“Do you take onion and garlic?”
Early on in my vegan life I was startled while ordering a meal in a vegetarian restaurant as the waitress asked me if I ate garlic and onions. Like, they’re both in the plant food groups, right? That was perhaps the first of several weird vegan-related questions that I’ve encountered since 2016.
It turns out that this garlic and onion thing has nothing to do with veganism, but rather stems from something about Buddhist monks not wanting their meditations distracted by indigestion or a rumour that the Buddha himself said that these bulbs might make one irritable. There’s surely additional related superstitious stuff if you look for it, but onion and garlic are still plant thingies.
So yeah, I eat onions and garlic with abandon, passion and pleasure.
“Can you eat figs?”
Are you kidding me? Figs? Well, apparently wasps fly into the fig flower or something as part of their reproductive procreation process. So the ripened figs contain the tiny decomposed remains of the deceased momma wasps. Once I researched and confirmed this odd insect phenomenon, I concluded that as this is a natural process, and as no huge industrial agricultural monopoly forced the wasps into the figs or added them as filler, I decided that figs could remain part of my routine daily vegan diet.
“Would you like honey in your tea?”
Initially, it seemed that honey would be alright until two aspects of the sweet golden goo are revealed. The first is that it’s essentially bee barf, so by definition, it is an animal product coming directly out of their tiny guts. But then it gets worse, I mean, the murder part. It seems that when beekeepers want to get their hive production started with new bee colonies, they order queen bees to get things started. It’s not practical to order just one queen bee because they have a tendency to die during transport, which is often done via the post in a small box. Merchants in this trade usually ship about five queen bees in small compartmentalized boxes, so the buyer eventually receives at least one that’s not dead. On learning of this, honey was off my vegan menu.
“Is wine vegan?”
In the beginning, I was relieved to learn that almost all alcoholic drinks are vegan, however, there are a few surprising exceptions. Guinness once used some sort of fish membrane in the brewing process for its famous stout, but this came to an end thanks to the efforts of vegan activists in the UK. While tequila with a worm in the bottle isn’t vegan, all wine is except for the red wines that use egg white for “softening a wine’s astringency”! Wait, what? I stumbled across this by accident when buying wine at a supermarket as one label stated “NON-VEGAN, CONTAINS EGG WHITE”. Nice of them to point that out. Are you a whiskey drinker? Then keep a distance from Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. Yeah, they use real honey.
“Want some Oreos?”
It’s pretty well known now that Oreos are vegan, but be careful. While the original Oreos pass the test, some of the special varieties contain milk and other nasties. Reading the ingredients, every vegan’s favorite hobby, is required.
“Is it ok to eat lab-grown cultured chicken?”
Now here’s a brave new world topic. Famous vegans like Ezra Klein condone this trade, but when I reflect on where it could take us as a society, I get worried. Society is already in enough trouble as it is, with climate change deniers and political polarisation, why add this ethical dilemma? My problem with cultured chicken, beef and all meats that will surely follow is not restricted to the fact that it all starts with cells taken from the actual animals. Oh no. While that is a disqualifier for me, my gravest concern is one that I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else; cannibalism.
To illustrate this, consider what the future could look like. Once this lab-grown cultured meat gets some traction, one day it could replace the real sliced cadaver fillets in the meat section of supermarkets all over the world. That’s not hard to imagine in view of the advances in technology and the depleted resources on our planet. What will happen when society has reached that point, and the majority of consumers have never experienced the taste of the real thing?
I’d say it’s likely that people will begin to wonder what the “real thing” tastes like. Meat from slaughtered chickens, cows, pigs etc. would then become a delicacy, fetching premium prices from those who can afford it. What’s trending with the elite always eventually trickles down to what the rest of us end up doing, and then the world once again is slaughtering animals en masse. So after a period of the lab-produced stuff, there will eventually be a return to the mass genocide of animals anyway.
Regarding cannibalism, the slippery slope is the same one that might get a lot of vegans to accept lab-cultured meat as not really meat. Today the majority of people see eating human flesh as an undebatable taboo. As there is no reason that human meat could not be produced in a lab, there will likely be some people arguing that as it isn’t really human flesh, then it’s also alright to eat.
Just like some vegans will rationalise that lab-grown cultured meat isn’t really meat, allowing them to gleefully sink their teeth in, the average consumer could similarly rationalise that lab-grown cultured human flesh isn’t from an actual human, therefore there’s no longer the taboo of cannibalism preventing them from tossing a few human fillets on the barbeque.
For the curious, the lingering question of what human flesh tastes like will finally be answered (spoiler alert, it probably tastes like ham).
After a while, the elite, after acquiring a taste for lab-grown cultured human flesh, might wonder how it compares to the real thing.
Oh, almost forgot…
“May vegans use steak knives?”
Sure, as long as the knives are not made from any animal parts, go right ahead. Some veggies require a good sharp knife to get through, so a steak knife could be useful. Personally, I’d just call them sharp or serrated knives, just to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
And on that happy note, I’m gonna eat a carrot.
Photo credit: Me