Oh, the vegans I know

Don’t take me the wrong way: I am usually very tolerant and understanding toward people’s lifestyles and their choices. It is very important in our society to have open minds and open ears. There are some lifestyles, however, that I really question – not that I think they are wrong, but I question the reasons behind them.

One of these is the vegan lifestyle. I am not talking about vegetarians; I am talking about vegans, who are different breeds unto themselves. Vegetarians are the people who stay away from meat for either ideological purposes or because their stomachs do not take well to animal protein. Vegans, on the other hand, are the lot who constitute most of PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

I know that not all vegans are a certain way, because that is never the case in reality. But the vegans I have observed in my life are what I call “the evangelists.” They are not the ones who go quietly about their business, enjoying their tofu burgers and soy milk, but instead they are the ones who are vocal about their lifestyle and make repeated attempts to try and convince you why you are a meat-eating sinner. It would not be such a nuisance if they didn’t shake the nutrition facts in your face while they did it.

At one point in my life I considered becoming a vegetarian, but I discovered that I liked meat too much. In all honesty, I really admire the vegetarian lifestyle. It must be really hard to resist the temptation of eating some of that 100 percent Angus beef steak with A1 sauce on top of it. Outback Steakhouse commercials really make you feel like you’re missing out on something.

But there is something that perturbs me about vegans. This is just my opinion, but I liken them to religious zealots. There is always a minority in any group who takes it to the extreme. There are very few vegans I know personally, but it seems that many of them take their lifestyle as seriously as a football player in a jock strap: acutely intimidating until you notice what they are wearing.

There have been many stories both in the news and among animal rights groups about the way in which animals are treated in factories. I’ve read many horror stories about chickens that are kept in small crates or boxes their entire lives, not being able to move, all the while waiting to be slaughtered for a chicken sandwich.

I have my own oppositions to the treatment of animals, so I can see how others who adhere to the no-meat lifestyle feel about the matter. In that respect, there needs to be animal rights associations to curb the corporate trampling of decency in the United States. For the vegetarians who are active in those groups, I support them.

But an aspect of the vegan lifestyle that does not make much sense to me is the biological fact that the body requires a certain amount of protein, which is best attained through the consumption of animal protein. As a child, we all needed to eat a certain amount of meat during our developing years to make sure our bones and bodies were strong and healthy.

Think about it: if you did not drink milk or eat much cheese while you were growing up, your bones would definitely be deficient. It is proven that adults who have small teeth did not drink much milk when they were young. I wonder what vegan parents feed their kids if they do not believe in consumption of anything from an animal.

For those of us who are adults, our bodies still need a certain amount of protein to sustain our bones and muscles. It is true that tofu and beans contain protein that can be substituted for meat – but they do not totally substitute everything that the body needs.

Perhaps I just have a love/hate relationship with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. I admire a lot of what they have to go through while the rest of the nation is preoccupied with obesity and our fat intake. I do believe that we as Americans eat too much meat. On the other hand, the zealots only provide further proof that any fanatical group can be dangerous to the health of the majority.

In any case, I think I’ll continue to enjoy my chicken sandwich.

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