* Greater risk for nutritional imbalances. Humans are omnivores, which means that a vegan diet is not optimal for us. So unless vegans stay current on nutrient recommendations, deficiencies may creep in. Even if they do everything vegan authorities tell them to do, that might not help, since people are different and not everything is known about nutrition.
* Less delicious food. But this one is mitigated by the lowered culinary standards that vegans accept over time.
* Guilt. The main point of veganism is to avoid the guilt of intentionally participating in the suffering of animals, but vegans often discover new sources of guilt, especially if there is an environmental component to their veganism. Radically modifying your diet in response to a perceived injustice, even though it seems to accomplish nothing, opens yourself up to feeling responsible for other problems you can do nothing about (the existence of plastic, for instance). Attempting to save the world through personal consumption habits can develop into eco-neurosis.
* Encouraging obsessive tendencies. It’s not enough for vegans to avoid large chunks of meat or cheese. They have to check every label and interrogate waiters to make sure small amounts of animal products don’t slip into their food. The psychological aversion to animal products that goes along with this can make vegans feel ill if they find out something they ate had animal products in it.
* Alienation. Hunger from lack of vegan food or revulsion at the presence of non-vegan food makes it harder for vegans to enjoy social situations and special events. Sometimes the inconvenience is daunting enough to make vegans stay home.
But vegan alienation goes deeper than this. Book titles like Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World and Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook provide some indication of how alone vegans feel in their sanity. In his blog entry called Hoodlum Omnivores, David Horton writes:
Today, when plant-based foods are known to be so perfect for us, the whole thing of farming and killing animals seems so obviously crazy. Vegans probably feel that the worst trouble for us is in reminding ourselves we live as fearlessly as we do amongst such a big bunch of hoodlums. These ‘hoodlum’, weird-habited humans comprise around 99% of all humans on the planet.
Vegans can still be friends with that 99 percent of us, but they must do so despite our weird and murderous ways, which is rife with potential for cognitive dissonance. Veganism makes vegans judge us even if they aren’t normally judgmental people. As George Dvorsky explains in Meat Eaters Are Bad People, veganism is not just a personal decision with no implications for anyone else. If meat is wrong, that applies to everyone.
People often think that vegans are high on moral superiority, but that’s only sometimes true. It’s not fun to think that 99 percent of the world’s humans are hoodlums… it’s depressing! Naturally this gives many vegans a dim view of humanity, and what human wants to have that?
Veganism can also compromise friendships in the other direction — omnivores don’t always want to spend time with people who think they are immoral or evil. Just as vegans prefer not to date meat eaters, sometimes the feeling is mutual.
And do you really want to accept a philosophy that will have you equating animal use with human slavery?
So no, veganism is not only symbolic. To be more precise, I should have said that the positive effects of veganism are largely symbolic. Unfortunately, the negative aspects of veganism are a lot more real. Your odds of affecting animal production with your vegan diet are slim; the odds of making your own life and the lives of those around you more difficult and unpleasant are much better