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From Vegan to Butcher

Here’s a free book idea in case anyone is fresh out: stories about people who were vegans and now eat animals (or are butchers, and here’s one who’s new to me, care of Grist) juxtaposed with stories about people who used to eat animals and now don’t.

I can understand vegetarians deciding to eat animals, as their focus, from my experience, is on harm. If it were on use, they wouldn’t be eating eggs and dairy. (And according to this article, if it were on the environment, they’d be eating chickens instead of eggs and dairy.)

What I find far more difficult to understand is how someone can be a vegan, and I assume that person objects to the exploitation and slaughter of sentient beings, and then for some reason decide that maybe they were misinformed about the exploitation and slaughter. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves that some other cause, such as the environment, is at odds with veganism and is indeed more important than their previous stance on sentient beings. Maybe the kind of vegan they were involved a lot of processed and/or fried food, and they have convinced themselves that "everything in moderation" is a healthier diet.

Maybe they convinced themselves that they couldn’t get enough protein.

The Grist article referenced above ("Confronting Your Inner Carnivore") features a butcher who used to be a vegan and a "committed vegetarian" who attended a class on "whole-carcass breakdown," but was permitted to attend only after she demonstrated that she was not an "anti-meat activist."

The author of the article, Roz Cummins, was I think as stunned as I that the butcher/chef is a former vegan and will be posting an in-depth interview with him about his "dramatic transition." I’d like to see more interviews like that, as I think they’ll help us, as activists, determine where we are going wrong.

I’m not saying that anyone’s backsliding is the fault or responsibility of anyone else. I’m simply saying that the stories of former vegans might teach us something about our outreach and education efforts.

And on an unrelated note, and in light of the Carol J. Adams-inspired post from earlier in the week, check out another Grist post, also from yesterday, on PeTA’s exploitation of women (and the subsequent discussion), and the much longer discussion from earlier this year ("Which PeTA campaign do you hate the most?" at

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Emily P #

    I have handed out 6,000 pieces of pro-veg literature in the past 17 months, and along the way I've met many people who say they used to be veg*n but not any more. I've heard the full gamut of reasons like the ones described below. Perhaps the most popular reason is a sentimental regard for old-fashioned family farms and the notion that we can eat anything we like as long as "it" had a good life. And with the sheer number of idyllic family farms out here in rural parts of Oregon, it's easy for omnivores to obtain their meat, eggs, and dairy this way (albeit at a higher cost than at the supermarket).

    And then there's politics. Small farms are usually run by friendly, likable people, and since everyone likes to root for the little guy, it's easy to think that when you buy from a small farmer, you're making a noble political statement about supporting the local economy and sticking it to "The Man."

    Alas, this is one of the things about Portland that has always gotten under my skin– some of my fellow citizens are so busy patting themselves on the back for being locavores that they now close their eyes to the veg*n issue. Buzzwords like "fresh," "all-natural," "local," "bountiful," and "heirloom" are so exciting to some Portlanders that they will buy pretty much anything marketed that way, whether the food item in question is a tomato or a turkey.

    Still, I carry on with my leafleting because I believe there is hope. : )

    July 18, 2008

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