Vegetarians make some people feel uncomfortable. Vegans make many people feel very uncomfortable.
I’ve had an interesting day. I’ve turned down work because I don’t feel I can freelance (albeit briefly) for a company that makes its money selling animal products, and I’ve returned a pair of bloody gorgeous shoes, because, well, they are the outcome of a bloody process.
I’ve also had someone declare I’m a hypocrite because I have leather products in my cupboard.
And I’d agree. It is hypocritical to refrain from eating all animal products and yet still have a leather belt. The thing is, for me veganism is a process, and a new one at that. I’m not about to throw away any animal products I’ve accumulated over the last 15 or so years of consumerism – that feels entirely wasteful and disrespectful. I am however going commit to not buying new leather belts and shoes and handbags, or leather wallets, or cars with leather seats, or any of the other animal-sourced merchandise abounding the world over.
The honest truth is that this is the hardest thing about being a vegan for me. Not giving up cheesecake and milk chocolate; no, it’s the shopping. I like shopping. I have a career in fashion and I love clothes. And shoes. And watches. I often get swept away by aesthetics.
The other truth is that as uncomfortable as my dietary choices make people feel, they make me feel a lot more uncomfortable. It’s hard to discern when enough is enough; whether it’s fair for my omnivore boyfriend not to have meat in the fridge, when worrying about where my food has been grown, where my clothes were made, how heavy my carbon footprint is, and whether my cosmetics (and medication) are tested on animals is going to tip me over the edge and do my head in. This is often the case. How do I reconcile my desire for certain things with their potential moral load?
It’s also uncomfortable to make people feel uncomfortable. Social situations become a minefield and I’m quizzed often and usually to the point of exhaustion about why I eat the way I do. It’s uncomfortable to know that people are wondering what the hell they are going to feed me at a dinner party and it’s a complete pain in the ass when a coffee shop doesn’t offer soya milk, not to mention the absence of vegan dishes on most restaurant menus.
The crux of the matter is that no-one enters into veganism lightly, and certainly not to make you feel uncomfortable about your own food choices. Any discomfort is entirely your own.