News recently broke involving an absolutely gut-wrenching story that I think needs to be explored. It involves a young boy of 12 who hung himself over bullying. Sadly, that alone is not all that shocking, since bullying is still a rampant, disgusting problem in our society.
What makes the situation all the more absurd, however, is that he was being bullied over his Vegan diet.
The “Crime” of Eating Plants
While Veganism has definitely grown in popularity over the last couple of decades due to powerful documentaries such as What the Health, and reports coming out of the medical industry that are beginning to paint a grisly picture of how meat and dairy affect our health, it is still relatively fringe.
Oddly enough though, Veganism is quite reviled. Even the word Vegan provokes a strong negative emotional response in many people, because eating meat is something held dear by the ego. Most people carry an extremely deep guilt-complex over eating meat, and rightfully so, likely a holdover of our collective unconscious from the days when our species first descended into desperate madness and began to forsake our plant-eating roots.
For a bunch of people who just want to save animals, the environment, and eat what grows out of the ground, Vegans get a metric ton of flak.
It would be alright if it were merely talk, but as anyone who has been Vegan long enough knows, it is often with violence that Vegans are met, either in words or actions.
Name calling, shaming, gaslighting, outright ridicule, and terroristic threats almost come with the territory of being Vegan. It’s an absurd reality that bullying and abuse toward Vegans is actually quite common, though it is massively under-reported.
It takes an event on the scale of a child committing suicide for this kind of thing to even get a glimpse of media attention.
All for the non-crime of eating plants and wanting to save our planet.
You can see why some Vegans become agitated. Carnism is more of a cult than Veganism could ever hope to be, yet this topic is simply not discussed in the media. We’re talking a total blackout. Even this horrendous suicide has scant details about what really went on, because news outlets know that sympathy for Vegans is a hard sell anywhere.
A Tragedy in Hertfordshire
Apparently, the child in question had been bullied for years about being Vegan.
Louie would get meat thrown at him, all for his personal dietary choices. He took to eating alone outside and self-harming at home, such was his internal agony. In the rigid environment most schools create, things become ripe for this kind of behavior.
Children act upon what they are exposed to. If you create a world where you are expected to conform conform conform, well then any slight difference is going to be seen as threatening or even dangerous. And uncultured and weak-minded children who haven’t been guided right by their parents will lash out at difference to protect what they see as their world.
It’s a story as old as time: school bullying. It manifests from a combination of terrible parenting and rigid culture, with a dash of willful ignorance on the part of the school faculty. Bring all of these conditions together and you’re going to have bullying almost as a rule.
And while a knee-jerk reaction for some is to let “boys be boys” and allow things to just be, that’s not how sane, thinking individuals deal with problems as serious as terroristic threats and physical violence.
Some would say this situation could have been prevented if the faculty had been more aware there was a problem or if the child had spoken up about the issue more, or if he was “tougher,” but few will have the moxie to say simply that the kids who were doing the bullying were in the wrong and should have been raised better. Bullying is a response brought about by a weak ego being threatened, full stop, end of story.
Find me a child who bullies and I’ll find you a parent who doesn’t know how to raise kids worth a damn.
Unpopular truth, but true nonetheless. This irresponsibility for raising compassionate children is what gives us rigid, conformist adults who gravitate toward oppressive, intolerant beliefs. Yes, there is a correlation between kids who bully and wind up as homophobes, racists, bigots, and general degenerates.
Want to know how to stop tragedies like this? Encourage parents to raise their children right, lead by example, and foster compassion and intelligence.
There’s more to this issue than just standard bullying however. This involves Veganism, which, as was pointed out above, tends to be high on the list of things that ruffles the feathers of weak minds. Let us take a quick look at this “cult of the ego”: carnism.
The Fanatic Love of Meat: Carnism
There are direct links between eating meat and violent behavior. This is not to say that all meat eaters are violent, that is absurd. What has been noted in recent studies, however, that the presence of more meat in the diet can be linked with higher rates of aggressive activity, especially red meat.
This of course is only logical. We know that the difficult digestion of meat increases certain stress-responses in the body, which in turn puts us in more of a “fight or flight” mode. It’s why if you eat a lot of beef you tend to get flushed. Heart rate increases, even adrenaline can be released, all because of the consumption of meat.
There are other issues to look at too that go deeper than the physical.
Those with a more holistic understanding of diet say that since the majority of the animals we eat are slain in torment, scared, fighting for their lives, in shock and pain, that the subtle energy they lock in and internalize at the time of death stays in the meat and is then carried over to our bodies.
That is a topic for another time, and whether you believe it or not is irrelevant at this point.
Meat-eating by its very nature is a barbaric practice that is beneath us a species, if you stop to think about it. Yet some people guard this “right” to enslave, torture, hack up, and consume the body parts of animals rather heatedly, as if their very identities and livelihoods depended on it.
That alone does not make something a cult, the fervent love and attachment. But take the following points into consideration:
- Animal Agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change.
- Human beings were never designed to digest meat and dairy, and it’s proven that doing so gives them heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
- We can’t even consume meat without cooking it.
- Humans do not salivate over dead bodies or the stench of death, this has to be masked by charring the flesh and mixing it with herbs and spices.
- Without said charring and spices, meat doesn’t remotely taste good. It actually tastes horrible, if not horrendous.
- In the livestock industry, animals just as smart and friendly as your pet dog routinely get tortured, abused, slain, discarded, dismembered, drained of their blood, eviscerated, confined to tiny cages where they get infections and boils, lose their minds, and ultimately endure unimaginable suffering every second of every day.
- The waste produced by animals is not regulated the way human waste is, and much of it ends up in giant holes in the ground, where it leeches into human drinking water and destroys local ecosystems.
- If the grain that is used to feed livestock were instead fed to humans, we could end world hunger several times over.
- The meat and dairy industries routinely engage in televised propaganda in order to get people to purchase and eat meat. They have to sell people lies in order to get them to buy their own product.
- Over 150 BILLION animals are slaughtered every year in the food industry. Think about that, the human population killed 21 times over every year in a massive genocide just so we can have hamburgers and butter.
- The oceans are so depleted of wild fish that most fish we eat are now “grown” in fisheries. The oceans around the world are so depleted of life that many are being considered as “dead zones” and “deserts.” This is 100% the doing of humankind all for animal agriculture.
- There are now delicious vegan replacements for every single kind of animal-based food.
I know that’s a lot to take in, and these points are not listed to convert people or guilt-trip them, but merely to point out that if anyone here has the right to be aggressive or be outraged, it’s vegans, not meat-eaters. In fact, as far as carnism goes in general, they have virtually no leg to stand on.
So why then is the ardent insistence on eating meat even a thing, when there’s simply a mountain of reasons why no one in their right mind would defend the eating of animal products?
The answer rests in the mind.
The belief in and love of eating meat is something so entrenched in our society it’s almost hard to spot all of the propaganda. It’s there, however, in massive amounts.
From the paid advertising that the meat and dairy industries engages in (Got milk? Yep, that was a dairy industry-ran marketing scheme), to the association between our national sports and grilling, to the idea that we need milk for calcium and meat for protein (written on thousands of products in our stores), to fast food (which is almost synonymous with hamburgers and milkshakes) being completely ubiquitous, to the idea that being healthy and green is an “alternative” lifestyle, to the nonsensical “nature-porn” videos that the TV networks produce that almost exclusively show the natural world as this violent, sinister place that is predicated on hunting, killing, and the “survival of the fittest” (when in all actuality, the violence that is often portrayed in nature documentaries accounts for less than 1% of what amounts to a normal day for most animals).
It all goes into creating a worldview where eating meat is simply not to be questioned. It’s as “normal” and “natural” as breathing air or drinking water. But how natural really is it?
Well, to put it bluntly, it’s not natural at all. Human beings have to be convinced that they are meat eaters. But why does it seem like meat eating is so hotly defended? Why is Veganism so vilified? People can’t really be that self-conscious that their very identities are threatened by the idea of not eating meat, can they?
That very well may be the case. Meat eating is a primal thing, it’s something so many of us do unquestioningly, yet collectively I think we all know it’s wrong. Even the ardent supporters of meat eating know full well it causes cancer and clogs our arteries.
Fad diets such as the currently-popular Paleo diet are underhanded responses to Veganism: it’s like the collective unconscious shouting “look at me, I can be healthy and still eat meat! So there!”
For some, personal preference (in this case, “taste”) is not to be messed with. You can show people facts or pictures of police brutality, social injustice, wealth inequality, and war-torn countries all day and they won’t bat an eye (they might offer a platitude, such as “how horrible!” or they ever-popular, “I’ll keep them in my prayers.”), but the second you mention that meat might be bad for them and that they should stop eating it, they’ll fly off the handle.
Meat-eating effectively shapes our identity as people, and in so doing, makes it a part of who we are. To question that is to question who we are as a species, and many of us are simply not ready to go down that road.
Your average Joe Shmoe down the street is unprepared to entertain the fact that his nightly meal might be contributing to the death of the planet or the genocide of millions of animals every day.
Your typical American Suburbanite, with all of their myriad problems and hangups as it is, cannot swallow that their lunch has feelings or that their bodies can’t even digest what they are putting into their mouths. It’s just a whole lot easier to ignore and repress all of this and move along.
The second these kinds of topics are raised, or the habit of eating animal products is called into question, the ego must come face to face with its vices and sick beliefs. And of course it’s no contest, and that is why it triggers a violent response.
We have logical minds and can smell absurdity a mile away if said mind is functioning properly. For instance, the question, “is my ability to have a chicken sandwich worth more than the lives of countless millions of sentient beings,” doesn’t sit well with a functioning brain.
It’s why many people turn Vegan in the first place. “Wait, how many animals die every year because of animal agriculture? WHAT?” Unless the ego-identity is absolutely caught up with the idea of eating meat, the logical choice is effortlessly simple: stop eating meat. But for others who hold more strongly to the artificial belief that we need to eat meat, it becomes and instant attack on the identity, and the result is to lash out at Vegans and even, as with this suicide case, abuse them.
Carnism is essentially the belief that eating meat is good, natural, and has no consequences.
A subset of this belief is that we are “supposed” to be doing it. “Haven’t you heard, we’re omnivores!” This collective delusion is still very much alive. That’s one of the things that riles Vegans up, the false claims and outright delusions present in the meat-eating (or mainstream) world.
No, human beings are not omnivores. Biology defines diet, not behavior. If you put humans in dire enough of a situation, they become cannibalistic. Are we cannibals? Of course not. Given enough of an unnatural circumstance, any animal will resort to an unnatural diet to survive.
But survival is one thing, natural living is something else entirely. Diet is defined by biology, period. And this means human beings are not even remotely close to being “omnivores.” We are great apes, very close descendants of the bonobo.
We are designed to pluck tropical fruits from trees and forage for nuts and legumes. We are not designed to bring down animals with our bare hands and dig into their corpses with our snouts, lapping up the blood and eating the vital organs, like true carnivores and omnivores do. Any belief other than this falls into the realm of carnism, because it is cultish behavior based on lies and propaganda. The idea that human beings “should” eat meat is about as far removed from truth as the idea of the moon being made out of cheese. It’s cultural myth, nothing more.
How to Deal With Carnist Violence
This is advice for everyone, not just Vegans. It’s just as important for meat-eaters to combat carnist behavior, because it contributes to hate and violence in our society. Especially when it leads to such horrific events such as this.
The best weapon to combat carnists is with facts. This is important, because awareness is the backbone of all social progress. No one can empathize and understand a movement or a concept if the facts aren’t out there. Many great, wonderful people simply do not know the facts about eating meat and dairy, and the violence behind these practices. And this is not about conversion. Converting to a plant-based diet isn’t going to bring that kid back to life, and it’s not going to immediately solve the issue that society has with ego and violence. Right now awareness is what we need, and to combat fanaticism and delusion no matter where it appears around us.
So what do we do when faced with irrational carnist arguments and behavior?
It’s time to bust out the facts. Once the ego is made to face itself, it inevitably falls apart. The list above is a decent place to start, but we recommend acquainting yourself with documentaries on the subject of Veganism, as well as other resources that can be found on Youtube.
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to appeal to emotions when it comes to dealing with carnists. Saying that “animals have emotions and can think and feel,” or that “your willful ignorance is destroying the planet for future generations” will likely not bother them in the slightest, and may just give them ammunition by claiming you’re trying to be “holier-than-thou.”
Someone whose identity is already subtly tied up with the idea of eating meat to survive is not likely high on the empathy scale.
Instead, talk about things that hit close to home: health. Cancer, especially, is an epidemic that has affected just about everyone in America.
If you haven’t gotten it, you most certainly know someone who has. It takes ten seconds to look up the facts regarding the links between cancer and eating meat, and even if the individual responds with something absurd like “well I’ll just have to get cancer then!” or the always-popular “well, my grandmom lived to be 92 and she ate meat every day!” just calmly state the truth and move on. All we can do is peacefully spread awareness. The facts are the facts: humans were never designed to digest meat and remain healthy.
Another means of approaching carnists is to make them understand that you’re not trying to take anything away from them. Often, the backlash Vegans face while trying to convince others to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, comes from the fear of losing something that their egos hold dear. That is, well-loved foods. Part of this irrational behavior is indeed a primal stress response, and can’t be helped.
For some people, a “good steak” is like Nirvana for their misguided taste buds.
Imagine being the person that takes that away from another? Ouch. I think when hardcore meat-eaters see Vegans even from afar, they feel threatened to a degree out of fear that Veganism will take over and steal their precious food choices. Of course, the lives of animals, the health of the planet, and the fact that we’re not supposed to eat meat all weigh more than people’s personal preferences. As if the way your mom prepares Turkey or the taste of a good cheesecake could ever be important than the health and livelihood of our species or the imminent threat of climate change, among other things.
A carnist will rarely see the logic in this though, but it’s not a Vegan’s business to “take” meat “away” from anyone, or “deprive” anyone of their enjoyment from such things. It is ultimately their choice to take it away from themselves. It is an act of admitting wrong and taking personal action to change.
Therein lies the most important aspect of this: you can’t “Vegan someone.” It’s a lifestyle and a worldview, not a slap in the face (though that can be the way it feels when you realize how crazy the mainstream view of diet is).
What you can do is calmly provide facts and empathize as best as possible. If the person resorts to abuse or violence, walk away if possible, and remember that you are making the right choice, even if certain demographics of people don’t agree with you.
It’s also important to note that you are not alone. The Vegan community is vibrant, strong, and growing every day! Don’t ever feel like you have “no one to talk to,” or that you are being singled without anyone to turn to for advice.
Veganism is the fastest growing movement in the world, as more and more people turn to healthier living and greater compassion for the Earth and the animals we share the world with. If you have an encounter with a militant or violent carnist and you’re feeling attacked, remember that you have a community to fall back on.
This is especially important if you are still in school and feel like the sky is falling simply because you are being teased for being Vegan – there’s a giant community that will embrace you and help you deal with any pressure you might face trying to live a holistic life.
We all have to work together to build communities, foster compassion in one another, and make the slow push toward sustainable choices easier. We can’t have events like the suicide of Louie Fenton occur, we simply can’t.
Parents need to do a better job of raising their kids, and the perception of Vegans needs to change in general. This idea that Vegans are somehow elitist or snobs because they are trying to save the lives of animals and get people to eat healthier is nonsensical and needs to be done away with.
Lies are always bound to create problems and lead down terrible roads. It seems the lies about Vegan continue to bare horrible fruit, this time in the suicide of a child. Be the change you want to see in the world, and start by embracing Vegans with open arms, even if you cannot make the jump to a plant-based diet yourself. This kind of violent mentality needs to be done away with.
Have any personal experiences you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment!
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The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.