Would you go vegan if your life depended on it?

Image: stock photo.

Would you go vegan if your life depended on it? Because it does, proffers Sydney artist, author and unashamed preachy vegan, Guy James Whitworth.

Few things in this world are better than grilled cheese. The way it gloops and melts and bubbles – mmm, utter deliciousness! I know this, however I’m vegan. I don’t eat cheese. Haven’t eaten it for almost ten years. But, I get it, I’ve experienced that craving for the salty, greasy loveliness that is cheese on toast.  

Before going vegan I ate cheese, lots of cheese, and before going vegetarian before that, I ate meat. Very few vegans are born vegan. When people ask me the thing I miss most now that I’m vegan, I’m usually whip-shot quick at replying “the guilt” – but if I’m honest there are a few things, and yes, grilled cheese is definitely on that list.  

However, if I said to you, you could save all life as we know it on this planet by just politely saying no to cheesy treats for the rest of your existence, would you do it?  

Or if I said to you, you can live as you are now, with very little change, but without the looming catastrophic events currently threatening the environment and ecosystems around the planet, just by being a smidgeon more compassionate in your preferences, would you be open to it?  

Also, if I said to you that Covid-19 was merely the first of a wave of killer zoonotic diseases (such as Ebola, SARS and Rift Valley fever, to name a few) but you could halt those oncoming viruses by simply altering your shopping and eating habits, would you consider it?  

Because truth is, these hypothetical questions are really quite real and not hypothetical at all.  

Yup, I used to eat meat and dairy and then I realised, we actually have no time for that to be an option anymore. 

Eight-and-a-half years ago my partner and I went vegan. Back then, the world seemed a much more serene place and we believed we had time to not get too preachy, but still encourage and educate.  

I get it, people don’t like self-righteous, preachy vegans.  

Most people, back then, knew about environmental issues and had a fair grasp that eating animals, at the scale we were/are, was unsustainable, but then, unlike now, not everyone knew exactly what they could do to bring about change.   

“Don’t like preachy vegans? Well, tough, you need to hear this!” 

– Guy James Whitworth

Fast forward to almost a decade later, hesitancy or wilful ignorance is no longer an ongoing option. Hell no. Get me a soapbox because now is the time to preach.  

We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, environmental disaster is omnipresent, mass extinction seems pretty much inevitable. The number of zoonotic epidemics is on the rise. Oh, and right now, much of the west coast of America is on fire and we, here in Australia, are scared shitless, bracing ourselves for the possibility of yet another summer of firestorms. 

A bit full-fucking-on, isn’t it? Don’t like preachy vegans? Well, tough, you need to hear this! 

I am thoroughly familiar with the many reasons – well, excuses really – as to why someone can’t possibly go vegan “as much as they’d love to”.

Indulge me, dear reader, as I run through some of those half-arsed call-and-responses.  

“But I just crave dairy/cheese too much!” 

Yes, I know plant-based cheeses don’t bubble the same when you grill them, but get used to it. Retrain your brain, ditch the dairy, oat milk in coffee is delicious!   

Dairy cows. Photo: No Meat May/Facebook.

“I just eat fish and white meat now, which is the more compassionate option.” 

For who exactly? Certainly not the millions of sea creatures killed through the trawling of the ocean or the millions of acres of sea floor left as dead zones. The oceans are dying, you are killing them. And do not get me started on the gruesome life of factory farmed chickens!

“Oh, but I only eat organic/ethical grass-fed beef!” 

This is completely unsustainable, do some research about massive forests being cleared and ecosystems destroyed for grazing pasture and what that, in turn, does to weather cycles. Also, wake the fuck up, there’s no such thing as ethical meat, no animal is ever slaughtered “ethically”, no animal wants to die.   

“My doctor advised me against it.”  

Oh really, did you seek out a second or third expert opinion or did you just nod and keep eating your pork pie like it was an apple?  

There really is no excuse, or hiding place on this massively overpopulated planet, where you can pretend you don’t know about the harm humankind is doing by its addiction to animal products. 

As a carnivore, you only have one convincing argument and that is you simply don’t give a shit about the future of all humankind. Own it, because it’s true.  To me, ‘carnivore’ is definitely the worst C-word in existence. 

Last month, the utterly fabulous Dr Jane Goodall summed it up best in an interview with the USA’s National Press Club. 

Dr Jane Goodall in conversation with National Press Club president Michael Freedman on 25 September, 2020.

“Masses of fossil fuel are used to get the grain to the animals, the animals to the abattoir, the meat to the table. Masses of water, which is in such short supply and drying in some areas, is used to get vegetable-to-animal protein. And, finally, they’re all producing gas in their digestion and that’s methane, and that is a very virulent greenhouse gas.”   

Was she on her soapbox? Possibly. Does she have the right to be? Absofuckinglutely! 

Consider that pork pie bitch-slapped out of your hand; what kind of person would you be if you picked it up and kept eating?   

“This isn’t an alarm call, it’s a screeching fire alarm inside a burning house. It’s your house, where all of your family live!” 

– Guy James Whitworth

Quite simply, you can’t claim to be an animal lover and still fund factory farming. You know about the torture and killing of billions of farm animals annually, we all do. Wildlife population is being decimated around the world in countless diverse environments, driven by intensive agriculture and land clearance for ‘livestock’ (think about that soulless word) grazing. 

These acts are being done with your funding every time you buy animal products.  

To me, being vegan means being aware of the reality of where the world is at, and wanting to be part of the solution rather than the ongoing, wilful ignorance causing the problem. 

We are all a work in progress; I started off being a carnivore, but I honestly couldn’t justify it. 

So, are you going to go vegan? If not what the fuck do you need to be told to convince you? This isn’t an alarm call, it’s a screeching fire alarm inside a burning house. It’s your house, where all of your family live!  And you are choosing to ignore it. 

So if I ask you, would you go vegan if your life depended on it? Because it does. All of our lives depend on it. It depends on you, now, today and because the very next mouthful you eat could be the global tipping point from which there is no return. 

Hate me if you want – but go vegan. 

Guy James Whitworth is a Sydney artist, author and co-founder of No Meat May. His book Signs of a Struggle, published by Clouds of Magellan Press, is available from The Bookshop Darlinghurst, 207 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, and online at www.thebookshop.com.au/books/gay-men/life-stories/memoirs/signs-of-a-struggle/.

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