Thoughts on "Veganism", PETA, and the IVA (Nov '18)
So this will probably be a work in progress for a while, but I'll keep adding to it unless I change my mind, in which case I'll create a new page to discuss my new thoughts on it and still keep this one around.
So let me just talk a bit about, I don't want to be cheesy and call it a "journey" but I'm a cheesy person so I'm going to call it a journey. Hmm. actually now that I think about it, what if I'm not a cheesy person, but instead I consumed a bunch of cheesy media when I was learning English, so cheesy-ness is the only way I know how to express my sentiments in English.
How I became vegetarian: So my sister is a few years older than I am. She's always had an affinity for animals, and so she started volunteering at an animal shelter pretty frequently, and after a period of time, I want to say a year but it was probably 7 or 8 months, she convinced me to start volunteering there myself. Now at the time my favorite type of pizza was Hawaiian. I still remember an excerpt from when I was a small child, crossing a major junction enroute to a pizza place. We sat at a table that was located under a slight slope. Pineapple is absolutely delicious pizza topping. I don't remember when it began, but eventually it become a routine where my father would pick us up from the refuge league, and then we'd go out for pizza as a "reward".
By the time this became routine, my sister had been volunteering for about a year, and had befriended the staff as well as other volunteers. She had realized that the staff was primarily composed of (at the very least) lacto-ovo vegetarians, which means they basically ate everything that a normal person eats except for meat. She learned that their reasoning was that they spend their time saving the lives of animals that in the Western world are considered pets. So why would they go home and eat meat, because meat is just the flesh of animals, and it's really hard to obtain flesh without killing the animal the flesh is taken from. So for them to spend their time trying to save the lives of certain species, and then go home and consume something that is obtained by killing other species, would be logical if and only if you don't believe in these two things:
Respecting life. I believe that I respect life. I don't go out of my way to cause harm to other creatures. I'm not saying that I live of a life free of cruelty. I'm not saying that eating plants is a cruelty-free diet, because insects are killer by pesticides. Critters are killer by machinery in the field. But either way crops are going to be harvested, and either fed to livestock or to humans. And there is cruelty in going on to raise the livestock and eat them. There is less cruelty in just eating the crops directly. Life becomes a series of choosing the lesser evil. I'm not saying that I am the ultimate example when it comes to respecting life. I don't live like a Jain saint but I should try to emulate them to a degree. I don't always inspect the ground that I walk on, or avoid walking on grass. I sometimes pluck leaves from trees and I walk at night when it's harder to avoid accidentally harming life. It is impossible to live a life free of cruelty, if you really want to do that then you can't even accomplish that by killing yourself, because you're killing the microbes and germs that reside within you. And it may seem extreme to try to avoid killing germs, and that's because it's just as extreme as living a life free of cruelty. They're both impractical, but like most things in life there's a middle ground. It being impossible to live a life free of cruelty doesn't mean we can't strive towards a life with less cruelty.
Not treating others differently for immutable characteristics. I try to be bipartisan as I go about my life. When I am aware of a bias that I have, I try to account for it. I'm going to go ahead and talk about a friend I met in high school. I haven't asked him if I can talk about him, so I'm going to say his name is Caleb in order to protect his identity. Now Caleb identified as a Dwarf because he met the definition of one. He had at least one condition that caused him to have bones that while not necessarily brittle, they were more prone to breaking compared to me and most other people. Sometimes he was able to walk around, while other times he was in a wheelchair or used a walker. Now when I first met him I saw that he was physically handicapped, and I recognized that I had a bias towards the physically handicapped, in the sense that I was nicer to them than to others. I was aware of it, and I didn't want to treat him any differently. Until I started reading the works of Aaron Swartz I didn't really have enough control over my emotions, so sometimes I would get mad or act like a dick towards Caleb, just like I would to anyone else. Sometimes I'd even be meaner to him to compensate for my inclination of being nice. Once I told him this he said that my behavior made a lot more sense now, and he shared a story about his kindergarten teacher. When Caleb was in kindergarten, his teacher was so fucking mean to him, because she didn't want the other kids to see that she treated him differently. He was to be treated just like everyone else. Except she went way too fucking overboard.
So this goes beyond how you treat individuals. I think that if more people held this belief then we wouldn't have problems with racism, sexism, or classism. Because, I might be understating this, but it is fucking hard to change your ethnicity. It's hard to change whether you were born as a man or woman. It's hard to change the family you were born into, or their income level when you were 4 years old. You can't change who you're attracted to in a major way. Those things are downright immutable. Those are traits that you can't change. You can't change being born with a cleft lip. You're a fucking dick if you treat people differently for an immutable characteristic. They can't fucking change it, so how is criticizing someone for an immutable characteristic anything other than stroking your fucked up ego. If everyone had this belief then there wouldn't have been problems like multi-generational slavery, because when the slaves had children the owners would have been like "well, it's not your fucking fault you were born to slaves". And I think people have this belief to a degree, that's why we have the public education system, because no matter what your immutable characteristics are, you should be able to get an education just like everyone else.
Now you may have noticed that I said immutable characteristics, and not just characteristics. Because to some degree I think it's okay to judge others by their mutable characteristics, because that's something they can change. I think it's okay to judge someone for taking the elevator to the 2nd floor instead of going up a single flight of stairs. I think it's okay to judge someone for being fat. Now, don't go around judging a child, because their parents are responsible for providing them with food, and whether that food is healthy or not is up to the parents. But when you're an adult, then blaming your parents is not a viable excuse. I know people whose parents never got further than a high school education who went on to successfully defend their thesis. They didn't let the fact that their parents never went to college or ate an unhealthy diet stop them from becoming doctors or eating a healthy diet. Now I feel like I myself can be a little more critical because I myself am fat. It's not that my parents had me eat fast food all the time, I actually hate fast food, but a Peruvian diet is more fit for people who had active lifestyles and I have a sedentary one. Becoming vegan has helped with this to a degree, because I find that I eat and sate my appetite attempting to eat enough vegetables to not die of malnutrition. I'll come back to the topic of nutrition later in this post.
So I used to think that that I didn't treat others differently for immutable characteristics, because I see it as a negative trait. Now I love my pets. I feel weird calling them pets because I don't want to view them as a possesion, we've simply accepted to burden to care for them to the best of our abilities. While it's not a problem where I live, I'd happily jump in front of a stray bullet to protect them, partially because I wouldn't want any harm to happen to them, and because there's better and more accessible healthcare for humans than for other species. So while I was in high school at some point I got in the habbit of buying some frozen breaded chicken breasts (tendies) and baking them in the oven. At the time a Cockatiel named Mia lived with us, and at that particular moment my Sister was feeding Mia within view of me putting some chicken on a baking pan. My sister me, what is the difference between Mia, and the bird that the breasts on the baking pan came from. For one, they were different species, but fuck it they're both birds. So what was the difference, between Mia and that bird? They're both birds, except I know Mia, because I've gotten the chance to know Mia, and I didn't know that bird. So is that it? If I didn't know Mia, would I eat her? No! She asked me, what if Mia was instead born as that Chicken. What if Sunshine (one of our cats) was born as a chicken instead of a cat. Think about the pain he'd go through. Would you want him to go through that pain? No. Even if I didn't know Mia would I want her to go through that pain? No. Those chickens did not choose to born as chickens, so why are we treating them differently than our cats, our birds, our bunnies. Why aren't we treating them like we'd like our companions to be treated?
I have to admit something. At first I didn't want to include this, because looking back on it I am so incredibly ashamed of my actions and I don't know if I've ever apologized to my sister about it. But if you're reading this, then I'm so sorry. You know that I am not the same person that I was back then. Because we as people change over time, hopefully for the better. I am hopeful for future, because I was one of the biggest ignorant "meat-loving" assholes that I've ever come across. And I changed, so that's why I remain hopeful. So let me share. We didn't just have Mia, we also had another Cockatiel live with us, and his name was Ashe. One year, he passed away on Thanksgiving. My sister was obviously devastated. His death came very unexpectedly and very tragically. He died as my sister held him in her hands. At the time, like I said, I was very ignorant. I thought it was stupid, pointless even, to not eat meat. We're able to assert our dominence over them [livestock], so why shouldn't we? Why not? Originally, I gave my sister so much shit for being vegetarian. My parents were kinda in the same boat as me. Only rich people care about things like that, and screw being the change you want to happen in the world because it's the elites who set the precedent so why should we have any personal accountability. Why should we care about lesser creatures? My parents cooked meals that were fit for our lifestyles. Not my sisters. If she wanted to eat the food that they cooked, then she'd have to give up on her bullshit idealism and just eat meat. Whenever she wanted food she'd have to cook it for herself. To this day I don't really know why I wasn't really affected by Ashe's death. When Ashe died I didn't become supportive of my sister, or her ideals. I just drilled in her, you're too weak to cook for yourself, so just eat what we're eating. I emotionally manipulated my vegetarian sister at her time of need into eating a thanksgiving turkey and at the time I thought nothing of it. I viewed it as progress. I've never spoken of it, but it's one of the worst things I've done.
Middle ground. I was one of the most "anti-vegan" people out there. And I changed. When I became vegetarian and eventually my friends at school found out they were all surprised. I was an asshole. Why do I care for animals? And I never shared my views. When people ask me I'd say a few sentences but I tried to stay away from sharing my perspective on it, and as time has gone by I've reached an impass. Should I be who I am and share my beliefs and stand up for what I believe in or just stay in my room playing video games and writing code? Do I need to go by two different names and carry two sets of business cards? Jean Claude Zárate, the person who stands up for what they believe is right, and John Zarate, the software developer? Or can I find a middle ground? Do I risk alienating myself from my friends by becoming one of those obnoxious people who speak up? I'm trying to find a middle ground and this is it. When someone asks me why I'm "vegan", then I'll just text them a link to jcharante.com/thoughts/veganism. Will someone probably take a look, see that's it's super fucking long and not read it? Probably. But I just want them to be out there, to be accessible.
How I became vegetarian. Back to the sentence: So for them to spend their time trying to save the lives of certain species, and then go home and consume something that is obtained by killing other species, would be logical if and only if you don't believe in these two things: Respecting Life & Not treating others differently for immutable characteristics. And that made sense to my sister. As I've previously said, my family was absolutely not supportive of her decision, and I especially wasn't, until she made me think about both of those things. The transition wasn't that hard. Once the point settled in my mind (because I did proceed to eat those tendies after she brought up the final point) I just stopped eating meat and didn't have any desire to. Don't get me wrong, it tastes fucking delicious, but once I thought about it, it's completely unethical. I don't want to preach to the reader here, I'm not tryign to convert you, I just want to share my view point (Something something "It's the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought w/o accepting it"). I think meat tastes good, and that's why a lot of people eat it. It's pleasurable. Now I'm going to say something that can be taken in a very controversial way and I really hope it doesn't come back to bite me in the ass, but like I established, eating meat is pleasurable. It tastes good. Sex is pleasurable. It feels good. But people, or at least the vast majority of people, do not rape. Rape is still sex, it's still pleasurable for the rapist (I presume, in at least some way), but most people have ethics. Morals. And they know it's wrong. Despite it feeling good, despite it being pleasurable, they don't do it, because it's wrong. I think meat tastes good, or at least I did when I stopped eating it, but I view it as immoral, so I don't have the desire to eat meat, just like I don't have the desire to rape. I became vegetarian because I saw that I wanted to respect life and that I didn't want to treat others differently for immutable characteristics even though it meant depriving myself of a pleasure and I stand by my decision.
How I became "vegan". For a while I was vegan at home, as my parents had grown to accept and support my sister's lifestyle choices and we only had vegan products in the house. But I wasn't vegan. I didn't want to eat meat because I knew an animal died for it, but I didn't see the problem as much when it came to products that animals produced. Except that the animals or "livestock" live in are not good. They're atrocious. Not all eggs come from my friend's Sully's backyard. Livestock are looked at as a machine where you give it some food, and out comes profit, and you can adjust or "optimize" your profit by changing their living conditions. I kinda knew that, but I didn't want to change. Because change is hard. It meant depriving myself of a pleasure. It meant changing my procedure for checking if I could eat something from "can I see it has meat" to "is there a list of ingredients to check, is the food coloring that is used vegan.." and it really meant just making sure that there were no animal products inside the food. And that felt like a pain in the ass. I wasn't in the best state of mind, and I recalled that Steve Job's fruitarianism (a diet where you eat 90% fruits and 10% nuts) contributed to his death. That you're probably going to die if you adopt a fruitarian diet. So I thought, okay, let's eat a fruitarian diet for as long as I can, and if I give up before dying to it then I'll just be vegan. I gave up about 12 hours in and have been vegan since. So don't adopt a fruitarian diet, it's a really slow way to kill yourself, I.. I.. I wouldn't recommend it.
Why I hate calling myself vegan and why I hate the word.
One time at a club where people who are veg* meet I was explaning to someone what vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian meant, and how some people interpret vegetarian as lacto-ovo-vegetarian while some mean it as sans-lacto and sans-ovo vegetarian (so just vegetarian), and how it's just safer to go with vegan and they said that they really didn't like moving the discussion towards that because it causes fragmentation.
But that fragmentation already exists to a large degree. When ordering a salad in Maine, I'm asked if honey is okay or if I'm a true vegan. or in Texas I'm asked if I'm a super vegan when it comes to excluding honey. If you google "vegan" the dictionary definition (which comes from the Oxford pocket dictionary iirc) it says "a person who does not eat or use animal products." Except I use a leather belt. Does that mean I'm not vegan. I've had this belt since before I was vegetarian, and I don't see why I shouldn't use it until it's in an unusable condition. Once that happens, I'll go buy a vegan belt.
I define the term as a lifestyle that minimizes unnecessary cruelty. People say "oh I forgot you were vegan because you're not one of those annoying vegans." Does this mean I'm not a vegan if I don't go out of my way to annoy people or play the sounds of cows being slaughtered at a steakhouse? It's actually kinda funny, people will say "not all muslims are like that" but then immediately label all vegans as annoying. Not all "vegans" are the same. Not everyone who plays video games is the same. Everyone in a "group" behaves differently. It's not like I have the same personality as other vegans, just like all Asians don't have the same personality. Another day I'm going to have to go back to rewrite this and get my thoughts straight because at this point this is just an incoherent mess, but let's talk about some annoying virtue signalling.
At Vegfest I came across a table where they were giving out flyers and bumper stickers with the phrase similar to "I'm boycotting McDonalds until they stop mistreating their chickens". But that's bullshit. You wouldn't eat at McDonalds anyways, because it's McDonalds!! The food is garbage, once they stop that, you're still not going to eat there. How is it boycotting if you never purchase anything from there anyways?