Real Men Can’t Be Vegan? — Let’s Change A Myth!
This morning, I came across the Facebook exchanges of two women, who have recently committed to a vegan lifestyle, discussing why it is impossible to raise their sons as vegans. It occurred to me that this wasn’t the first time I had been privy to similar discussions. Just last week, my friend Jennifer told me that she would have no problem going vegetarian, but she could never bring her husband, a meat and potatoes guy, on board. Typically, the dialogues go far beyond the whole protein thing and how men, and certainly growing boys, can only get enough by consuming a large, juicy chunk of meat. Essentially, none of these women felt comfortable to push a plant-based diet on the males in their lives. Their daughters, yes, without a questions, but boys as vegans… hmmm? Their argument against it? Not only are males genetically predisposed to crave animal protein, sending boys to school with a Tofurkey sandwich and a tupperware filled with carrots and kale could open them up to ridicule. So why go there?
Theoretically, moral conception has always equated women with compassion, care and welfare, while men, in general, have been viewed… well, you know, as the tough ones, the warriors, the hunters, the stabilizers. If we are to believe certain advertising messages– take the spot for BK’s Big King Sandwich or Wendy’s T-Rex Burger–there is just something so inherently sexy and manly about a guy biting into a six-patty-stacked bacon burger.
Yet, by now we know that vegetarianism / veganism is not just reserved for women, but for all those who want to support the wellbeing and rights of animals, and the protection of our social and ecological environment. So why would we not want to raise our sons as compassionate vegans? Why not educate our brothers, boyfriends and husbands about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle?
True, even 21st century society is much slower in accepting a male’s rejection of a good, hearty slab of beef than a woman’s. But does that mean men are programmed to crave meat? Consider all the male athletes who have joined the ranks of ex-carnivores, believing that a vegetarian or vegan diet not only makes them healthier but enhances their athletic performance. Former Seattle Seahawks guard Deuce Lutui, runner and Olympic Gold Medal winner Carl Lewis, and Alexey Voyevoda, the Russian arm-wrestling bobsledder built like a hulk, are just a few. Certainly, we have all heard about Bill Clinton switching over to a (mostly) plant-based diet and just recently, former vice president Al Gore also announced that he has taken up a vegan diet.
The motivation to give up animal products may differ for many of us. Some do it to save the planet; think greenhouse gases. Some do it to live a longer, healthier life; and others do it because they find it morally unethical to slaughter and consume sentient beings.
My own family adapted a plant-based diet for the latter reason. Incidentally, my husband decided to switch from a vegetarian to a vegan status several years before I did. As an executive for a publicly traded company, he travels a lot and frequently attends business dinners, many of them held, of course, in steak houses! You can imagine the discussion that ensues when my husband orders a salad or pasta dish sans cheese, and “leave out the bacon or meatballs, please.” Or, when he requests the chef to prepare a specialty plate consisting of grilled vegetables while everyone else goes for the fresh lobster or filet mignon. Both of my daughters’ long-term boyfriends are committed to a vegan lifestyle. Now, they weren’t in the beginning, but once the relationship evolved, they joined first out of respect and later out of conviction. Take my daughter Elisa’s fiance, Barry! He grew up on his parents’ farm in Cork, Ireland. They are fourth or fifth generation dairy and sheep farmers. Of course, it took a bit of time for his family to get used to the idea that he’d pass up a bowl of steaming lamb stew in favor of a veggie sandwich. This July we’ll be celebrating Elisa’s and Barry’s wedding in Galway, Ireland with an all vegan menu.
The way I see it, we are not just a family who adopted a new way of life, we are advocates too. Advocates for the animals, advocates for our planet and advocates for the health and well-being of those we care for. So why not ask your son, your spouse, well, yeah, your daughter or sister, if she is not yet on board, to give veganism a try. Start with Meat-Free Mondays and see how it goes. No excuses!
For me, veganism is similar to my religion, and while I respect anyone’s belief, I still make it a point of inviting them to my church!
Gabrielle Allen is a Colorado vegan and former marketing director and community relations manager for a national bookstore. She currently devotes her time to writing and animal rights activism