FAQ: Common Meat Eater Objections / by Neal Auch

I'm an artist who doesn't consume any animal products (a dietary vegan, as the kids may or may not say) but makes lampshades out of raw rotting animal stomach and encourages nude models to breast feed dead fowl.  So, it's perhaps unsurprising that I periodically have people objecting to my work, both vegans and meat-eaters.  Obviously the standard rules of engagement for dealing with art one finds offensive apply trivially here: viewers who are upset by the images on this website are more than welcome to not view those images.  However, in this post I did want to address some of the most common arguments that come up.  I've already addressed the most common objections I get from vegans in some detail in a previous post.  So for this post I'm instead going to focus on the most common complaints I get from meat eaters.  I had been putting off writing this post for some time, mostly because I was worried about seeming biased or looking like I'm making fun of meat-eating folks as a group.  The issue is this: while most of the objections I get from vegans are perfectly sensible and well-reasoned reasonable ethical concerns that I happen to disagree with, most of the objections I get from meat-eaters tend to be... well... less so.  With all that being said, I will proceed to throw caution to the wind, and do my best to address these issues.  The reader is urged to take note that none of the points below were cherry-picked to make meat-eating people look silly.  I have nothing against people who eat meat.  Some of my best friends eat meat.  These argument are genuinely the most common objections that seem to come up when real meat-eating folks really make when they see my work and feel the need to object.

Your work didn't make me become vegan therefore you have failed!  

I'm an artist, not an activist, which is something I also discussed in several previous posts.  First and foremost I aim to produce compelling visual imagery.  My work on the commodification of suffering is about presenting something we all interact with daily in a new and unfamiliar context.  I hope this encourages thought and reflection and discussion, but I am obviously not possessed of the notion that every meat lover who looks at my portfolio will instantly become vegan.  I mean...  That would be a pretty silly goal, no?

I'm eating meat even as I look at your portfolio!  Ha ha ha!  Take that!  Doesn't this shock your delicate vegan sensibilities!  

Yeah....  No.  

I'm the guy who reupholsters furniture with fetid goat innards and repurposes severed pig heads as flower pots.  I spend much of my photo shoots literally elbow deep in viscera.  It stands to reason that my vegan sensibilities aren't quite so delicate that I can't handle the image of a person eating a cheeseburger.

You vegans want people to stop eating food!  

I have gotten this comment many times but, for the life of me, I cannot make any sense of the argument that is being made here.  First off: I frankly don't care at all about what some random bro on the internet eats for dinner.  Why would I?  But there's something even more perplexing about this comment.  Namely: people know that there are edible things that don't come from animals, right?  I mean, people do know this, don't they?  For the record: legumes, nuts, fruit, grains, and vegetables are all food.  Real people really eat this stuff all the time.  True story.

Your work is hurting farmers / legitimate business! 

First off let's dispense with the painfully obvious: vegans don't eat less food than meat eaters, they eat different food.  The money that I don't spend on hot dogs does get spent on black beans or lentils or chickpeas or soy beans; all of those things are produced by farmers who run legitimate businesses.

But there's a subtext to this kind of complaint that's deeply weird and is worth pointing out.  The assumption here seems to be that if an industry employs good people and makes up a significant part of the economy, then we should all be expected to purchase its products, regardless of personal ethical objections.  This idea seems borne of a perverse sort of capitalist thinking where, as a culture, we are supposed to put corporate profits before individual consumer freedom in all circumstances.  I disagree with this sentiment.

I want to argue with you about whether vegan diets are healthy / whether it's possible to get protein on a vegan diet / whether eating vegan is a hippy fad / whether eating vegan is elitist / whether eating meat is "natural" / the minutia of contemporary farming practices / the minutia of how slaughterhouses are run / something something something bacon / etc!

This webpage is a place to showcase my photography; it's not meant as a veganism 101 educational tool.  There are plenty of places you can go on the internet to learn about the basics of vegan diets and the reality of how the meat industry works, but this really isn't the place for that.

If comments of this type were being made in good faith, then I'd be happy to link to some useful educational resources.  But, let's be honest here, this kind of comment is almost never intended sincerely.  Most of the time someone raises this sort of objection it's because they're hoping to get into a yelling match with a stranger on the internet.  Arguing with faceless strangers on the internet is an activity that is almost never productive and does not interest me at all.  Life is way too short to spend time having pointless and repetitive arguments in Facebook comment threads.

You and all vegans are terrible hypocrites because plants can suffer just like animals!  I saw a link to an article on Facebook one time that totally explained how scientists have totally proved that plants have feelings using way complicated science stuff!

Nope.