You're Not Vegan For The Right Reasons: Pseudo-Environmentalists Must Be Stopped


I first realized a recent trend taking over 20-somethings in New York City while a friend and I were having dinner at a Thai restaurant in Greenwich Village earlier this week. When the waiter came to take the orders of the people at the table next to us, my friend and I overheard the conversation. One girl, who looked to be about 20 years old, ordered pad Thai with tofu and no egg.

Her friend, around the same age, asked her why she didn’t order her usual — pad Thai with chicken (and egg). The girl said she was talking to someone from OkCupid who was vegan, and she had pretended to have the same eating habits while talking to him so she wanted to eat vegan until after their date the next week.

I don’t mean to discourage the girl, but the fact that she faked caring about something when she had no intention of learning about it or following through with it long term really struck a nerve in both my friend and me. The bogus environmentalist/hippie-health lifestyle is growing and, for some reason, really irritating.

It’s all the rage now, and I hear it all over the place, much to my dismay. Especially as a college student in the city, people are frequently saying things like, “I’m going vegan for a month so I can lose weight,” “Let’s try that vegetarian place for dinner,” “We should visit the East Village. I heard there’s a vegan, gluten-free, all natural, magical ice cream shop.” (The magical ice cream shop really does exist, and it’s called Lula’s Sweet Apothecary.)

Yes, why don’t you visit that vegetarian place you’ve “always” been “dying” to try in the one week you’ve been a diehard vegetarian/vegan fighting against meat consumption, GMOs, fracking and probably shoes.

I know I sound a bit harsh, but these people piss me off. I’m all for people bettering themselves, but my main problem with the pseudo-environmentalist fad is that it allows people to ignore the real issues we have for the sake of seeming cool. I wholeheartedly welcome more people to the great environmental fight we’re facing.

Just to give you a little glimpse into the trouble we’re in, this week alone: The GOP used the turmoil in Ukraine to push fossil fuel projects, the USDA might allow US-grown and sold chicken to be processed in China, and California turns to Israel and witchcraft to fix their draught (not to mention recent disasters like Superstorm Sandy and our water being compromised from farm fishing and fracking).

These are important issues we need to address. Being a vegetarian is a beneficial — yet, in the grand scheme of things, not that impressive — sacrifice, since farmed animals take up valuable resources and space, and eating meat is just unethical. Still, vegetarianism and the like are only a start, but these fake environmentalists see it as an end. The temporary behavioral change is all they plan on doing to combat issues, and they don’t even know why they’re doing it. Do they know that 80 percent of agricultural land in the United States is used to farm animals for consumption, or that producing a few pounds of beef emits more greenhouse gases than driving a car for a couple of hours? I doubt it.

This article acts as a call to arms. We do need help, but informed help would be better. The face of environmentalism has been tarnished by people who don’t know what they’re talking about or what the real problems are. Climate change activists, vegetarians and vegans, alternative energy supporters, sustainable agriculture advocates and all those who fall under the giant umbrella of environmentalists are already considered left-wing hippies, even when they are knowledgeable on the topic.

In a video posted by The Nation last year, political activist, philosopher and MIT professor Noah Chomsky talks about how there has been a public relations campaign to convince the public that climate change is a “liberal hoax.” Last April, Tennessean State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) sent an email to the Humane Society after trying to make it illegal to document incidents of animal cruelty within farms. I bolded the words to focus on in his email below:

I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17-year-old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and its true intent.

Holt’s words are obviously ridiculous, but he has a point, and he’s not alone. There are a lot of people in the United States who discount environmentalists and belittle their efforts, and I can’t help but think it’s because of those who only get on board with the movement because it’s the cool thing to do. When people pretend to support something they don’t know much about, they often get arguments wrong and make all of our efforts seem suspect.

The point of my rambling rant: Pseudo-environmental activists are annoying, they give genuine efforts a bad name, and frankly, we just don’t have time for them. But don’t stop what you’re doing. Instead, learn about it, and then do more.