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There is no going “a little bit vegan,” even if Yale adds more vegan options

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As an advocate of veganism, I am often reminded that some people require the patient ear of an educator when they voice their questions of or challenges to the need for non-violence. We tell ourselves that the where do you get your protein champions, the eggs don’t harm chickens demanders, and the ever pursuing I buy humane meat only aficionados are just missing the education required to go vegan. Maybe if we drop the right ratio of animal agriculture horror stories and environmental degradation facts, and maybe if we can pluck out the most popular celebrity to declare their veganism over social media this week, just maybe they’ll empty their fridges, strip out of their clothing, and start a one-person marching band for animal rights. After all, the only difference between a vegan and a non-vegan is education, right? Well, it stands to argue that good education is the real missing key, something many still can’t sort from the shit.

In the era of Netflix documentaries, Buzzfeed listicles, and ‘World Vegan Day,’ it’s becoming less and less common to meet anyone living in North America between the ages of 18 and 35 who is clueless as to what veganism is by the textbook definition. Sure, they may have only the welfarist modality to refer to, a common hatred of Seaworld to rely on, or a plant based diet to confuse it with, but they have usually decided veganism is not for them based on food preferences alone. Case in point, an author by the name of Billy Roberts, and his Yale Herald contribution titled “Going (just a little bit) Vegan.”

You see, Billy claims to have done all the learning he needs to already to know to that veganism is the best option—albeit he immediately pigeonholes the entire thing inappropriately into a dietary equation:

“The evidence seems to be clear: the normatively best dietary choice that you can make — for you as an individual and for society as a collective — is to become a vegan,” he says.

Sure, great. The evidence is building in favour of eating plants so some people are thinking about eating more plants. Brilliant. But he begs the question for himself, that armed with the phooey that somehow equates antibiotic resistance with the same negative value as using animals, why couldn’t he resist a chicken burrito and stick to the vegan diet he had mastered for about a week? He comes through with a theory that’s pretty accurate—he, like other non-vegans, can’t resist the “ubiquity and rewarding immediacy” of meat and dairy over the promise of living a longer life, helping some animals they’ll never pet, or slowing down the ultimate doom of the planet for future generations. Frankly, it’s the same reason why someone can’t stick with clean eating, being paleo, or not having that last slice of birthday cake in the office break room…we’re talking about sticking to a restrictive diet only. 

But Billy isn’t ready to take full culpability, or to call himself selfish in the face of his peers just yet, for choosing the burrito over animals. Nope, he decides instead that it’s Yale’s fault that students like him aren’t taking this need for change to heart (although he’s still confused on why we need to go vegan, clearly). He says that Yale creates “significant barriers” for those adopting a vegan diet (again, plant-based diet), and that in their unique position as an institution that feeds thousands, they should be advocating and facilitating the adoption of vegan diets for their students. 

Woah Billy, big idea. Are you suggesting Yale remove all animal products from the menu and promote veganism to their students and faculty members as a way of upholding the moral position that the use of sentient beings is wrong? Of course not. He’s suggesting they add more vegan options to reduce the University’s footprint, and to show “regular meat eaters the possibilities of meals without meat.” But uh oh, dietary imperialism and rioting over the scarcity of chicken burritos could mean less applicants for Yale. What about vegans at the school promoting veganism? No, too extreme. So, happy medium—Billy continues to eat whatever the fuck he wants but Yale adds a few more vegan menu options so he can sleep at night knowing he’s helping some cause (again, not sure if it’s planetary, health, or what). What’s next Billy? Should non-vegans join the crusade to get all institutions to start balancing the menu? Or will chicken burritos always outweigh any salad, stir fry, or veggie burger they can possibly offer?

Here’s the reality in a few quick points; veganism is not a diet, we do not require institutions to make the changes we need to make ourselves, and Yale already has god damn vegan waffles on the menu. Seriously, a cursory glance at the vegan menu options at Billy’s Berkeley campus look incredible and have earned them A+ rankings on some online vegan report cards. And it’s not for a lack of demand, as a GrubHub study found students of Yale are ordering vegan and vegetarian dishes 130% more often than their rivals at Harvard and other schools. That means not only are they able to dine in the cafeterias currently, there’s meal delivery services akimbo. Having been to Berkeley myself not too long ago, I know there’s also some incredible restaurant and grocery options for vegans, too (The Butcher’s Son has my heart). But, barriers.

Okay, some readers are probably begging me to ease up on the boy at this point because there’s still hope for him to turn things around. It’s true, there is. As a major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, there are some very important lessons Billy could benefit from. Firstly, veganism needs to be recognized and taught as a moral position in which we cut the speciesism to afford the basic rights to non-human animals to not be used as property. There is nothing ethical about taking the life of a being that wants to live, especially we as do so to some 56 billion land animals yearly, unnecessarily. And when we’re talking economics, a University is going to supply what it’s dollars..er..students demand of them. More vegan options don’t beget more vegans, more vegans beget more vegan options. The politics of using animals, well, that one doesn’t have a good sound bite answer, but I’ll point out that laws and changes on higher levels (think bigger cages or more “humane” practices) aren’t more important than the ones we make we ourselves. That’s how we ended up with the whole “humane” myth to begin with. There will always be chicken burritos, or people’s most favourite foods in every cafeteria, at every potluck, in every restaurant. But there is already an overwhelming abundance of naturally vegan and vegan substitution foods available, too. The sooner we recognize that the power is in our hands to make change, and not in the hands of institutions, the sooner we’ll have that meaningful change people like Billy pretend to be after.

There is no going “a little bit” vegan, because you either choose to participation in the exploitation of animals or you don’t. What we eat at school should reflect the same morals as what we choose to wear at home, and how we choose to spend our time on the weekend. We shouldn’t go vegan because we’re told it’s better for us or the planet, but because it’s what animals require us to do. Here’s hoping the growth of the movement will help the Billy’s of the world realize this, put down the chicken burrito, and use their influence online to advocate for the right thing; justice for all. And then maybe more vegan waffles.

Learn how to go vegan here, and if you’re already vegan, learn how to advocate for animals here.

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