Comedian Jake Yapp muses the inevitable conversations that happen when you’re “The Vegan” at Christmas
Well, season’s greetings to you. And may this publication be a little manger of comfort to you, because this is a special time of the year. The time when you are most likely to be known as ‘The Vegan’. It’s highly likely you’ll find yourself spending the holidays with your nice-but-not-quite-there-yet relatives as they waggle a drumstick (such a coy term, ‘drumstick’; it’s SOMEONE’S THIGH) at you and tell you how conscientiously they procure their meat, from their dear farmer friend, who weeps softly as he waves goodbye to each herd of cows he tenderly raises. Each cow in the herd, your extremely concerned uncle tells you, actually hand-writes (hoof-writes) a note to their farmer, reassuring them that even if they weren’t taken to the abattoir, they’d probably have died of sheer happiness before the week was out. Even the abattoir isn’t some blood-soaked orgy of death, but a kindly old vet, who, with a gentle ‘easy, girl’ and a single tear rolling down his cheek, gently caresses their carotid artery with the finest of blades, actually making their death a moment of light-headed euphoria for each lucky, lucky cow, and something each one of them genuinely anticipates with gleeful rapture.
Your relative, let’s call him (because it’s probably going to be a ‘him’) Uncle Louie, will tell you how he has literally never eaten a biscuit with skimmed milk in it, and how actually, most weeks he only eats one sliver of beef that is so small, and so thin you could actually have used it as a contact lens.
And you won’t be able to escape him. Uncle Louie will keep returning to you for the duration of the festivities. Why? Because new things will have occurred to him. Have you, ponders Uncle Louie, have you stopped to think about, if we all went vegan, wait for it, the rafts of unemployed abattoir workers and farmers? People first, yeah? An argument akin to making the case for keeping Abu Ghraib open because if you close it the torturers will find it hard to retrain.
When you gently rebuff his argument, he will simply move on to the next thing — how will we feed poor people without cheap chicken, he will ask. He may even be moved to tears by the persuasiveness of his own laughable argument, saying, his voice choking with emotion, that if he has to choose between a few dead chickens and kids starving to death, it’s a no-brainer.
Poor Uncle Louie. Why can’t he leave it alone? Why must he hint darkly at some environmental disaster that would befall us if we all gave up meat, or accuse you of wishing extinction on farm animals? What if you were on a desert island? Well, what if you lived in the 21st century with plentiful alternatives and the bald truth that animal methane is destroying the planet? Why does he ignore the simplicity of your explanation, that there is no real alternative option but a vegan diet on an environmental, health, or sheer cruelty basis? Why must he frenziedly conjure increasingly bonkers what-aboutery to destroy your quiet conviction?
It’s because Uncle Louie is tying himself in KNOTS over this. Uncle Louie is a decent person. He just grew up in a society that normalised and industrialised this form of barbarism. And you — oh, you SWINE — you have alerted him to this atrocity. You’ve forced him to confront the whole 2+2=5 lunacy of meat production. And you will have to endure his nonsensical arguments, rammed down your throat like maize down the gullet of a Breton goose.
Finally he will come up with something, some madly contorted technicality that appeases his burning conscience (‘If we didn’t farm chickens, what would happen to Fantastic Mr Fox?’), or will incite you to a frustrated outburst, and, passably satisfied that he’s won, will drift away.
And you will probably feel angry, and humiliated, and upset, and that’s exactly what he wants you to feel. But I am here, along with an exponentially-growing number of like-minded, gentle souls, to tell you it’s ok. And you’re doing great. And Uncle Louie’s haw-hawing, his attempts at intellectual posturing, or his accounts of his time spent living on a dairy farm may keep him going for now, but some day, and maybe sooner rather than later… He’s going to have to admit to the conscious part of his brain… You’re right.
Have a peaceful Christmas x
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