In my continuing series of posts on misconceptions around veganism, I continue today with a question that’s asked with enough frequency to require an internet meme (see below).
Outside of that actor from Lost who is vegan, I personally have never known any vegans who have suddenly found themselves trapped on a desolate island with an imaginary friend made out of a Wilson soccer ball or an iPhone made from a conch. I’ve never caught any vegans traipsing with Brooke Shields through a Blue Lagoon. There was that one vegan who hooked up with a crash-landed Anne Heche, but that was after she was home again, safe and sound. Yet this question still comes up to vegans sometimes…
What would you do if you landed on a desert island? Would you be vegan then?
I think the purpose of this question when asked by non-vegans is to test the vegan’s resolve. They want to know, just how deep does this thing go? Would the vegan waste away, too hungry to even spell out HELP with rocks in the sand?
It’s kind of a no-win question, honestly. If the vegan says, “Yep, if it came down to a life or death situation, I would sharpen a rock to use as a weapon against a wild boar or grab fish with my bare hands,” then the listener feels vindicated.
The listener thinks, “Aha! When push comes to shove, you’d eat meat too. You’re a hypocrite.”
And if the vegan says, “No, even if a bird came up and perched on my shoulder, I would rather die of hunger than harm,” then the listener is left thinking that the vegan is a bit of a martyr or a zealot.
At the essence of this question is the curiosity, “How vegan are you?” But here’s the thing. I don’t base my day-to-day life on what if scenarios. I don’t alter today’s choices based on worst-case hypotheses. If someone broke into my house and threatened to hurt me, I would have to fight back. But I don’t go around in this world hitting people. If some guy was stranded on a desert island, he might have to drink his own urine, but I doubt that they’ll be sticking a tropical umbrella in that and serving it at my corner bar anytime soon.
Personally, if I was stranded on a deserted tropical beach, I think I’d follow any animals on the island around and see what they were eating like berries or foliage. Perhaps I’d procure bananas or drink the water from inside of a coconut. But first, I think I’ll just stay away from anyone advertising a three-hour tour. (A three hour tour…)
What we would do in an imaginary set of circumstances makes very little difference in comparison to what we do when we have the ability to make other choices. When I have the choice to go with a more compassionate option, then that is what I do. And since thus far I haven’t crash-landed or shipwrecked, that’s working out pretty well for me. I have access to fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, and legumes. And so did anyone who has ever asked me that question.
This series on misconceptions around veganism continues here with: Is Yeast Vegan?