Last week, I cleared something up for my parents. We were sipping coffee in their kitchen, catching up after three months apart, when my dad asked, “Will it bother you if I fry up some bacon?” I paused.
My dad asks me some version of this question every time I come home for a visit, and I’m never quite sure how to respond. Successfully navigating family dinners as the only vegan can be tricky at the best of times, and since my dad used to run a small hog farm, there’s always the potential for added tension. Plus, his question has always felt so rhetorical to me that I’ve never understood why he asks it in the first place. I’m vegan—of course it bothers me to see people cook animal flesh.
“I mean, it’ll make me sad,” I replied. My folks shared a look.
“No, he means... will it make you want to eat bacon again?” my mom interjected. “He’s worried about tempting you.”
It’s a misconception I’ve come across often since I stopped eating animals, and I’m quickly losing patience for it. I can’t tell you how many times loved ones have apologized for eating cheeseburgers in front of me or asked me whether the smell of barbecue makes me miss eating ribs and pulled pork sandwiches—as if being vegan meant pretending to love pasta but actually wishing I could eat animals; as if there were no possible way that I could be as satisfied by my vegan diet as I claimed; as if there weren’t a ton of delicious meat substitutes for vegans to choose from. It’s almost as annoying as being mansplained something.
I told my parents the short version of why I will never be tempted by the bacon on their plates, why I will always associate bacon, or any type of meat, with suffering. I told them how mother pigs at factory farms are kept locked in gestation crates so small they can only stand up or lie down; they cannot walk or turn around. I told them how these animals are forced to deliver and nurse their babies while confined in cages; they never get to snuggle or play with their piglets.
That’s all the talk of cruelty my mom could stand, so I didn’t get to tell my folks that piglets are routinely mutilated without painkillers or that it’s considered standard industry practice to kill unsatisfactory piglets by smashing their heads against the ground. Since I became vegan only in the last year, I also haven’t yet found the opportunity to chat with my folks about the many health risks associated with eating animals, about the environmental benefit of going vegan, or how a more vegan society could help revive their beloved rural America. But I plan to.
Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate that my loved ones care enough about my life to ask me questions about veganism, even when those questions bug me. And when it comes to my dad, I know he’s just trying to be considerate. But I’m tired of meat eaters asking whether we miss meat. The reality is that nearly all vegans ate meat at one point in their lives. But we learned how it’s made and who was tortured and slaughtered to make it. And we made the choice—and make the choice every day—to replace meat and other animal products with healthier, more environmentally friendly foods that are just as delicious.
Veganism isn’t just a diet; it’s a lifestyle of kindness. And it’s satisfying as hell.
One thing’s for sure though: Never again will my dad have to worry about tempting me with bacon. And with any luck, neither of my parents will be able to forget why.