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I Grew Up on a Farm, and I am Vegan

March 30, 2010
by

One of my latest pet peeves is when people find out I’m vegan and because I went to a liberal-hippy college in a metropolitan area and now live in that same city, they assume that I’ve always been that way – and that I’ve never even set foot on a farm.  It is both one of my pet peeves and something that brings me great joy, actually, because that’s when I get to say:  “HEY, I GREW UP ON A DAMN FARM, so maybe you should stop assuming things about me when you have no idea what my story is.”

It drives me nuts on the one hand because people like to think that only rich kids who grew up in “the big city” would choose such a “silly diet”.  I can just hear them saying, “Ah, it’s sad that they don’t respect our farmers, that they don’t know how much work it is, how much we do to feed those ungrateful brats!”  Guess what?  I DO know how difficult farm life is, and I love my father for what he did, and how hard he worked and made us work.  My upbringing is something I will always cherish.  But, I still choose veganism. To me, this doesn’t negate any of the respect I have for those who work hard to feed people (I’d just like them to feed people with different food – that’s all.)

This post is the result of an annoying argument I somehow got myself into over this post on HumaneWatch.org (egads).   I don’t even know why I bothered to post, but I did, and boy has it brought out the…well, the uninformed.  The most recent post that really rubbed me the wrong way was posted by Stephanie B, who wrote this:

Mindy,

While I am not trying to start a fight with you on this, it shows you have never lived or worked on a farm. While I’m sure you think all the corn in the US can be eaten by humans only 22% of the corn grown in the United States in 2005 was edible. The rest is dent corn grown to sustain livestock, produce ethanol, and used as starter seed for next years crop.

I understand you saying that your vegan diet is your choice, but studies show that people who eat only veggie can suffer from the same problems people who meat. Also people who are vegan are more likely to be extremely under weight and anemic.

My last point is that my farm animals are enjoyed just like the dogs and cats. We eat them, because they outlive there usefulness. While Smokey and Libby can’t become glue, our horses can become more useful products to help people in the future.

I hope you can see this from a farm girl’s point of view.

Thanks

Yes, Stephanie is upset with me because her horses can become glue, and I am not appreciating that!  She is also upset with me because CLEARLY I have never lived on a farm, nor do I know that most of what the US produces these days is produced not for human consumption but for “livestock” consumption.   These are things you could know without ever having set foot on a farm, but let’s not dwell on that.  Lastly, Stephanie is also quite concerned about Americans becoming underweight and anemic – which is clearly turning out to be a real problem in the US.*

Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of my response to Stephanie, which I’d like more “farm girls” (and guys) to read – to show that not all of us vegans are rich-hippy-city kids or something (I’m ok with rich-hippy-city kids being vegan too, obviously – but that just wasn’t my experience, and I get tired of the stereo-types).

My response:

I am well aware of how farms work, because I worked on my family’s farm from the time I was 9.  We had 2,000 acres of soybeans, corn, sunflowers, wheat and barley.  I plowed the fields in the spring, combined each harvest, and drove grain trucks to the elevators.  Most of what we grew was grown for livestock consumption (imagine how many more humans we could feed if that land were used for human-grade crops!).  I spent many hours on my friends’ cattle farms.  I watched calves being born, I watched them grow, and I watched them get shipped off to slaughter. My boyfriend’s family were pig farmers, and I saw how they had 1,000 hogs in one big barn (“small family farmers”, mind you), each in small gestation crates or other pens that were too small for them. I heard how he and his dad would slam the runt piglets into the ground until they died if they knew they were too weak to survive.  I didn’t question it then because it was all I knew. I didn’t know how unnatural it is to keep such curious, intelligent, wonderful animals cooped up like that (and yes, I know all farms are not like that).  My point is that you shouldn’t assume I know nothing about farms – I know more than most people ever will.  And yes, I still choose to be vegan – isn’t that crazy!!!??

You say that your animals “outlive their usefulness”.  My fundamental belief is that no animal should have a “use” for humans, and therefore cannot “outlive their usefulness”. You and I disagree, which is fine, but don’t assume I’ve chosen veganism blindly, and that I know nothing of farming.

The bottom line is that we all have our reasons for choosing veganism, and making that big of a lifestyle change isn’t something that most of us do blindly or without researching quite a bit.  All the vegans I know (and I would bet I know more than Stephanie does) are far more informed about nutrition than 99.9% of the meat-eaters I know.   We kind of have to know about veganism because we get questioned about it ALL THE TIME.  And while I don’t purport to eat all healthy food all the time, I sure as hell can talk circles around most of my omnivore friends about what is and isn’t healthy.  And I most certainly can defend against pretty much any “why you shouldn’t be vegan” statement with actual facts.  I don’t struggle with obesity, and I don’t struggle with being underweight or anemic.  I am healthy, active, and for the record: I enjoy the food I eat now more than I ever have before – largely due to the fact that I know that my diet is better for humans, better for the planet, and better for animals.  It gives me a peace I never had when I was eating animals, and I couldn’t be happier.
_________________

* According to USA Today, as of 2004, “Being underweight is not a common problem in the United States, affecting only about 2% of adults, compared to two-thirds who are overweight or obese.”
22 Comments leave one →
  1. conradvisionquest permalink
    March 30, 2010 11:05 am

    right ON! in doing my vegan research, i have come across many articles and blog posts that set my skin aflame. i love reading your point of view about being vegan. this is an awesome and well written post… i might have to link to this in my sidebar! thanks for posting…
    ~wendy

    http://conradvisionquest.wordpress.com/

    • Mindy permalink*
      March 31, 2010 8:42 am

      Thanks, Wendy – I appreciate the compliment! There is a lot of ignorance out there, it can be really frustrating, I agree.

  2. March 30, 2010 11:42 am

    Hell yes. You rock.

  3. Jessie permalink
    March 30, 2010 11:48 am

    I can definitely understand why that post got you upset. I won’t even get into the whole vegan nutrition thing because you already covered it. What shocks me the most is how she says “…my farm animals are enjoyed just like the dogs and cats. We eat them, because they outlive there usefulness”. First of all, I totally disagree with disposing of an animal because it is no longer of use. I like to think of animals as living, thinking creatures, and not just useful objects. And second, this implies that she would just as soon eat her dog or cat once they were no longer “useful” as well. It makes no sense! Thanks for sharing your response though. :)

    • Mindy permalink*
      March 31, 2010 8:43 am

      I also love the “we treat our farm animals like family”….Um, wait, you eat your grandma? That’s pretty sick.

  4. March 30, 2010 1:23 pm

    Wow! This is great! I grew up in a small town, but also went to a hippy liberal arts school in the city and always get treated like I’m an idealistic (and uber-liberal) idiot (who clearly has no idea about anything), but then when we actually get down to logical arguments for/against eating meat or not eating meat, I am able to defend against every possible point. So much fun to read this. Great job!

    • Mindy permalink*
      March 31, 2010 8:42 am

      Thanks! Isn’t it fun to surprise people like that – “wow, she actually has a BRAIN!” :-)

  5. March 30, 2010 3:14 pm

    Amen, sister! So well said.

  6. March 30, 2010 5:40 pm

    Well put. I can see how those blind accusations would be inflammatory. I agree with you — I enjoyed food so much more and found so many new vegetables and spices since I’ve stopped the meat-and-three!

    • Mindy permalink*
      March 31, 2010 8:44 am

      There’s so much great vegan food, who needs animal products, right??

  7. March 30, 2010 11:43 pm

    Ugh, mindy, sorry you have to deal with ignorance like that. All i can say is god bless, and for pete’s sake stephanie, I believe you meant “their” when you wrote “there.”

    but hey! she called you skinny! score!

    xoxoxox

    • Mindy permalink*
      March 31, 2010 8:41 am

      Good point. I should be more gracious about compliments.

  8. Amy permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:15 pm

    What a wonderfully well-written post! I think what Stephanie said in her letter to you about her animals “outliving their (although she wrote the word “there”!) usefulness” is incredibly sad. Does she not realize that it is because of her that the lives of these animals are depleted? Humans force so much unnecessary stress and cruelty on animals, it numbs my mind. I wish everybody could make the connection that animals deserve happiness too and that they aren’t needed to make the products so many people “need” for the future.

  9. March 31, 2010 7:29 pm

    i find it funny how someone would assume that you are disconnected from farm life. for me, visiting a farm and connecting with animals sparked me to become vegetarian and later vegan. i think the majority of people who are meat-eaters have no connection to farm life and therefore don’t care much about animals.

  10. blissfulbee permalink
    April 2, 2010 3:05 pm

    Thanks Mindy! I myself know a few vegetarians who grew up on a farm. One of my close friends lived on a dairy farm her whole life and became a vegetarian after her mother told her the name of a cow from whom the steak she was eating came from…

  11. April 7, 2010 2:30 am

    This is so well-written! Thank you for breaking down the stereotype that not all vegans are urbanites. One thing I quick learned about the internet & veganism is; DON’T READ THE COMMENTS! haha. Anyway, thank you for being a great voice for veganism.

  12. April 12, 2010 3:44 pm

    In her comment to you Stephanie said that “I understand you saying that your vegan diet is your choice, but studies show that people who eat only veggie can suffer from the same problems people who meat.”

    studies have also shown that non of these problems exist if the farms didn’t produce so much waste that go into our water system and therefore on to our crops. It is a cycle… the crops are effected by the water which is effected by the animal farms.. all the antibiotics and hormones getting into our water system.

    Your response was well said. I am only a vegetarian… but a vegetarian in TX and I get daily verbal abuse at work about my decision of not eating meat almost every day.

  13. April 20, 2010 8:39 am

    whew. just reading that made me all sorts of frustrated. it’s narrow minded folks that presume vegans do not understand or research how their food choices affect themselves, others, the planet, etc. i like how you stated that you didn’t ‘choose veganism blindly’… i totally agree.

  14. Peggy permalink
    May 13, 2010 2:25 pm

    Geez! That’s the kind of stuff that gets me all frustrated. I’m sitting at work on my lunch and the whole time I was reading that I just wanted to be like, “oh no she didn’t” to Stephanie and “oh yes she did” to you Mindy! Your response was perfect! I just can’t wrap my mind around how illogical people can be. I will say, in these situations I try to put myself back to who I used be pre-vegan. I try and think, “was I that ignorant?” I used to make all kinds of excuses to my sister (who kept pushing me to go vegan for years) until finally just diving in and learning everything I could for myself. Maybe your response has planted some kind of seed (however small it may be) into Stephanie’s mind. Maybe it will get her to start thinking. If not, what can you do? Some people just remain close-minded for their whole lives. At least you got to share truth. Right on chica!

  15. Sharyn Beach permalink
    June 1, 2010 6:35 pm

    I can’t help but wonder what “studies” she is referring to. She has clearly missed out on the 20+ year studies conducted by John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, and Neal Barnard in which they have reversed the most common and serious health problems with a vegan diet. Additionally, people who eat meat are just as likely to have iron-deficient anemia as the vegans are, at least according to my hematologist who sees dozens of anemic patients.

    Nice post.

    Sharyn Beach

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