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Letter by Rog McFadden, Vegan Views 18 (Winter 1978)

I really sympathise with some of your readers when they describe some of the problems that they have being vegan in a carnivorous world.

Because of the pressure of having to exist in an intrinsically carnivorous society, I eventually had to forego the label of 'vegan' and revert to the more acceptable 'vegetarian'. The problem with being vegan is that there are no half measures and even the most mundane items have to be scrutinised for contamination by dairy products, etc.

Vegetarians just steer clear of the meat counter whilst vegans, magnifying glasses in hand, inspect the minute lists of ingredients: - "Does this pasta contain egg?", "Does that margarine contain milk?", "What kind of fat were those chips fried in?". My job requires me to eat out a lot and I find it quite easy to give reasons why I am a vegetarian - slaughterhouses, the hypocrisy of having someone else kill your food, etc, etc. However, when I was a vegan it was totally beyond anyone's comprehension as to what was wrong with milk and cheese and eggs. Sometimes I had to pretend that I had a rare allergy to dairy products (cop-out).

There was also the problem of finding something to eat without the good old omelette or cheese salad to fall back on. Sometimes I used to strike lucky and a really good restaurant provided a big platter of celery hearts, asparagus tips and other freshly cooked vegetables. My colleagues used to sit there quite envious with their unexciting chunk of dead cow.

The best vegan meal in Birmingham is at the Grand Hotel (if you are feeling exceptionally plutocratic).

I seem to have reached a fair balance now by being mostly vegan at home and only eating dairy products occasionally (I can't resist cauliflower cheese). I do have pangs of guilt occasionally but console myself with the thought that if most people treated meat the way I treat cheese (ie as a rare luxury) then the world would be a much, much better place - and it would be much easier to be a vegan.

PS: What do vegans feed their cats on?

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Cross-reference: Meat Eaters - Coping with them