My Vegan Friend

By S.Muir, UK

I’ve just come back from a holiday in Paris with my friend Janice. We had a lovely time. We went on the Eurostar because she won’t fly any more, she says it’s bad for the planet, like two people not flying from London to Paris is going to make a difference. I said to her, ‘It’ll only work if everybody does it, you know, there’s no point just us doing it.’

Of course she’s ‘vegan’ as well and you know what they’re like. To be fair to Janice, she doesn’t go on about it all the time, well not ever really, but honestly, every single time we went in a restaurant she had ask, ‘Have you got any vegan dishes?’ There was this one time when we’d been to the Louvre and, bloody hell, there was more art in that one museum than I used to think there was in the whole world and Janice wanted to traipse round the entire place looking at every painting. I was shattered and we went to the café in there for lunch. We were both starving. The only vegan dish on the menu was salad and they’d sold out of that. She asked me if we could go somewhere else, but my reply quickly changed her mind! She settled for a cheese sandwich, so she can’t really call herself a vegan anyway.

The hotel we stayed at was lovely and the breakfasts were great – they even did vegan sausages for Janice. I asked Janice why vegans have to have sausages and burgers that look like meat products. I didn’t really understand what she meant when she said it was the same reason that meat eaters have sausages and burgers. ‘It’s just a way of making your food into convenient, suitably sized, edible parcels,’ she said. Then she asked me why meat-eaters don’t just have lumps of pork rather than sausages. I think it’s because sausages taste different and we like a change and because we couldn’t always afford a lump of pork and I guess there’s not that much pork in sausages anyway. I tried one of the vegan sausages – I thought it tasted really good, but I didn’t tell Janice that.

Janice reckons that meat production is making climate change worse, she says it emits more greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane. I thought she just meant cows farting, but apparently it’s more complicated than that. She said it uses a lot more land, water and energy and contributes to deforestation.

So then I made the mistake of asking her why she thought drinking soya milk made from soya beans grown in places where rainforest had been cleared was better than drinking proper milk made in Britain. How was I supposed to know you can get soya milk that is sustainably sourced? I confess I actually didn’t know that they get dairy cows pregnant every year or so and then they take away their calves after just a few days so we can have their milk. Anyway, cows’ milk is good for you – we all know that, full of calcium and protein and stuff – that’s why they give it to children. I mean, what could be more natural?

Janice came up with this mad idea. She said imagine that aliens came to earth and they are tons more intelligent than we are. The difference between how intelligent they are and how intelligent we are is like the difference between how clever we think we are compared to how clever we think cows are. ‘Imagine,’ she said, ‘if they looked at us the way we look at cows. What if they decided to farm humans like we farm dairy cows so they could have some milk?’ I said that was ridiculous – why would super-intelligent beings want to drink the milk of other species? She just shrugged, so I knew I’d scored a point there.

And what would happen to all the farm animals if everyone stopped eating meat and drinking milk? They’d become extinct. I know everybody’s not going to do it at the same time, so I suppose they’d have time to make special museum farms or something. Janice reckons we’d only need a quarter of the farmland if everybody was vegan, but then imagine what would happen to the rest of the countryside! Instead of cows and sheep grazing on grass, it would be full of wild flowers and trees and bushes. It’s just like Janice to not think through her wild ideas.

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