Veganism is a diet that is beneficial to many in creating a healthy lifestyle, helping the environment, or even in cleansing the body. However, there is an unfortunate sect of “vegan culture” that chooses to use controversial and often misleading information to encourage meat eaters to become vegans. While their romaine hearts are in the right place, their actions cause their audience to turn away from veganism and reject the practice entirely.
First, it is important to acknowledge that veganism has numerous societal benefits. One of the most common arguments in favor of veganism is that it helps reduce the amount of animals killed for human consumption. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, when one goes vegan, they eliminate the consumption of nearly 200 animals every year. Likewise, going vegan helps to reduce one’s carbon footprint. A study conducted by Springerlink, a think-tank in the United Kingdom, found that vegans maintain an average carbon footprint of 6.4 pounds of carbon dioxide per day, compared to the 12.4 pounds from low-level consumers who eat between 1.7 and 3.5 ounces of meat a day. Finally, veganism can be very good for the body, as going vegan has been observed to reduce the risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease and various cancers.
Unfortunately, organizations that advocate for veganism can fail at convincing the public to go vegan due to controversial tactics that maintain a certain level of hypocrisy. PETA is well-known for its controversial advertisements that play with emotions rather than providing solid evidence for veganism. In 2003, PETA produced posters depicting concentration camps from the Holocaust side by side with pictures of livestock, one of which carried the phrase: “To animals, all people are Nazis.” Rather than discussing the facts about animal cruelty, PETA crossed a line by equating livestock treatment to that of human beings in the Holocaust. These types of scare tactics conjure up offensive, simplistic images that push the intended audience away from veganism.
Controversy aside, hypocrisy is another aspect of organizations like PETA that has gotten them into a pickle. While its namesake, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, gives the impression that PETA will do all within its power to maintain positive and healthy lives for animals within its care, the opposite is true. An article in The Atlantic leaked that, in 2011, PETA euthanized 713 dogs and 1,211 cats that went unadopted at their shelters. For a group that advocates for the humane treatment of animals and for veganism, these statistics do not bode well for its legitimacy, as it contradicts the main goals of the organization.
This is not to say that everyone advocating for veganism is hypocritical, nor is it implying that the credibility of a vegan lifestyle is tarnished, as veganism is actually gaining more of a following. However, PETA is just one of many organizations that hinder the veganism debate with its short-sighted practices. Appealing to people’s senses of logic rather than emotions creates a convincing argument when discussing veganism. Leading by example cuts out the hypocrisy of some arguments, giving the push to veganism all the more legitimacy. Only then will the public be more open to veganism and may in turn choose to practice a diet that is host to numerous health and environmental benefits.