I’m writing this as a response to the flying vitriol and misunderstanding I’ve seen in the vegans vs spoonie debate.
For those of you who have been more importantly conserving spoons than getting involved with this debate, I salute you. But here is a very quick run down on the basics of this debate.
There have been a number of militant vegans who have been tweeting members of the chronically ill and disability community about how they should eat a plant-based diets. Some people have replied that their condition doesn’t allow them to do to do this. The response from some militant vegans has been to tell them if they can’t then they should go away and die. This is an overtly hateful and ableist comment, which other vegans have come back with the hashtag #notallvegans.
I am trying to dissect this argument without causing any more bad blood. Both vegans and people with disabilities/chronic health issues get it in the neck from various sources. No one needs or wants further backlash. But I do feel that certain things being left unsaid doesn’t make the matter closed.
Firstly, the issue of diets. For the vast majority, a well balanced plant based diet is great for your health. But this isn’t what works for everyone. Those with metabolic disorders who require lots of protein or more calories. Digestive disorders which require low fibre diets. Allergies. Bone disorders which need high calcium intake. This list goes on! But, there are small changes which can be made to make these diets more compassionate. Having milk from free range cows or maybe going dairy free if possible, eating less meat where possible and when it’s not, going for higher welfare options – again such as free range. No, this isn’t going vegan, it’s not even close, but it is doing something rather than nothing under difficult circumstances.
Secondly, ableist comments. We get this from all sides. The oh so clichéd ‘oh but you look too young to be sick’. The demands from random people on the street to know your diagnosis. Even a certain MP suggesting that disabled people should be paid less. The comments made on twitter were hateful and should be legally treated as hate speech. I do find it hard to comprehend that people who are meant to be compassionate to animals are suggesting that members of their own species should die because they can’t for medical reasons follow the same diet. The whole idea behind veganism is that no animal is seen as more valuable than another. Why should one human life be more valuable than another? If you really believe in survival of the fittest then surely that’s the mindset of a carnivore?
Finally, I really feel I need to address this hashtag. Not all vegans are ignorant and ableist. That’s a given! I know vegans who are spoonies themselves and they know how difficult it can be for others. But as the black lives matter movement has shown, just being not racist isn’t enough if you really want to support those people affected by hate. You need to take people up on it when they use casually prejudiced language, and not stand by and let members of your community get away with acts of hatred. This isn’t political correctness gone mad. It’s being a decent human being and standing up for those who you share this planet with, regardless of whether you have ever experienced that particular brand of hatred yourself.