As I mentioned before, Sam Harris (who insists he is not a Buddhist) has added the vegetarian, perhaps vegan, lifestyle to his meditating, alternative consciousness promotions. If he sticks with it, and even goes full vegan, then I predict we will one day be getting the “rational, scientific” case for veganism in an upcoming Sam Harris book (or something very similar). If I am correct, this is going to be very, very interesting, as there are significant portions of the vegan community that are cultish in their behavior. Consider the following accounts from ex-vegans:
You also received angry comments, emails and death threats from vegans who were not so inspired. The most common death threat that vegans lodge against uppity ex-vegans is to say they should be killed in the same manner that farm animals are killed. Since the ex-vegan now eats meat that comes from animals killed in this manner, some vegans believe this would be a just punishment. Was there a common theme like that in the death threats you received?
It wasn’t just death threats. My personal accounts and those of my family were repeatedly hacked, fake twitter and blog accounts were created posing as me and background checks were done on me and my web designer and his family. Someone even tried to contact my doctor to have my medical records released! Other people insisted that I was a fictional creation of the meat industry, fabricated to make veganism look bad, while others asserted I was the alter-ego of Lierre Keith or Denise Minger. The paranoia and total break from reality that I witnessed among the people making these accusations was astounding.
The most frequent theme of the many death threats I received was that my family members and my companion animals should be killed in front of me in the way that factory farmed animals are killed. There were also threats of sexual violence made against me, which is a common silencing tactic used against women. It was also disturbing to see that not one prominent vegan blogger (many of whom I had considered friends) came out to stand against this and call for a reasonable, respectful dialogue. In fact, many of them continued to publicly perpetuate the lies and falsehoods spread by the violence-threatening hatemongers. I think that says something. I was also privately contacted by two very well known and much loved members of the vegan and animal rights community who admitted to me they were not vegan ‘behind the scenes’ due to health reasons. Unfortunately, neither of them stepped forward to make their admissions public after I made my announcement, which was quite disappointing.
To be a vegan, you have to pledge absolute adherence to this one rule: No consuming or using animal products. The reasoning seems sensible: To reduce harm. But in practice, veganism becomes more about purity-policing and less about harm reduction:
“You can’t eat refined sugar because it might have been processed through bone char. You can’t eat coconut products anymore because those might have been picked by monkeys. You can’t eat honey because it requires bee labor — and while you’re at it, no almond milk either, because almond production exploits more bees than honey production! You can’t eat at restaurants because they cook your tofu in the same pan as the meat! You can’t wear leather shoes, even if you owned them for twenty years and got them at a thrift shop!!! If you feed meat to your cat, you’re a hypocrite!!! Unless you do direct action, you don’t really care about animals!!! I DON’T CARE IF THAT EGG CAME FROM YOUR NEIGHBOR’S BACKYARD CHICKEN! SPIT IT OUT NOW!”
There is no room for nuance, no acknowledgment of context or exceptions. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Vegans who deviate from this absolutism, even on occasion, get their Vegan Card revoked – just look what happened to Ellen Degeneres and Alicia Silverstone. Lierre Keith, who had been vegan for twenty years, eventually started eating meat again. For this, some vegans decided to slam a cayenne-laced pie in her face.
If veganism was really about reducing harm, why do these vegans direct their rage at people who have arguably saved thousands of farm animals, rather than lifelong meat-eaters? I’ll give you a hint: the way ex-vegans are treated closely resembles the way any ex-cult member is treated. We are punished for leaving the cult, whether with guilt-induction tactics, social excommunication, harassment, or straight-up assault. Our reasons for leaving are null. Our explanations fall on deaf ears. When it comes to cults, you’re either with them, or against them.
Now……just imagine Sam Harris wading into this debate.