My friend Mark Mathew Braunstein, a vegan activist and author from way back, sent me a vintage bumper sticker that reads “Love Animals, Don’t Eat Them.” Since I’m a bumperless Manhattanite, I stuck it on my laptop and it elicits comments from people who see it in the coffee shops where I write.
One woman who saw it whipped out her iphone and started regaling me with photos of her rescued pit bull, “the sweetest dog ever,” and how wrongfully maligned the breed is. (I agree: my Aspen, shown here, was part pit – “American bull terrier,” to use the proper term. She was actually “the sweetest dog ever,” but I didn’t want to hurt this other woman’s feelings.)
Another time, a couple of German tourists saw the sticker and commented that they were vegetarian and had seen Peta fliers on the street here in NYC and how heartening that was to them. One of these women did note, however, that “Not everyone can be vegetarian. Some have a different blood type.”
Where did this come from? If you have two horses, you don’t feed one of them oats and hay and the other cheeseburgers. They’re horses. Oats and hay work for them. We’re primates. Plants work for us. (Yes, I know some monkeys and apes eat a few grubs and beetles. I eat a few after-dinner mints and a piece of vegan fudge at Christmas, but that doesn’t mean that my natural diet is candy.)
I listened to her explanation, that the blood type is key to our genetic makeup, and that different groups of people ate differently over millennia, and we fare better when we eat what our ancestors ate. I didn’t say, “There is no scientific backing for any kind of blood type diet,” even though I believe this to be an accurate statement. Instead, I simply told her that I know radiantly healthy vegetarians of every blood type, and I wished her a lovely day in New York City.
In the past, I used to argue. I felt this incredible need to “make my point.” Now I live my life and do my best to be an example of what seems right to me. If people want what I have, they’ll ask what I do. And that, my friends, is the challenge. You see, I stopped eating meat when I eighteen years old because I didn’t want to kill animals. It didn’t seem like a big a deal at the time: when you’re eighteen, you’re making life choices every day and this was simply one more. But as I evolved from vegetarian to vegan, as I became someone who chose not to eat or wear or use products derived from animals, it was obvious that this was a big deal, after all. I had aligned myself with a minority position and, subsequently, became part of a minority group. This made me subject to scrutiny. If somebody else got a cold: bad luck. If I got a cold: protein deficiency.
Therefore, I take the best care of myself that I can. I like to think I’d do that anyway, but because I’ve taken this stand for the animals, I feel I owe it to them to them to be as functional as possible for as long as possible. It’s not a responsibility I asked for, but it’s one I accept, as do my fellow different-drummer diners.
It means a certain degree of straight-and-narrowness I might otherwise have avoided. Getting enough sleep, as an example, is a good idea for everybody, but if you’re a vegan, you really need to do it. This isn’t because vegans need more sleep than omnivores, but because a sleep-deprived vegan is going to be the one who lives on in legend as: “There was this vegan I knew who didn’t look so good.” Exercise is required, too. I wish it weren’t. I know some people love it, but it bores me silly. I rarely find it stimulating or fun. Still, I do it. Vegan athletes are legendary. I feel that I need to be, at least, upright.
As a member of a minority, I even have to keep my emotional balance more, well, balanced. I see people having fits because their coffee is too hot or their baked potato is too cold, or some random something is imperfect and somebody can be blamed for it. I’m as prone to such infantile behavior as the next person, but I attempt to remember that if a meat eater flies off the handle nobody says, “Too much beef will do that to a person.” If it’s a vegan: a clear case of alfalfa sprout poisoning.
Being inspired (or prodded) into living as well as possible is one of the gifts of being committed to this way of life. It benefits animals and it benefits me. You know how expectant moms, even those who were drinking and staying out late and eating a lot of nutrient-poor food before they got pregnant, often do a complete turnaround and become super-vigilant about everything once they know they’re having a baby? That’s because it’s not just them anymore; someone else is depending on them. Baby reaps rewards as a result; so does Mom.
This is the way it is for vegans, too. Not everybody will want to join our team, but some will. Many will. Many have. Because they have, a little bit of the vast suffering on this planet has been alleviated. And that’s pretty wonderful.
Victoria Moran is an author, speaker, director of Main Street Vegan Academy, host of the Main Street Vegan podcast, and producer of A Prayer for Compassion, from filmmaker Thomas Jackson, shown here. The film will debut in NYC March 5. If you would like to host a screening, please contact CarlyHirsch123@gmail.com.
*The protein deficiency meme was taken from the Internet and marked “Unknown.” To whomever the credit goes, it’s yours.