How to Respond to Typical Vegan Criticisms

It’s no secret that vegans get their fair share of criticism. We are very often the butt of people’s jokes, and we are also very often faced with questions – that come from a genuine place, and otherwise. It’s important not to take life – or yourself – too seriously, so try not to get too upset or angry when this happens to you. You better get used to it! It’s okay to laugh at yourself. I know it can be frustrating when people are essentially laughing at animal abuse, and the fact that you care about animal abuse, but humour is a great place to find common ground and make connections with people. It’s best not to encourage the divide by buying into the us vs them rhetoric.

However, it’s also important that we don’t let stereotypes, myths, and outright lies go unchecked. These things, left to fester, can be greatly damaging to the movement as they can turn people off of veganism! So, find a way to correct people that works for you. It’s best when a conversation is a 2 way thing – nobody likes to be lectured or patronised. Here are some typical questions or criticisms that vegans face, and a few ways to respond to them.

But protein?

One of the cliché responses to veganism is that you cannot get enough protein without meat. This is not true! Plant foods contain protein, often coming without the excess fat, salt, cholesterol, etc. Beans, brocolli, nuts, chickpeas, lentils, and more all contain plenty of protein. It’s just about having a balanced diet! And, when it comes to “complete proteins”, it is possible to achieve this simply by eating houmous and wholemeal pita, for example. Besides, unless you are living a highly active lifestyle, you don’t need as much protein as people like to think.

But calcium?

Since people have been encouraged to associate cow milk and calcium, the concept of cutting out dairy leads people to believe that vegans are lacking in calcium. Again, with a balanced diet, it’s just not true. There’s calcium is fortified plant milks, as well as in bread, pulses, tahini, sesame seeds, almonds, chia seeds, and kale.

But iron?

Another concern with nutrition is iron – since red meat is a good source of iron. So how do vegans meet their daily intake requirements? Again, with nuts, seeds, beans, fruit, and veg. AGAIN, it’s all about a well-informed, balanced diet. No cow needed.

It’s expensive!

People think veganism is expensive because they associate veganism with organic fruits and vegetables, and lots of fake meats and fake cheeses. Yes, eating like this will add a few pounds to your weekly shop. However, as with any diet, there are necessities and there are luxuries. Organic produce and fake meat/cheese is something that can easily be left off your shopping list. A good, inexpensive basis for any diet is dried pasta/rice, potatoes, and beans. Throw in a few fruits and vegetables… it really doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

God put animals here for us to eat

God didn’t do anything because God isn’t real. However, if you do believe in God, and that God put animals here for humans to raise for slaughter and consume, why did He give them nervous systems and pain receptors? Why did he allow them to form family and friendship bonds? Why can they feel pain, fear, and grief? Your God doesn’t seem like a very great guy. Sorry.

A vegan couple killed their baby

How often has the story of a baby dying of malnutrition thanks to vegan parents popped up! As if omnivorous parents have never allowed a baby to die due to malnutrition or neglect. It’s true that parents need to be mindful of their baby’s diet and nutrition – all parents. There are plenty of vegan babies who get on just fine and grow up happy and healthy. Bit of a red herring, really.

Lions kill and eat other animals so why can’t we?

“You are not a lion, fam.” – jme

Lions do a lot of things that you also don’t do. Infanticide, for instance. We do a lot of things that lions don’t do. Hold courts of justice, for instance. It is also perculiar that people specifically choose lions, when there are thousands upon thousands of animal species they could have chosen. Our DNA is closer to that of a pig. We associate our ancestery with apes… well, gorillas are “vegetarians”. It’s an arbitrary comparison picked out of the air to suit their agenda.

We as humans have the ability to reason. This is something that does set us apart from other animal species. We have developed complex societies. We (not always/everyone!) have the resources to make alternative choices. So what have lions got to do with it?

This statement is actually highly flawed, because it is committing an “appeal to nature” fallacy. Something being “natural” in any case tells us nothing about the positive or negative effects of that thing. Lots of awful things that happen are natural. Does that make them right? We cannot and should not derive our morality from what we deem to be or not to be natural. That in itself is primitive and misguided.

We were designed to eat meat

Designed by whom or what? God isn’t real. We adapt and survive according to our habitats and circumstances. And if you refer to how our ancestors ate, note how they would only rarely have eaten meat – largely due to a pressing need to fulfil daily caloric requirements. They didn’t eat bacon for breakfast and KFC for lunch and steak for dinner. Every day. Times have changed, and we can and should change with them.

You don’t care about people/there are more important issues

The first thing you should do is ask this person what it is they do that is so wonderful for humanity. And, if they do indeed carry out acts of charity or something of the like that shows care for their fellow man, that’s great. Congratulate and thank them. But, note that they will usually only be focusing on one thing. Homelessness, cancer research, foster children. Ask why they don’t care about those other things. It’s very likely that they do, but that this is the issue they have chosen to pursue. No man is an island! We can only do so much. And caring very deeply about something does not ipso facto dictate that you do not care about anything else. How do they know that you don’t also carry out much humanitarian work or advocacy? Many vegans, in fact, do.

Vegan food still kills animals

Yes, it does. Farming for fruit often kills birds. Farming for veg often kills rodents. That much is true, and it is highly unfortunate. I doubt it sits well with any vegan, or anybody at all for that matter. But we have to eat something! We don’t all have the resources and time to plant our own gardens and be wholly self sufficient, ensuring the minimal harm humanly possible. I think it is better to reduce our active harm to animals by cutting out meat, eggs, and dairy, whilst unfortunately still passively harming animals, than it is to do all of those things that harm animals. Nobody is perfect and nothing in this world, unfortunately, is cruelty free.

Lots of vegan food is bad for the environment

It’s true that things like almonds, coconuts, and avocados utilise a lot of water in their production. In this case, we ought not to make up the majority of our diet with foods like this. However, no plant food comes even close to the water consumption of meat and dairy – especially beef. Don’t forget that not only does the cow drink water, but the food to feed the cow needs water – and lots of it. Again, something is better than nothing. We all need to take responsibility for ourselves.

These are just a few examples of problems you may face, and a very superficial attempt at responding to them. Does anyone have any information to add or any other examples?

4 thoughts on “How to Respond to Typical Vegan Criticisms

  1. Another thing to factor in to the response to “Vegan food still kills animals” is that all arable farming is going to be detrimental to wildlife in some way as you point out, but the fact that so much more land is needed to feed livestock which people then eat is a very inefficient way of doing things. If people didn’t eat animal products then a lot less land would be needed to grow crops to feed to livestock and so less wildlife would be affected

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