Updated: Jun 16, 2021
I’ve been a vegan for a while now, and personally, I think it’s rather marvellous, and it’s with this role I feel I have a responsibility to share its message. I carry with me the yearning to distribute such knowledge with the people who have had such truths concealed from them, a position I inhabited nearly six years ago. And so, with these following words, I hope to provide newly curious individuals with just a portion of the wisdom I have acquired through my experience.
Veganism is not simply about the objects we put into our mouths. The things we swallow down our oesophagus and into our bellies are, in fact, only one aspect of the vegan lifestyle. This action only truly describes our relationship with one of the five senses we have at our disposal. There is taste, but what about touch, smell, sight and sound? We are usually only ever given the tools on how to navigate the digestional route but with such interventions as this, these moral dilemmas shouldn’t keep you awake into the wee hours of the night.
So, with kindness, here is a brief guide for anybody considering veganism on how to navigate the tricky tundra of the sensual plain:
1 - Touch
Touching has some pretty rigid guidelines. The first and most pressing matter is to never touch intentionally. It’s hard to share an honest critic on the myth of humane meat when your palms emit a deep cod smell.
Accidental feel is unfortunate and can be distressing for certain individuals but I’ve found if you carry a potato peeler with you at all times, you can always simply peel off that layer of skin, leaving behind the untainted and exposed flesh. For the truly hardcore, you could even fry these strips up in a little oil and offer it to the next homeless dog you meet, depending on your vegan definition.
2 - Smell
Under no circumstances should smells be consumed. Animal-food scents of any description must be repelled from the system. If any accidental inhalation takes place, you must immediately reject all particle trace from your lungs, throat and nostrils.
Food markets hold the greatest challenge but holding the breath has naturally become the most popular and practical technique. In the event of an approaching loss of consciousness, one must youtube the eye-opening documentary Earthlings, to realign your values with your respiratory system.
Some people have taken to carrying small cuttings of tofu to place up their nostrils, though this is more of a fringe activity. One of the issues with this is once the smell is absorbed by the tofu, the fermented bean becomes saturated with carnist stench, and no longer counts as a vegan product, not only challenging the ideas in the ‘touch’ section but also creating an animal product in the process. Also, you look a bit of a twat walking around the market with a couple of white chunks stuck up your hooter.
3 - Taste
Hopefully this one’s self-explanatory but just to clear up any potential ambiguity, no - it still counts if you rub the butter into your gums.
4 - Sound
As a collective, we understand the impossibility of disconnecting our aural system from the material world, but if you are in the audible proximity of any meaty sizzling, crisping, toasting or griddling then it must be met with disapproving tones.
We can use our own vocal abilities, should we have one, either as a counter-protest, or just to mask the dominant sound, to provide an alternative soundtrack for people to selectively tune into. If some bacon is being fried, you can always spout off an impromptu speech about the stress hormones found in beef or an in-depth analysis of Carol J. Adam’s ‘The Sexual Politics of Meat’. Though these are excellent examples, a simple, sustained audible groan will also suffice. A low, continuous, monotone exhalation will certainly achieve the desired effect. If you choose the discussion route, you can make it specific to the animal currently being cooked, or you can go completely off topic and discuss the medicinal nature of certain herbs, that choice is up to you.
Of course, if that all fails, I would thoroughly recommend a vuvuzela.
5 - Sight
Vision is a process fraught with potential issues, but there are methods available to treat any excess residue. I’ll run through a scenario with you to help you further understand the procedure.
You may find yourself, one day, gazing lazily at a breaded chicken product - unwittingly lingering a fraction too long at the panko encased poultry, for example. Firstly, don’t panic. The first step toward healing is awareness. Once you’ve identified the moment, you must sweep the proximity and seek out your nearest fellow vegan, (this can be achieved by simply standing next to the fish counter and seeking out the faces filled with abject horror and despair.) If no vegan is to be found, immediately consult your nearest social media, remembering to commune with yourself properly to decipher the correct emoji that truthfully showcases your remorse, a racing car or a bucking horse just won’t do. Attention to visual inflexion is key.
The next step is confession. You must vocalise this discretion with your peer. This act can only be effectively performed if spoken with a combination of honesty, vulnerability and humility. It may be a challenging moment to face, but it is in this embarrassment, this frustration, this angst-ridden torment, that you can mend your past misdemeanours. The path to healing lies in the pain.
Finally, the vegan who has given you their time, patience and kindness thanks you for your honesty and gives you their full blessing. It is through your connection and shared compassion that this transaction takes place. The forgiveness manifests from the mutual understanding that we are all fallible human beings, trying our best to live intentional, ethical lifestyles and that the pursuit of perfection can only result in the breeding of shame.
Once the confession has taken place, you are welcome to continue shopping for your caramelised onion hummus and Linda McCartney scampi bites.
Here are some additional bullet points you may wish to consider when contemplating the transition over:
You must not wear any items made out of animal products. No leather, wool, goose, angora or ball bag money pouches. However, you are permitted to offer your own skin as clothing for any complicit animal in need of warmth, security or just cooky-funky-trend-setting fashion options.
Best not pay attention to Piers Morgan.
Still be nice, because it’s good to be nice.
Chewing your own toenails is okay as long as you consent.
Be kind to pigeons - walk around them in the street, not through them.
And above all, please remember to be kind to animals - because really, they’re ones who are bloody great.
The Savage Balance Podcast is a weekly podcast offering a new story, essay, interview, thought or leftover scribble from the back of a napkin.