Please help me with my confusion


Sep 13, 2021
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  1. Vegan
I find this to be very confusing for me as a vegan now of 5 years. Why is it that really good, kind loving, caring people that I know choose NOT to be vegan when they are aware of the insane atrocities out there in the animal agriculture? If they CLEARLY understand (maybe they dont??) what is happening to the animals which brings them their meat and their dairy products 3 times a day, WHY are they eating these products??

Do they just simply not care? Although, if you put them in front of the actual torture and slaughter I'm sure they would, no?? Maybe they’re not fully aware of what exactly happens to the animals in these industries? But don't most of us know this? This all perplexes me greatly. These are people again, who are deeply loving and caring individuals, and live in places where being a vegan is easily attainable. So why?? What is their excuse? This so confuses me.

I guess I can say the same for myself before I became vegan. I just simply CHOSE not to know the details of the violence. Hmmm. So maybe this answers my confusion...
Habit and the anticipation of bland, unappetizing food has made it difficult for people to want to change. Also, many are addicted to "normality" and veganism will have to become more mainstream before they will even consider it. I think that if videos of animal slaughter were played everywhere where meat is sold, many would at least try to make the change but sadly, I think many would still not care. The "It's only a..." syndrome that lies behind all prejudices would dominate their position.
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Perhaps you should ask omnis the above question! I've heard it all so can't really give you one legitimate answer.
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I think the main reason is a desire to be seen as "normal". If most of the people they know eat meat, then meat-eating is normal and veganism is weird. How animals are treated in slaughterhouses, but also in farms and feedlots, is therefore something they work hard at not knowing. As you said, they choose not to know.

If they admitted to knowing that, they would have to become vegan, and that is socially unacceptable to them. Getting people to switch to veganism requires getting the public to see it as something normal: if not a majority choice, at least not a weird choice.

I lived for several years on a west coast island, where veganism might not have been a majority, but it was a very common and visible lifestyle choice. It was socially unthinkable there to have a community meal of any kind that did not have at least a vegan option.

There is a critical mass of people that make vegan options necessary. That in turn makes veganism less weird, and that makes it a viable choice for more people.

So we have to be the critical mass. We win people over not by proselytizing - people hate that - but one stomach at a time by offering them delicious food that just happens to be vegan. "Damn, that lasagna was good! Are you sure it was vegan?" "Absolutely!" "Wow, I never would have guessed."
Let's face it, not everyone have proper, working moral compasses, and also it's challenging to take the actions necessary to live according to those compasses in a society that doesn't particularly value ethics, and where there are expectations from family and friends that you need to adhere to.

And even vegans such as myself, who try to avoid causing death and suffering to animals, are sometimes guilty of ignoring our moral compasses in other areas of life. For example, with everything we know about climate change and its causes, minimising our carbon footprint is now an ethical imperative, just like veganism. However, I still occasionally travel by airplane, our house is heated by gas etc. because I find it too difficult to use alternatives.
I guess I can say the same for myself before I became vegan. I just simply CHOSE not to know the details of the violence. Hmmm. So maybe this answers my confusion...

That is almost the right answer. There are as many right answers as there as people. maybe more. but this should end your confusion. Just remember that most of your life you weren't vegan either. so....
They don't want to.
I've had so many discussions about this, and by and large people are very aware of the horrors of the animal ag industry. they have watched Meet your meat, earthlings.....and cringe and wish it wasn't so, but in the end they're not willing to change
Another thing I often hear is the fear of giving up animals, and their knowing they will fail and feel so guilty. People are very much aware, they just don't want to change

Honestly, vegans put aside just how many atrocities everyone living in modern society contributes too. Do I give up buying items that are likely made by people treated as slaves? Most sugar is produced in terribly conditions in Haiti, some of the largest producers of produce have terrible human rights records. Banana Republic has meaning

this is mostly why I so favor the idea of making plant based eating mainstream rather than touting animal rights.
My somewhat negative take - people are better at rationalizing than at being rational. I think of all the people I know that consider themselves to be sincere environmentalists, who believe in climate change, who are fairly affluent, who complain that “the government must do something”, and also complain about the cost of fuel, and yet they drive humongous pickup trucks and SUV’s and live in expansive suburban houses and seem to want “bigger, better, newer” everything. I just tell myself, no matter how minuscule and meaningless my contribution, I will still rather contribute to the solution than to the problem.
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The reasons why people don't always face up to or live their moral ideals vary person to person, but I think another factor involves fear of complicity. Changing one's lifestyle comes with an implicit feeling of guilt of having contributed to something immoral. People don't like to see themselves or their loved ones as immoral. Many seem to assume morality for themselves and immorality only for others. For some, acknowledging the harm done to non-human animals and acting on it not only accuses themselves, but also their entire families. That's quite a burden to take on. Given that human morality doesn't always extend to non-human animals, and many seem to not even consider non-human animals as moral agents, makes it even easier to just keep going and not question. So many examples of moral myopia exist throughout human history up to the present that one could even consider it part of the human condition. It takes effort, insight, and will to overcome. It takes a different perspective along with the realization that one is a flawed being who can and probably does partake in immoral things. It goes well beyond non-human animal morality. Not everyone wants to take this leap or even start down this path. It's often easier to look away.
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I suppose the answer varies from person to person. I would say all the things people mentioned above are probably factors for various people, and there's also the fact that most people love the taste of non-vegan food and it's hard to give up something that brings you joy. I also think Brian W's comment about the "anticipation of bland unappetizing food" bares repeating. I personally haven't found vegan food bland and unappetizing, but if other people think they're going to (whether the thought would be correct for them or not), then they're anticipating something they probably do three times a day (eating) changing from an experience that brings them joy to one that brings them misery.

Have you considered encouraging any of the people you're talking about to try some specific vegan recipes that they might find tasty? If it turns out they like some of those recipes, perhaps they'll find it less scary to think about becoming vegan. And even if they don't become vegan, they might at least consume LESS non-vegan food due to sometimes soothing their hunger with vegan foods they like instead.
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I’m not going to lie, before becoming vegan for health and monetary reasons, I loved brisket sandwiches and pork belly. We grew up poor and had to hunt and fish for protein. People that eat meat smell different.
I’m not going to lie, before becoming vegan for health and monetary reasons, I loved brisket sandwiches and pork belly. We grew up poor and had to hunt and fish for protein. People that eat meat smell different.
Beans and lentils have protein. They are very inexpensive.
Beans and lentils have protein. They are very inexpensive.
Not only were my parents poor, they were too dumb to hunt for beans and lentils. We ate what we could trap or shoot with an arrow. I don’t miss eating meat, but bbq trout and pigs feet were for “special occasions“.
I’m a neuroscientist by training and I have to tell you I think you are underestimating the power of childhood brainwashing. First you have to understand enough to question the practice. Then you’ll have to overcome many forms of cognitive bias including: cognitive ease, confirmation bias, naturalistic fallacy, futility fallacy, and species bias. Nobody wants to admit they’ve been so wrong for so long. We’ll put up all kinds of defenses against that truth. If you can do that then you have to struggle against the expectations of society and your people.

The people you are referring to aren’t bad people. They are just limited in their ability to respond to this truth by changing their behaviors.
You have answered your own question. You have been vegan for 5 years, and before that you were still a caring individual but chose to ignore the cruelty, as we all did before becoming vegan. I'm sure like you I was brought up believing that farm animals were here to serve us and we had the right as "superior" beings to do with them as we chose. Societal expectations and convenience also play a role. That kind of conditioning is very powerful and a lot of people never manage to escape it. I've been vegan 8 years now and I bitterly regret the years before when I ate meat despite considering myself an animal lover.
I feel the thought process is handled the same as buying a pair of Nike's or some designer brand with sweatshop labor. You're able to detach yourself from the actual acts of torture behind making that product because its not seen up close. I do think witnessing the horrors would change peoples minds, but it's very easy to avoid all of that.

We as people are able to justify so much evil in the world, especially when others are doing the same.