We can never do too much work dispelling myths about people who look or behave differently than we do. In vegan/non-vegan encounters this means getting rid of the myth that vegans are all sombre and humourless, possibly by dispelling all the other myths about vegans that make us all sombre and humourless. I mean, there are definitely reasons to be sombre—no real humour in the ethical gong show of factory farming, for one—but there are also some general perceptions about vegan life that actually make vegan life a lot less fun than it otherwise would be.
Every vegan will be differently irritated by stereotypes, of course, but for me the most important myth to dispel is the one that makes it seem like veganism must be a terrible handicap to live under, one which forces the vegan to grapple with a magnitude of inconvenience every time they feel like having a snack. So for the sake of clarity, let’s emphasize the following point:
It’s not difficult to be vegan.
It’s not impossible to find something to eat, even when eating out. For one, vegan and vegetarian restaurants are all over the place and for two, even when they’re not, restaurants will usually have or be willing to make a vegan option. This does not inconvenience them. Providing people with food is literally what restaurants do. The only proviso is that vegans have to stick to restaurants that care if the people who eat there end up with delicious food that they would want to eat. If the restaurant can tick that box, it’s probably going to be vegan friendly (which is code for: it will do better than offer you a house salad). This myth is especially crucial to bust because the fewer people believe that vegan meals are by necessity unappetizing and incomplete, the fewer garbagey vegan meals will be served.
Vegans are not missing anything. I can veganize the hell out of literally anything because soybeans and coconut milk are amazing. I could have a vegan triple “cheese” “burger” with “bacon” if I wanted. And no it doesn’t taste the same but that’s the point. Vegans do not want to eat meat or anything that tastes like meat because it is gross to us. I do not miss it. That sounds unbelievable to meat eaters who feel the need to take 10 minutes of my time to wonder how anyone could survive without steak, but only in the same way that I can’t believe that a person could go, like, a whole week without eating kale.
Vegans are not hungry 100 percent of the time. That’s because vegan cooking is not about making a half-assed approximation of a meat dish, holding the meat and leaving your vegan self with, like, a sauce or something. Vegan cooking is like real cooking—it takes the ingredients a person loves and combines them with things to make them even more delicious and filling. Usually with coconut oil. Also, because they’re usually pretty good for you (depending on the coconut oil level…), you can eat more of them. Like, 12 of them if you feel like it. Once people know this, people can stop asking vegans if they’re hungry. It’s irritating.
Vegans are not unhealthy. This one is often ironic for me, given that 9 times out of 10 I’m healthier than any person telling me that I must find it hard to get all the protein and vitamins I need. It’s also super ironic given that meat doesn’t contain vitamins. Or only some. Whatever. Yes, I totally and completely believe people’s stories that they have this cousin who knows a girl who tried being vegan and got really sick and malnourished but all I can say to that is that she probably did it wrong. Nobody blames a meat eater’s malnutrition on the carnivorous lifestyle. Let’s not assume that somebody’s not eating properly is veganism’s fault.
I get it. It’s a radical choice to be vegan in this world and people don’t love radical choices. There’s no moral or political ground to attack a vegan from (unless you wildly rope them into an identity category that includes environmental extremism, atheism and communist leanings, which people do… because… I don’t even know). So the only way to undermine the decision to be vegan is to make it seem impractical. That way, people don’t have to take it seriously, or think about the philosophical ideas that underpin veganism (basically, that we all need more compassion for every living being at all times). If people equate veganism with being deprived in some way, it seems like an unnecessary hardship to avoid instead of a reasonable option that’s actually better for us, for the animals around us and for the environment.