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Vendetta against vegans

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(Photo courtesy of Elina Mark | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

As a kindergartner, your diet was strictly chicken nuggets. Your childhood memories were made at the city zoo. You won’t leave home without your down-feather jacket for one-third of the year. From the beginning of mankind to now, we have been the hunters. Resourceful, but hunters nonetheless. So when a person denies his or herself of that primal instinct, the rest of the tribe responds with a resounding, giant question mark.

As a human being, you possess the utmost highest thinking. You have morals and with them, you’re given the freedom to choose to do all of these ordinary, and maybe even nostalgic, things. You have the right to order a bacon cheeseburger. You have the right to cozy up under a down comforter. You have the right to buy a luxury leather bag. You have the right to consider that animals are being stripped of their rights so that you can exercise yours. Fourteen years ago, DePaul senior Shoshanna Muszynski did.

“Humans have done many horrible things for a very long time, but this does not mean it’s just and right,” she said.

Muszynski has been an animal lover since birth, a vegetarian since 2001 and a vegan since 2013. Since then, she’s been fighting the stigma against the vegan lifestyle.

“The stigma around the vegan diet is so different from what most of us actually practice,” Muszynski said. “We aren’t dying, or starving or missing out on the ‘best thing in the world.’”

The relationships between humans and animals cannot be completely explained because only one side of that story can be successfully, truthfully narrated. Though humans may not be able to give animals a voice, they can act as agents in offering animals a choice to live. But the “them versus us” mentality around vegans and those who are not separates them into a category with certain assumptions, often having to do with more than their diets or purchasing power. The minimal concept that there is even a specific word to describe an exclusionary diet is something that Muszynski feels is unnecessary, unwarranted and limiting. She said that labels have only been harmful to her cause. And why wouldn’t she, when places like The White Moose Café in Dublin, Ireland, are blasting vegans on their social media pages? Last week, the café posted a message “barring all vegans” from their establishment.

“Any vegans attempting to enter the café will be shot dead at point blank range. While we wouldn’t usually kill any of our customers, as you say yourselves ‘meat is murder,’ so it’s fair game if we murder humans as well as animals. There is clearly no difference.

We look forward to never welcoming you vegans to our café ever again,” it read. The message has not been removed and the café has continued to post hateful, poor attempts at satire against vegans.

But The White Moose doesn’t even make Muszynski see red. She has to react to these kinds of allegations and comments all the time.

“When you know what happens to animals in factory farming and eat meat from large companies like this, I want to ask why people still choose to do so,” she said. “In my position, I find it hard for anyone to see animals abused and suffer and give profits to these businesses.”

Christina Pirello, a writer for The Huffington Post’s Healthy Living blog, has a similar concern as a fellow vegan. In June of 2010, she published an analysis that addresses the stigma Muszynski faces.

“In macrobiotics, it is said that by living according to the laws of nature, we are choosing to create a bigger life, one steeped in ancient wisdom, compassion and freedom of choice,” she wrote. “We make a lighter footprint and strive to create harmony in all phases of life. In accordance with macrobiotic thinking, we are all part of one whole, all connected to each other in the web of life and that what happens to one happens to all.”

Even underneath the label, the vegan diet and vegetarian choices are sustainable and compassionate ways of life.

“Which is why I chose it,” Muszynski said. “I see too much harm to life on earth with a meat-and-dairy lifestyle.”

Animal farming causes a lot of environmental damage, both to the animals and the world around them. Two years ago, the same year Muszynski began her vegan lifestyle, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a study that tested just how big of an impact it has. It found that in places that suffer from a lack of efficiency in farming, cattle accounts for as much as 1,000 kilograms of carbon for every 1 kilogram of protein they produce. Not only does that harm the beef industry in terms of quality and customer satisfaction, but it also absolutely destroys the valuable ozone. Carbon from cows is released in the form of methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas in high concentrations.

Despite having to explain herself every time she scrutinizes ingredient lists, or questions a restaurant manager, or avoid certain places to eat entirely, Muszynski encourages others to remember what it is all for.

“I don’t see eating the flesh of an animal as something that is great that humans do.

A lot of people call themselves animal-lovers, but I don’t think you can really be one and then contribute to the vast amount of cruelty and pain done to so many animals for each dish people eat,” she said. “I don’t tell people to ‘go vegan,’ but to rather just choose compassion. It’s not about what you eat. Vegan is just being compassionate towards other life.”

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