An appeal on behalf of people who are better than me

Despite not being a vegan (and being confident those who eat a plant-based diet are more than strong enough to fight their corner) the moderately principled Margaret Cabourn-Smith would like to see them applauded a bit more.

battery fried chicken

Illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

I consider myself to be a moderate person – by which I mean I have very fierce principles but often fail to stand by them.

There are lots of causes you can feel passionate about, but fall down on when it comes to acting ethically.

I don’t mean having a penchant for arms dealing, but rather shopping at supermarkets or buying cheap clothes when you know you should be in local independent boutiques, however intimidating or inconveniently priced they are.

I mentioned veganism in passing to a friend recently who seemed appalled by the idea even of having to cater for one, saying, “That’s not what I call a dinner party.” This was surprising because to me, veganism is something laudable to aspire to, even though I’m not confident I’ll ever manage it.

Full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian who hates making a fuss.

This is less of a problem combination than it was when I became one in the 80s. Vegetarians are catered for more now than they ever have been. Almost every restaurant (in Britain anyway) will have at least one vegetarian option on the menu, if not a handful. Vegan options though, not so much. I remember when vegetarians were the weirdo outsiders – laughable, smelly, hippy losers. Now that’s vegan territory (thanks vegans!).

Jokes about vegans being weak are, frankly, weak; but I don’t mind the jokes about how vegans bang on about being vegans. At least they’re based in truth.

That’s not to say, however, that they’re all about the self-righteous bragging; rather they HAVE to bring it up lots because they’re simply not catered for.

Every social occasion that involves drinking, eating or wearing shoes, vegans are forced to ask difficult questions of the staff.

“If every time we made a purchase we were forced to confront the realities of how that purchase got to us, it would dramatically change how we behaved.”

And although I’m not saying some of them don’t enjoy it (at least one of my vegan friends gets a real kick out of being difficult and angry), I do believe that the plant-based diet stand is an admirable one to take.

So instead of sneering or rolling our eyes at the thought of making a ‘cheese’ sauce out of whipped-up cashew nuts, why don’t we say well done to everyone trying to do something that isn’t just for the benefit of themselves?

Every minute of your time, every penny you spend counts. Even if you simply want to get rid of the change in your pocket because it ruins the line of your jacket, even if you’re signing a petition because you fancy the person who sent it to you, it’s a start.

My theory is that knowing the provenance of everything we bought would have a huge effect on our buying habits. If every time we made a purchase we were forced to confront the realities of how that purchase got to us, it would dramatically change how we behaved.

serving sausages to vegansImagine being handed a sequinned cardigan by an impoverished child with bleeding fingers, or being served in a fried-chicken shop surrounded by hundreds of filthy bloated chickens struggling to trample on each other just to catch their breath.

I don’t think animals are more important than people, but that’s a not a great reason to treat them worse than your children’s toys. Or the jars in your spice rack for that matter. And I don’t think the farming industry is currently doing great things for humans either.

I’m not saying “become vegan”; I’m not even saying “become vegetarian”. There are vegans I love but there are also many people I love who enjoy taking photos of bacon (and I assume, consuming it afterwards).

I’m just saying be grateful there are people out there being difficult for good reasons.


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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.