we do to animals for purposes that are wholly unnecessary. That is: we don't need to eat meat, we don't need to eat eggs, we don't need to drink milk. We can do without animal products and continue to live healthy (some say healthier) lives in which we consume delicious food. I like food as much as the average carnist, and I eat a fuckload amount of it (that is, when I'm not sick). Was it difficult giving up all the foods that I loved? Of course it was; why else did I take so long to go vegan? What used to be my favourite food in the world contains fish.
But my fleeting sensory pleasure is immeasurably trivial when weighed against the abject suffering of the sentient, self-aware beings that went into the production of my food. I'm not sure how much of what I'm about to say is due to my sickness-induced apetite loss, but these days, I don't even rue not being able to eat dairy products. All I think about when I look at things with eggs and milk in them is the baby calves and male chicks that are killed so that we can continue to use unnecessary animal ingredients to make foods that can produced just the same with only plant-based ingredients.
It's funny, I cannot help but recall a conversation I had with John years ago. It must have been during his early stage of being a vegan. He was talking about meat eaters and their stubbornness in holding on to their habits, calling them 'carnists'.
'Calling them carnists probably doesn't help,' I said.
Years later, I'm now saying this: I hate--I genuinely hate, with every inch of my being--this shitty, carnist world.
John also said a few days ago that responding with anger and derision to those to whom we have a 'social justice duty' to bring to veganism will only alienate them; that remembering that I was once in their shoes--only two months ago!--would help to keep the perspective.
I know he's right. Still, making the commitment is like seeing the world in a whole different light. Or rather, it's like a light has finally been turned on, and I can see clearly for the first time in my life. Now that I have made the commitment, it seems the most obvious thing; it seems obvious that it is the only morally right thing to do. And so I am impatient for others to do the same, and condescending and disparaging when they don't. Fervour of the new convert, right?
I still remember John and his endless debates with anti-vegans on his Facebook profile. I'm not going to go down that route; no, instead, I will just sit back, silently judge everyone, and write LJ entries about all their moral failings.
I should be clear, though. My stance isn't that all animal products are wrong per se; I still retain some of the thinking I had from my dark vegetarian days. For instance, all things being equal, if I had a hen and it laid unfertilised eggs, I might eat one or two, assuming it doesn't need the eggs and doesn't give a shit about it. The problem, like I have said, is with the incidental killings that are caused by egg and dairy production. That said, I wouldn't drink cow milk if I had a cow; the milk is for the calf, not for me. The calf needs its mother's milk; I clearly don't. And I have concluded that ethical dairy farming is unsustainable, and sustainable dairy farming will always be unethical. I do not feel like expounding on this today.
I feel slightly better after writing this entry. I really need to write more often.